TIO: Most Delays In Fixing Net And Phone Problems Entirely Avoidable

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]


Comments

    Maybe because the agents have the same power as supervisiors if delegated to TIO cases.

    I always inform my telco/ISP that I may be forced to go to the TIO if an issue can't be fixed over the phone or after that 50th email. From previous experience the person on the phone/other end of email doesn't care. In fact I had one CSR person mock me with "Oooooh, not the TIO." - which only strengthened my case since the moron posted it in a support forum. *cough*Gamearena*cough* Yes, they were staff, not a GameOP.

    So the TIO can work. If only all other avenues have been explored first.

    I just had a dispute with my former telco. By just, I mean it was resolved less than an hour ago.

    I had some bill shock after the data allowance was removed from my phone plan without any notice. I had continued my usage as normal, under the impression that I had data allowance, so when I got a bill asking for an additional $275, I was not happy.

    The first call to the provider went nowhere, some sort of issue putting me on hold disconnected the call. The second one, shortly after, went nowhere and when I demanded to speak to someone higher up after they refused to listen to my point (I was disputing the legitimacy of the excess charge) I was told someone would call back in a few hours.

    After about four hours, I called again. Got a person who said they were like a supervisor and might be able to help. They couldn't. Again some sort of connection issue ended the call early.

    I called once more, spoke to someone briefly and asked to be put through to a supervisor (again). I was told they would call back in 15 minutes.

    Half an hour later, I got a call from a supervisor who was completely bloody useless. The best he could do was offer to take 10% off of the bill and arrange for a payment plan "as a gesture of good faith". In my eyes, a gesture of good faith is not making major changes to my plan without notice.

    I told them to remove my direct debit details and that I would be filing a complaint with the TIO and will be sending them a cheque for the amount that I owe (my normal plan payment).

    A complaint was lodged with the TIO and I was told a representative from the telco would call me within 10 working days.

    I got the call this morning, they told me pretty much straight up that they were going to waive the charges because I was not at fault. Didn't bother going into detail about why it happened or what they would do to stop it happening again as I've already changed providers, but the matter was resolved.

    As for staying calm and not being abusive, I tried my best not to, but it was basically impossible when making the initial calls as the people on the other end of the line were absolutely useless. Offering to take a fraction of the cost off of the bill that I disputed the entirety of is basically spitting in my eye and telling me to thank them for it.

      I've felt this pain before... The last sentence sums it up perfectly.

        They really did nothing to help me stay calm.

        The point where I absolutely lost it was when they told me that continuing to give me web access after my data allowance was removed (with no notice that it would now cost me $2/mb) was a "benefit."

        My railing against their abuse of the English language was lost because an f bomb was unleashed. So their only reaction to that was "sir, I'll ask you to please refrain from using profanity."

        There were many times where I simply said, "if you can't help me dispute this charge, put me through to someone who can." They always responded "they're valid charges, I cannot do that."

    Telcos and the TIO are hopeless.

    Case in point. Many moons ago I had an issue with my phone line, called my telco told them of this issue, they said they would fix. Few weeks later they said it was fine up until my building and it was problem inside my building, called landlord got them to organise an electrician to check it out, electrician checked it out and it was all fine in the building. Called the telco back told them this they said they would send someone out, a few weeks later got a call from a telstra technician saying he was at my house, not pre-call to check if I'd be home, he said it should al be fixed now. Got home, and it was all fixed. I called back my telco to tell them this and discuss compensation under the CSG (which stipulates compensation for phone line outages longer than a certain time). They stated the did not fix the problem. A few hours of back and forth between various levels of customer service, I escalated to the TIO. TIO takes on the complaint, after a few weeks they get back to me and say they have received information from my telco and have decided to escalate it to a "level 2" complaint, they ask me some more questions and get more details. They tell me the teco has 6 weeks(!) to respond to this complaint. about 2 months later I get a call back from the TIO saying they've received this information from the telco and are escalating it to a "level 3" complaint. Again more questions, and another 6 weeks for the telco to get back to them. Again another 2 months or so go by, get yet another phone call from the TIO, it's now becoming a "level 4" complaint. Again more questions, again more time for the telco to reply. Then after another month or so of waiting I get a call from the TIO saying the complaint is now closed, no compensation for me. Why? Because the cause of the fault could not be determined (amongst MANY other things). So because the telco couldn't determine the cause of the fault they are not responsible for the fault. Ask how I can appeal this ridiculous decision, I am told I have to submit my appeal in writing, outlining the fault in the decision, which was being sent to me. A few days later I receive an 80 page document "outlining" this decision.

    I never did appeal that decision. I simply did not have the will left in me to take it any further. The TIO had broken my will to go on.

    So after countless hours of compiling information, talking on the phone, escalating calls, and waiting on hold, I get nothing. I've completely wasted all this time.

    There is no way I was ever going to be able to win against this though. It is ridiculously sided towards the telcos at every step of the process. I need to be able to give detailed information which I simply don't have recorded (I am but 1 person, I do not have systems in place to log calls or track time frames of responses), and I must provide this information in a matter of days. Where the telcos who have all this information at their fingertips are given 6 weeks at each step to not only compile the raw information, but also justify any problems with the information they are presenting. All for a resolution in the end that resulted in "no-one" being at fault.

    The TIO is a joke. There needs to be a better system put in place.

      I noticed the same disregard in my last complaint to the TIO about 3 years ago. I asked them outright, if the TIO now worked for Telco X, because it sure seemed like he did with their lack of assistance. This initiated much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the bloke at the TIO so I just calmly asked to speak to someone else or his supervisor. When he refused I hung up, rang back and got someone else who was more helpful.

      When the service at the TIO also falls this far then something has gone dreadfully wrong.

    Like Lord Crumplebottom alluded to;
    The best way to get better service is to hang up and call back.

    Often you're on hold for a while before hand and don't want to hang up and do it all again, but it's a lost investment.
    You'll waste more time trying to punch the useless service rep in the face over the phone than you will waiting for another one who is actually useful.

    Part of the reason more care isn't taken is that 1st level TIO complaints are not even agreed on by a TIO operator. You can email and raise a complaint, which charges 35.00 to the telco of choice..

      Hi Matt,

      The TIO charges fees proportional to the total amount of complaints generated. So say telco x has 9millioj customers but only generates 5% of all complaints, they will be charged less than telco y with 5 million customers who generates 10% of all complaints.

      That being said, I know for a fact that a lot of the TIO resolutions that are imposed across the board are simply time vs cost.

      If customer y goes to the TIO, it will generate a charge to the company at a particular rate. If the dispute is less than the cost of the manpower and the TIO complaint charge, you'll basically get what you want.

    I used to work for an ISP as a CSR. Most complaints we had came from people who hadn't read the T&C, which where pretty standard. The valid complaints we got pretty all due to Telstra stuff ups.

    When I have have an issue with a Telco now, I call them once, then I call the TIO if it's not fixed the first time.
    We shouldn't have to chase Telcos to get things fixed. They chase us quickly if we don't pay the bills.

    I work for a telco, and while I consider myself to be one of the "good" (ie one of the highest resolution rates and lowest call back rates in my centre, and customers consistently asking if I have a direct number) CSRs, I see plenty of behavior that means I am not at all surprised that this sort of crap happens. The thing is, a threat of "I'm going to the TIO" doesn't actually affect any of us directly; the worst is that if our rate of complaints is too high, we get an informal warning (although I expect if it continued it could go further).

    If telcos actually made it so that CSRs could be penalized (or at least, be immediately disqualified for commissions) for each TIO complaint, I think a lot of reps would work a hell of a lot harder.

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