When you've got a phone or Internet problem and you're stuck dealing with some under-informed and unpaid minion at a call centre, it's hard to escape the feeling that the issue could be easily resolved if you could just get hold of the right person. Research by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) suggests you're not wrong.
A new research paper from the TIO examining the experiences of 516 consumers highlights just how persistent people have to be in order to have problems fixed. 55 per cent of the customers had contacted their provider five times or more before contacting the TIO, and a similar number (54 per cent) had waited at least a month. Almost a third (31 per cent) had waited three months between their original complaint and contacting the TIO.
There's also a lot of hold time and bouncing around involved. One in five of those surveyed had spent more than nine hours trying to get their issue fixed before finally bringing in the TIO, and more than half had to talk to three separate departments.
Consumers aren't stupid, and more than half asked for their issue to be escalated. However, two-thirds of the time that request was refused, with the most common excuses being that no supervisor was available or the supervisor would give the same answer.
Given the slim margins in most of those services, what's especially striking is this finding:
The report found that once these complaints were lodged with the TIO about 90 per cent were easily resolved when referred to the right contact within the service providers.
Once the TIO is involved the telco or ISP can be hit with a substantial fee, so it's striking that more effort isn't made to actually fix problems rather than just endlessly cycle them around the call centre. We're always in favour of staying calm and not becoming abusive when you need to deal with call centres, but that shouldn't serve as an excuse for them to not actually offer any service.
TIO [PDF link]