11 January 2019

Telstra fails summer holiday customer service test

| Ian Campbell
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Down since December 16, three more green lights is what Ian needs. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Down since December 16, three more green lights is what Ian needs. Photo: Ian Campbell.

My summers seem to have a soundtrack. An album that rolls around in the background replacing the stress of the previous year.

In the summer of 86/87 it was John Farnham’s Whispering Jack, 94/95 it was Jeff Buckley’s Grace, and in 2009/10 I remember camping under the Spotted Gums at Mystery Bay with my family while Malk by The Saltwater Band mixed with bush cricket and cooking.

My soundtrack this summer has been the on-hold music from Telstra. It has been such a constant on my phone since mid-December that my three children now unconsciously whistle the tune as they walk about the house dropping crumbs and dirty laundry.

Our home ADSL service was hit by lighting in a cracking storm on 15 December. We had already unplugged everything, including the modem, but something out on the street seems to have been fried.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I have called Telstra at least 20 times since that day. I am embarrassed because of the level of desperation that it points to, but previous experience has suggested you need to be a squeaky wheel. That hasn’t worked this time.

Twenty-six days after I first reported the fault, we are still without home ADSL. I accept that Christmas and New Years are in the middle and that the storm generated a lot of other faults around New South Wales. I am a reasonable, tolerant person, so those circumstances did buy Telstra a period of grace.

I have been polite and respectful to the various call centre workers and quoted a reference number every time. They read my notes, which is taking longer and longer, and read me their script beautifully and I think genuinely tried to push me through the system.

Ultimately they are frontline fodder to keep you in a holding pattern.

I have given them my modem model number ten times, listened as the same line testing is done, waited for over an hour a number of times for someone to answer, screamed as the line dropped out at 56 minutes, and received that useless troubleshooting link more times than my heart beats in a day.

A breakthrough came when a technician was booked to visit our home on 4 January. When they cancelled the night before, our rage was calmed by a bottle of wine.

At first, it seemed frivolous to be so wound up by access to the internet, but I have decided those “back in my day” type sentiments are BS in 2019. This is my work, my family’s entertainment, communication with business, government, banks, family and friends.

We have limped through the summer holidays by turning our mobile phones into hot spots and chewing up data. A challenge at times when the local 4G network is wound back to 3G as the thousands of tourists in the region switch on.

The ‘bing‘ from my phone has just now alerted me to the fact that I have again reached my data limit – that makes it 57 times.

Burning mobile data. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Burning mobile data. Photo: Ian Campbell.

But it’s not so much the inconvenience that has me pounding the keyboard talking to you, it’s the fact that not once has Telstra followed through with what they said they would do.

The customer service, while polite, has been nothing short of hopeless. Sadly ‘hopeless’ is not one of the options you can press on the survey at the end of every call!

As I talk to people (AKA seek counselling) my story is matched or beaten by the experience of others.

At a time of year when small businesses in South East NSW are under pressure to provide a positive experience to their customers, one of our biggest companies has failed in that regard.

Every one of my twenty or so calls has ended with, “someone will call you back within 24 to 48 hours.” Not once has that happened.

I have asked for my call to be escalated, only to be told by the initial operator that the next team up are too busy and he or she has been asked not to transfer any more calls.

Even the complaints department haven’t called me back. I sat on hold one day so long that they had closed by the time my call was answered. I called at 8:30 am the next morning and got straight through only to be told, they didn’t start work till 9 am. “Someone will call you back today”, the man in the call centre said – didn’t happen.

‘Bing’ I’ve used up my mobile data again.

All this while I hear about our 4G network being upgraded to 5G and fears the Chinese Government might be listening in, they must be laughing!

Can we just do this well first – please?

I’d change internet providers if I felt I had a choice, but not sure we do, especially regional communities. Friends who do get their internet elsewhere speak of still ending up in Telstra’s cue when there is a fault and, if anything, feeling as though they are further down the list because they are not a Telstra customer.

Another appointment for a Telstra technician is booked for today, I dare not leave the house between 1 and 5 pm.

And they dare not show up.

‘The Prince of Darkness’ will provide the soundtrack to those circumstances and will be my inspiration when we start talking about December and January’s bill.

Update, 5:16 pm, Friday, January 11:

Thanks for sharing your advice and experiences. Something has gotta change Telstra! The number of people who have made comment here on the website and on the About Regional Facebook page can’t be wrong.

In the meantime, we have internet again!

Mark, a terrific fella, has been, fixed it and is hopefully enjoying a beer by now. Once this got local it got fixed.

Now back to Telstra to talk about our bill for December and January. That can wait until Monday, I need a break from that on hold music!


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We had some similar problems recently. Our phone line died, and with it the Internet. A couple of days later the phone returned, but no Internet. I contacted Support. After exhausting all the obvious possibilities over the phone, the overseas call-centre lady said she thought it must be the modem, and was sending me a new one. Another 3 to 5 days to wait.

I ended up fixing the problem myself. Later, I passed a Telstra tech van emblazoned with the claim “Hardwired to help”. So, I thought to myself, if they are “hardwired to help”, why don’t they carry a few spare modems for people like us? Surely it has to make better sense than simply assuming the problem is the modem and sending another one?

Three to five days later, the new modem arrived. Looked great, so I replaced our old but now working modem, in the hope the new one might perform better. Line speed dropped….

Debra Cushion12:04 pm 11 Jan 19

Good luck Ian, I won’t hold my breath but i will cross my fingers for you. Keep us posted.

Steve Osborne10:28 am 11 Jan 19

How on earth do you keep doing your amazing job?? Our sympathy / support to you Ian.

Having NBN issues and mobile phone issues in Cobargo area as well. Very poor performance.

Ian I have shared the pain. Have you tried fb contact? In my case it did escalate but then again my incident wasn’t over the Xmas holidays.

Sandra Doyle7:59 am 11 Jan 19

Having a similar problem. Promises of ringing back but they never do. Feel like not paying our very large account ( business account) but they have us over a barrel We can’t be cut off because of the type of business.

Sending you positive vibes Ian. We had major issues when the nbn was first meant to be installed. Ombudsman was our last resort. Didn’t speed it up but meant we had a caseworker and got our mobile data refunded. If you ever get to talk to a person request a data refund. Hope it is sorted!

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