Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Fax Machine

About 15 year ago, Telstra was just another corporation to me. One more bill I got every month, that was about all. I was working as a sales rep, I had an old analogue mobile phone, and my bill was around $500 a month, in fact, I was on a $500 plan. So, I was a good customer. I also had two phone lines to the home I was renting. I was the sole sales rep in my state for a tea and coffee company and while I drove around selling direct to cafes, all the distributors in the state ordered our products by sending me orders via fax on that second line.

After a relatively short period of time, we bought a house, about 2 klm from where we'd been renting. Sadly, the way the exchanges are set up, we could not keep our old fax number. Settlement took a month, as it does, so I called Telstra and organised for them to set up a second line in to the new house. I rented the old house for an extra week, and made the booking for them to come on a Wednesday. I took the day off work, and sat down and waited. They did not turn up.

That night I made some phone calls and asked what was going on. I was assured that they would come on the Thursday and that it was all booked in. I spent another day at home, this time making numerous calls to ask why they were not there yet. Towards the end of the day, I made yet another call to the number they provided. The woman I spoke to assured me that the team would be there soon. I asked her where she was, physically. She was initially taken aback, but then she said 'I am in Adelaide' ( that is, she was in a different state to me, I am in Hobart, Tasmania ). So, I said to her, 'Do you even know where Moonah is ?'. She admitted she did not. So, I asked her: "If you don't even know where I am, it's not your fault, but how is Telstra equipping you to accurately answer my question, and how do you know where the team is ?". She all but admitted that her job was to offer platitudes for teams she assumed were coming. I explained to her how my business revolved around this fax, that the old fax was being turned off that day ( plus I was losing access ) and that it doesn't really look professional that I had to call my clients and instead of giving a new number, just tell them that we had no facility to take orders. She gave me the number to call the actual service centre. It was late Thursday by this point, so I called the next morning.

On the Friday morning, I called the number I was given, and told them who I was, that I'd made two appointments for them to put in a fax line, that I'd been inconvenienced considerably, and that it was urgent that the line go in that day. I was polite. The response was that the guy yelled at me something along the lines of "who the f*ck are you, why are you calling, how did you get this number, you shouldn't have this number". Suffice it to say that I ripped in to him, and he did in fact offer some sort of apology. I don't believe I got my fax line until the following week, but after 15 years, I admit my memory is not precise on this point.

At this point, I was utterly enraged, and I felt that I deserved some sort of apology. I made a formal complaint about what had happened. I wasn't looking for a free car or a trip to Europe, I just wanted someone in an official capacity to apologise to me for how dreadfully I'd been treated. At this point in my life, I still assumed that Telstra was a customer service focused organisation, and had some level of respect for it's clients. I was a sales rep myself, and I guess I just assumed that they'd want to know about something like this, to at least say sorry, because if that had happened in my organisation, I'd have wanted very much to turn the situation around after such dreadful service.

It's my recollection that I spent 6 months on an insane quest for someone to say 'sorry' to me. However long it was, I bounced between layers of management as people fobbed me off until finally someone called to inform me they were some sort of middle management, that there was no point in my trying to call anyone else, and that he'd called to tell me that 'what happened to you doesn't usually happen to our clients'. He was very careful to NOT say sorry, or that he cared about what happened to me, only that it was not the norm. I assured him that I knew they didn't make a client list and be careful to call and abuse them all, that didn't really change what happened to me. He just reiterated that what I'd experienced was unusual, and that was it.

So, that's how I first found out that Telstra phone support staff are not remotely empowered to do their job, and that no-one at Telstra appears to care how clients are treated. It only got worse from there.

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