Despite generally good network service for our phone and Internet companies, customer service is poor and needs improvement. As we reported recently, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has discovered this may have a lot to do with many telcos not realising they have a significant customer experience problem.
Yes, you read that correctly and it’s hard to believe. Obviously all those complaints don’t get analysed and used for improvement. And on the topic of improvement, the ACMA also found that there is little or no benchmarking for providing effective customer dealings.
We suggested that improving the understanding of what constitutes a good customer experience within many telcos may be the first step in improving the general level of customer service.
Fixing the situation
To this end, ACMA proposes to improve customer outcomes by supporting industry action, setting minimum service expectations and looking at intervention through lifecycle phases - pre-sale, pre-contract inquiries, post-sale questions and/or complaints and external dispute resolution - to genuinely raise the customer service experience.
ACMA intends to focus on the initial pre-sales and pre-contract information as well as bill shock. “It believes that the quality of pre-sale information in insufficient, unclear and doesn’t easily allow comparison; and secondly that huge bills cause significant consumer harm.”
Advertising with words such as ‘cap’, which is not a cap because users are able to spend more with little or no restriction, will no longer be allowed. Telcos will need to provide a reasonable basis for comparison particularly in relation to minimum monthly costs and they will also need to substantiate speed and coverage claims.
It's the extras that get you
ACMA also wants to have costs, contract, service disclosure information available for consumers before a contract is signed and, importantly, available for all the services within a contract. It’s often the ‘extra’ services such as data plans or roaming that attract the really big costs and lead to bill shock.
In terms of bill shock, ACMA wants expenditure alerts and consumer nominated expenditure limits that require notification and consent to exceed. It also proposes stricter reporting regime for customer service complaints and adopt standards for complaint handling.
We're pleased to see that the proposals have real and concrete objectives along with specific proposals to reform the practices of telcos in relation to some of the causes of the huge number of customer complaints such as bill shock, insufficient information and transparency around costs.
The full report is being compiled and we wait to see how and when the changes will be brought into play.
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