For the telcos, complaints made by consumers to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsmen (TIO) are a nightmare. You see if a complaint goes to the TIO and is resolved by the TIO – the telco has to pay!

So this year, complaints are up, way up, and that means more work for the TIO and a lot more costs for the telcos.

With the NBN roll out hitting full speed, there’s been a huge jump in NBN related complaints, something that is reflected in the 159.3% rise in complaints about NBN delivered services.

It should be noted that between June 2016 and June 2017 the number of active NBN premises grew by 222%. The portion of active premises complaining remains around 1%.  In 2016 it was 0.95% down from 1.08, while this year it’s up to 1.11% of premises.

Alarmingly, the TIO report states that 90.8% of complaints they receive (there were 158,016 of them) were resolved by referral to the telco’s own higher level complaints team.  This means that the customer service teams within the Telcos aren’t able to escalate and resolve issues internally. Instead, waiting for customers to make a TIO complaint before resolution at a higher level.

That’s damning for the telcos.

And it was grim for most of the telcos.  Vodafone had the a marginal increase in complaints about their mobile services, up to 10,191 complaints from 7,318.  Optus had more complaints about mobile and landline, with a much more stark rise in internet complaints.

While over at the Big T they suffered badly, complaints rose on every front, landline, internet and mobile.

You can’t blame the NBN for the rise in mobile complaints – so there’s something going on with customer service at these telcos.

Of the internet providers iiNet faired worst with a jump from 3,421 to 7,021 complaints, TPG too suffered with a rise from 3,211 to 5,102.

The only good news in the top 10 most complained about telcos (who make up 91% of all complaints) was Virgin Mobile – dropping from 1,444 to 1,293 complaints.

Because of the love for the juicy story that is the NBN that’s what’s gotten most of the attention today, and in turn the NBN have responded.

They say they have a number of initiatives underway to improve the end user experience. These include:

  • Improved installation experience: accelerated in-house training facilities to provide hands-on experience for field workers with the aim of increasing quality assurance with the installation of the network to homes and businesses.
  • Advanced fault detection: leveraging big data, machine learning and existing capabilities to help nbn determine whether a fault can be dealt with remotely and immediately or whether a field technician needs to visit an end-user home to resolve it.
  • Enhanced case management with retail service providers: improved process for managing the timeliness of end user customer responses and resolution activities following escalations by retail service providers as well as ensuring end user issues are case managed by nbn if they are not resolved on the second visit.
  • National awareness campaign: educating Australians about the role of nbn and their retail service provider, the factors at home or work which can improve internet experience, as well as how to choose a speed and data broadband package that suits their needs.

In the end, these measures, and the TIO issues prove one very clear thing – the Telcos and the NBN need to get their act together in helping customers understand the issues.

Frankly, the NBN shouldn’t need to waste our money on awareness campaigns, but they do, because the Telcos are too interested in the land grab for customers than educating consumers and making sure they sign up to the right plan and get all the information they need when they do.

Lots more work to be done.