The best of service, the worst of service

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Dickens might well have been describing my latest interactions with Telstra. It all started so well too.

A friend of mine suggested a solution to the slow speeds I’d been getting on my ADSL line – it’s a simple solution involving changing the line configuration from ‘stable’ to ‘standard’. In theory I could do that online via the web in five minutes and so I logged in and pressed all the right buttons. No problems the system told me, it could take up to four hours until I see the change so please be patient.

Five hours later nothing has changed so I decide to contact Telstra. For the first time ever I decided to try out their Live Chat service. I logged in and within a minute was typing away with a fantastically helpful person. Thanks to the fact that I was typing there were no problems with confusion over accents. When he had to go and check some things I could just turn to another task without sitting listening to terrible music with the phone jammed to my ear. What a great way to go. Ten minutes after starting the process it was all done. It would take 24 hours to fix but all was well.

I was so thrilled with this I told my wife, mentioned it to friends and started writing a positive article explaining how wonderful the Live Chat mechanism is and how I might have misjudged poor Telstra. I should have known better, shouldn’t I?

A day later and nothing has changed with my line configuration. So back to Live Chat I go. This time its a 35-minute wait to get to a person, but I’m told it will only take 3 minutes if I phone up instead. With great reluctance I phoned up and went through the usual awful triage process; wasting a good five minutes explaining why describing the lights on my modem would not help move the conversation forward. Eventually after 33 minutes on the phone I’m told it will all be fixed in an hour. Through slightly gritted teeth I thank them and move on.

No surprises I check the next morning and nothing has changed. Back to Live Chat I go and this time again get a real person within seconds. He’s terribly helpful, but after five minutes of chatting he tells me he can’t make the change through a contact initiated via chat and so I’ll have to phone again. I’m too annoyed now to pursue why this restriction has only come to light now. On the phone I go; and after 45 minutes of being run around between two separate customer service representatives I’m told they can do nothing further and the problem will have to be escalated to another support tier. “Is there anything else we can help you with today?” Else? Else?

I completely fail to understand how Telstra management can go through their day with the level of abysmal customer service they are providing being seen as acceptable. And what’s worse is that as a consumer the only person you can take it out on is the poor individual at the end of the phone, when clearly it is the Telstra systems that are to blame.

In a real contrast, Cafepress have shown how customer service ought to work. They sent me the wrong size t-shirts; I told them so and they sent out replacements. Sadly the replacements were exactly the same as the original order and so the wrong size again. Once again they have sent out replacements, no questions asked, no fussing, no asking me to send the others back. They have also apologised and given me a direct email address to use in future orders so the problem does not occur again – someone has fixed things and taken responsibility. So I’ll now have 18 t-shirts from them which on one level is ridiculous, but is it a big price to pay for a satisfied customer who will come back and shop again? I’d say not.

Teslstra in contrast doesn’t make me want to shop with them, they just make me want to scream.

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