Thursday, August 23, 2007

why optus sux

warning, rant...

Optus came into the market to break the monopoly held by Telstra but quickly became known for being just as bad and there was little differentiation between the two brands. Both are expensive, both give horrible customer service.

In a market where there is little differentiation between brands it is in their best interests to do what they can to make their services better. I’m not sure if I speak for everyone, but for me, customer service is a major factor in choosing a product.

I cancelled my optus mobile contract earlier in the year because being a poor student I needed to change to pre-paid and optus didn’t offer competitive rates (I’m with virgin). The simple act of cancelling my contract (I was on a month-by-month contract because it had run out two months earlier) was hideously difficult to get them to do.

I had to make two calls to their call centre in India and speak to three different people. Just a thought here, why is it that the automated phone robot makes you enter all of your details via speech recognition and the keypad, then when you finally get through to someone you have to do it all again? Can’t they access all the info that you just finished putting in? Was there a point to doing it twice? It’s pretty frustrating.

Anyway, so after half an hour on the phone I finally get them to cancel my account. Then a month later a bill arrives from optus with new charges on it. Another half hour call results in them admitting that they hadn’t really cancelled my account and that had still been billing me. So I had to go through a maze of operators to get them to reverse the bill.

I thought would be the end of my hating optus. Oh, how I was wrong.

I also have my home internet with optus and I’m used to the standard $85 bill each quarter for line rental. However, this quarter I got a bill for $195. so once again I was on the phone to India trying to get an answer.

The polite, but very hard to understand Indian women was at a loss. She couldn’t understand why I was charged more than double. She kept insinuating that I had done something that had caused the inflated bill but when I asked her what I could have possibly done to make line rental (not internet, that’s a separate bill) more than double again she couldn’t give me an answer and advised me to go into one of the customer service centres in the city.

This was really frustrating. I had called what was supposed to be ‘customer service’. They were supposed to help me. To know what was wrong. To service me, the customer. But I was being turned away. Unserviced.

As she finished the call she asked me (as per the standard script) if I was satisfied and if this call had been helpful.
I lost it.
‘no. actually, this hasn’t been helpful. This had been very unhelpful and I am very unsatisfied.” And hung up.
So like the good consumer I was, I took myself down to the customer service centre the call centre told me about in the city with copies of my latest and past bills with all relevant info highlighted. But when I got to the desk the bloke told me that they had no access to customer accounts but he could sell me a mobile phone if I was in the market for one?

He could see that I was extremely frustrated by this point and directed me to their phone where he used his dealer id to get me though to an Australian call centre. The first person I spoke to was also at a loss to explain my bill but after entering my info and then repeating it to another two people I was finally talking to someone who said they could help me.

I was told that the quarterly billing period used by optus bills the customer retrospectively. Meaning that you’re paying for the three months you have just used. But now they are moving to a system where they bill you for the three months that you’re about to use. "Progressive billing", so I was being charged for 6 months on this bill. This kind of made sense, although I’d never heard of being billed for future use and hadn’t received any info on the changes.

The only snag was that she couldn’t explain why the bill was for more than double. So off I went again to another operator. Entering my details for the computer, then repeating them once I got to a person. Every time I got to a new person I had to repeat why I was calling and go through the whole spiel again. But when I told him about the “retro/progressive billing” I was told that optus didn’t and wasn’t ever going to bill customers for the upcoming quarter (they retrospectively bill only).

So I’d either been lied to so I would shut up and stop complaining or they didn’t know what they were talking about.

My jaw was clenched so tight that my teeth hurt and it hurt to draw breath because my chest was so tight. Just when I thought I had made a little ground I was dragged back to the beginning.

I’d had enough.

‘Cancel my account. Right now. I don’t’ care, I just never want to have to go though this again.’

Ok, transferring you to cancellations’

I cried a little when I was prompted to enter my account details, phone number and date of birth again, knowing that I’d just have to repeat them 30 seconds later to a human.

Optus person number nine greeting me and asked me what seemed to be the problem. When I asked her if she could just ask the last person for the details I was told that they were in a different department. I was so sick of repeating the story so I just said I wanted to cancel my account.

‘I’m sorry to hear that sir. What’s the reason for this?’

In a weary voice I told her that I didn’t want to repeat it for the ninth time on one call and could she please, please, just cancel the account with the minimum of fuss.

What I did tell her is that because I was moving out of the house in mid September I wanted it cancelled on the 15th of September. No I didn’t want it transferred to a new place. No I didn’t want to keep my number. Just cancel it. Cancel it. Cancel it. Cancel it. Cancel it. Cancel it. Cancel it. Cancel it.

Because they’re ‘progressive’ billing had charged me up to November, I asked what would happen to the difference in the bill (from mid sept to November). I was told that it would be credited to my account. When I reminded her that the reason I was talking to her was to cancel my account she said that I would have to call customer service after September if I hadn’t hear from them to arrange a cheque.

I told her that there was little to no chance that I would ever put myself though this ever again and asked if they could just send a cheque for the difference. The answer was no. of course. It made too much sense. Let’s make the consumer do as much work as possible.

I told her that I would only pay the portion of the bill that I would actually use and if they wanted to chase me for the balance that I wouldn’t be actually using anyway, they were welcome to do so.

She started to ask me why I wanted to cancel the account, obviously oblivious to the pain and suffering in my voice.

After repeating ‘cancel it’ a few times I was transferred to a bloke who obviously dealt with customers that were irate. He came on with a soothing voice and explained that everything was being taken care of and he would handle this with the minimum questions and fuss.

I was so happy.

He did want to know what had made me so irate so maybe they could remedy it. but I told him that I was honestly sick of talking about it and I just wanted everything cancelled and disconnected by the 15th September and for this call to end. He tapped the keyboard a few times.

Ok sir, all done. Sorry about that. If you give it two hours it will be all disconnected’

I saw red.

‘I requested it to be disconnected on the 15th of September. You didn’t disconnect it today did you?’

‘Ooh, so sorry sir. I’ll just remedy that and change it to the 15th of September’

Ok, I just want to be completely clear with this. The internet wont’ be disconnected today. It will be disconnected on the 15th of Septembers like I requested? Right?’

‘Ah, (tap, tap) yes. That’s correct. I’ve just changed it from today to September’

‘When in September?’

‘The 15th

Ok, so when I go home today it wont’ be disconnected?’

‘No. it’s should be all changed to the 15th of September’

‘What’s your name?

(pauses) ‘um… Charles’

(writing down) ‘Last name?’

‘Um, tan’

‘Great. I have a feeling I’ll be talking to you again Charles’.

I’m sure it’s no surprise that when I got home that night the internet was disconnected so I will have to go through the whole process again.

I think there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here for not just telecommunications companies, but any company that customer service makes up a big part of their product offering.

“Do it well”

The whole time I felt like there was a business focus, not a customer focus. As though I was really inconveniencing them by calling with a problem that they had created.

Here’s what optus could have done to make the experience better and maybe retained me as a customer:
- Don’t make customers enter all details and then repeating them every time they get transferred to a new person (avoid pointless repetition of information entering)
- Or avoid that by only one operator handling the whole call.
- Do what you say you will, and apologise if you do something wrong.
- Be an information resource; don’t transfer me if it’s not your department.
- No Indian call centres. Period. It may be cheaper, but it reeks of not caring by outsourcing a major touchpoint with the consumer.

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