Large-scale and very public consumer outpourings such as Vodafail work because they attract the attention of the media and can force a telco into apologising and offering to address the network issues.
It shows that people power if a force to be reckoned with and that companies can almost be brought undone by such bad publicity especially if it brings with it significant customer desertion.
Just last week Vodafail creator Adam Brimo even won the consumer watchdog Choice Consumer Champion Award. Brimo set up the web site in frustration as significant network problems and poor customer service and it just snowballed attracting many thousands of similarly frustrated Vodafone customers. It prompted a class action and a very public apology from CEO Nigel Dews and a class action for redress.
The award recognises Brimo’s tech-savvy activism that ignited the fury of Vodafone customers and no doubt had other telco and ISP CEOs looking on with fear. Brimo has since submitted a report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) cataloguing the complaints.
A less public route is to use the formal complaint channels such as the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) dispute resolution service. If all other means have failed, this can be the court of last appeal, but it really only works if there is a significant financial penalty if the telcos cannot resolve problems themselves and keep disgruntled consumers away from the TIO.
Telco consumer advocacy group ACCAN wants to see the TIO strengthened including the option to award compensation to customers where consumer obligations have not been met. It says that industry wide customer service and complaint handling procedures must be improved and hitting telcos through the bottom line is needed as part of the strengthening measures to lower the number of complaints from its high of more than 200,000 in recent years.
These two examples show that there are very different ways to go about getting a problem resolved. Of course another path is to share your complaint with us. But the numerous options for complaints tells us the industry needs reform on customer service.
Is it fair to draw so much attention to telco failures? Add your comment below.