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Managing a Customer Experience – Overcoming the Telstra Fault

By Matt Pearce

Every person has that story of hours bouncing round a call centre because there is an issue with [insert massive company here] services.

They all seem to “understand” but not what the customers problem is. Can you relate?  Here is how I navigated a recent experience.

We live in a country where there are several industries where companies are so big and have so much power they seemed to not value a quality customer experience.  

The challenge:

How do you get past the scripts and the false empathy shown by THE placating statements of “I understand, but…” and find someone who can show real empathy and help you, the customer, solve the problem?

After spending 6 weeks dealing with a fault I think I have found an approach that works.

It all started when I moved to a new house…

My Cable Internet didn’t work.

The situation was:

  • The cable had previously been cut by a Telstra technician and removed.
  • They wanted me to pay to resolve (at the cost of $1000’s of dollars)

What it led to:

  • Over 50 interactions with different people where THAT STATEMENT of “I understand but…” and I am re-explaining myself every call (it became a daily joke in the office).
  • A complaints case manager who doesn’t return calls.
  • Supervisors who are never available and don’t return call back requests.
  • Technicians attending my house three times (12 hours lost waiting) to diagnose the same problem.
  • A lack of commitment to resolve in a timely manner.

To address this, I:

  • Asked to speak with a Supervisor after my first call when I was told I would need to pay.
  • Went to the Telecommunications Ombudsman to be told they could do nothing but arbitrate and nothing they did was binding.
  • Reached out through Facebook to be told they couldn’t do anything but pass a message on.
  • Approached the Head of Customer Experience through LinkedIn to be ignored.  

In these types of situations, I always follow these rules:

  • I have empathy for the staff members position: they are doing their job
  • Ask to speak to someone who can navigate the beast and find a resolution

Nothing was working.

So, the final straw was when I received three phone calls on the same day, from different parts of the business all wanting to tell me different things and all placating with “I understand, I am only authorized to show false empathy and read a script”.  

I called the relevant area and took this approach:

  • I was assertive but polite.
  • I asked to speak with the Supervisor.
  • Refused to give any personal/account information until I was on phone with Supervisor.
  • Explained I would remain on hold.
  • Asked the position of the third person and were they able to help or was I going to receive the standard scripted responses.
  • Explained my situation and asked were they able to help or did I need to go higher.

72 hours later, I had workman on site (unannounced) and the construction work was done.

I am now waiting for the cable to be connected to the house.

The sad part, this is the anti-thesis of a good customer experience.

It came down to me being assertive, persistent and always respectful.

How do you know if you have reached the right person?

The right person shows empathy, can listen and work through the issue.

My learning:

If you get caught in the mouth of the monster and are getting frustrated, don’t give anything away until you are talking to someone who has the empathy and power to help.

1 hour of patient holding will save 12 hours of frustration and there is no way you will be compensated for that time.