JEFF CORBETT: Tired of holding the line

I AM always impressed by the confidence of Telstra employees who guide me through the maze of their company bureaucracy, and their eagerness in asking if there is anything else they can help me with today boosts that confidence.

Because of my particular arrangement with Telstra, a call centre worker told me a couple of months ago, I should visit a Telstra Shop to change my family's plan, and so I did. The next day at the Telstra Shop I was told that because I was a bundled customer I would need to talk to a call centre consultant to change my plan. Wrong, a call centre consultant told me later that day.

No equivocation. Impressive.

This has happened to me a number of times, and each time it seems that the company is riddled with disconnections.

Still, my encounters are merely irritating. John Woodward's experience since he sought at the Telstra Shop at Charlestown to move his phone and internet service to another address is something more.

That was three weeks ago, and Mr Woodward, a partner of Turnbull Hill Lawyers, pointed out that since it was a business account it was important that he not be left without internet access. Ah, he was told, because it was a business account he'd have to deal with the call centre.

At home he phoned the number given to him by the Telstra Shop, pressed digits, listened to Telstra ads for five minutes, was told the call would be recorded for training purposes, then met Shane, who told him that as it was a company account he'd have to organise the move at a Telstra Shop.

When Mr Woodward protested Shane gave him another phone number and a six-digit reference number he was to give the person at that new number.

That was enough for one day, so the next day Mr Woodward phoned the number and endured the same rigmarole plus the requirement that he key in the six-digit reference. Then he met Craig, but since the reference number did not give Craig access to the information logged by Shane the previous day Mr Woodward gave his story again. It is a simple story - he wants to move his Telstra phone and broadband service from one address to another seamlessly - but the history was becoming complex.

Twenty minutes after he'd dialled, Mr Woodward was told by Craig that because it was a business account he'd have to contact the accounts manager Matthew, and because of his inconvenience Mr Woodward was given Matthew's direct line. After leaving a message, Matthew phoned the next day and said he'd arrange for his assistant, Debbie, to sort it out.

Debbie phoned the next day and after punching in the reference number she told Mr Woodward that since his was a company account he'd have to speak to his account manager. Mr Woodward lost his cool.

Matthew phoned the next day to say that in view of Mr Woodward's obvious frustration he'd elevate the case.

The next day Mr Woodward received an SMS from Telstra asking him to phone a number to confirm that a technician could install a new phone connection at his new home three days later, but since Mr Woodward was to be in Sydney that day he tried raising someone at that number to arrange another day. He tried several times without success, and was trying again while home for lunch on the day before the appointed day when a Telstra technician arrived to install the new connection.

The next day, in Sydney, Mr Woodward was phoned by an annoyed Telstra technician who had arrived at his home to install the new connection.

Four days later, at the beginning of last week, Mr Woodward was phoned by a Telstra employee in Queensland, Brendan, who wanted to know how he could help. When, Mr Woodward asked, would Telstra transfer his broadband service? Brendan gave Mr Woodward a number to ring.

On Friday, 16 days after he walked into a Telstra Shop with what he believed was a simple request, Mr Woodward lodged a complaint with the Telecommunciations Ombudsman.

And as of late yesterday he was still without his Bigpond broadband service.

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