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Driving change for our customers

Telstra News

Posted on October 25, 2018

6 min read

The last two months have reinforced what an incredibly exciting time it is in the telecommunications industry.

In early September, Telstra hosted a meeting on the Gold Coast with representatives from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to discuss the universal technical standards that will support 5G and the new world of technology and services it will enable.

I also met with many of our customers and team members on the Gold Coast, Hobart, Bathurst, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga and Bendigo. Universally the conversation centred on the opportunities high speed fixed and mobile services were creating for people, businesses and local communities.

It is these moments that press home how critical telecommunications networks are in the world today. But they also reinforce the privilege and responsibility companies like Telstra have to deliver for our customers, albeit in a world that is very different to when Telstra was first creating Australia’s telecommunications backbone more than 100 years ago.

Today, disruption is ever present and takes many forms. Australia’s migration to the nbn, intensifying competition, changing customer expectations and an ever-evolving technology landscape continue to challenge us. But what remains at the centre of this exciting and equally challenging environment is our responsibility to deliver for our customers.

One of the key indicators we use to assess our performance in delivering for customers is the number of complaints we receive, including those to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

Over the last two financial years, as with the rest of the industry, our overall number of TIO complaints have increased, largely driven by issues associated with migrating millions of customers to the National Broadband Network. However it is also a trend across the telecommunications industry as connectivity continues to be ever more central in our lives.

While our complaints increased in FY17 and FY18, the rate of increase in FY18 showed some improvement. We saw customer complaints to the TIO (what are known as Level 1 complaints) increase by 7.7% (to a total of 82,528), compared to an increase of 43% (or a total of 76,650) in FY17, a year in which complaints across the industry as a whole increased by 41% (to a total of 158,016).

While I dearly wish we had no complaints, and that we delighted each and every customer each and every time, in a company of Telstra’s size and scale sometimes things can go wrong. We have more than 8 million customers and to keep things in perspective, while we had 82,528 TIO complaints in FY18 we had more than 285 million interactions with customers in our digital channels, more than 75 million interactions in our stores and over the phone and had cause to send repair crews (what we call truck rolls) 6 million times.

Another indicator we look to is the Complaints in Context report which has been released by Communications Alliance today. The report shows the number of TIO complaints per 10,000 services in operation (SIOs) for participating providers. Building on the positive trends shown in the TIO Annual Report, the most recent data again shows improvement over the last three quarters. From 7.9 in last quarter for FY18, Telstra has dropped to 6.5 complaints per 10,000 services in operation in the first quarter for FY19, an 18% reduction.

That many of the complaints received have been driven by the migration to the nbn is really beside the point – as a business, and as an industry, we have to provide the best possible customer experience and there are times when we at Telstra have not met those high standards.

So what are we going to do about it?

Our T22 strategy spells out the tangible actions we are taking to transform the customer experience by delivering simpler, more flexible products with a great digital service experience, as well as simplifying how we operate. For a business that touches virtually every Australian every day, either directly or through our wholesale relationships, it is a bold strategy.

For example, we know there are things we charge our customers for that are a major source of complaints. So as part of T22, we plan to remove up to those $500 million in revenues for our services over the next three years, the first example of which we introduced in July with the removal of charges for domestic excess data usage.

At our recent AGM I also announced we plan to stop charging customers for rental home phones, a move we expect will benefit up to 300,000 customers, and drop charges for call number displays on many of our older phone plans, welcome news for another 60,000 customers. We also plan to shift to a new digital billing experience, with direct debit as a default.

This means for customers taking up our digital billing experience, Telstra will no longer charge late payment fees, charges for over the counter cash payments or paper bill fees, as customers will be on direct debit with a digital receipt. In preparation for the phasing out of paper bills from the start of next financial year we will stop charging our customers the $2.20 fee. These are just some examples of the legacy fees and charges that we are designing out of our plans and removed for our customers.

We have also announced we will be simplifying and dramatically reducing our number of plans (complexity being another customer pain point), with 20 core plans replacing the 1,800 available today. Our next big launch for consumers comes next few week with a focus on choice, giving customers flexibility to choose and pay for only the services they want.

Over the longer term we believe these moves are in the best interests of customers as they accelerate a trajectory already underway and will drive long-term value.

Our commitment is that in future our consumer and small business customers and shareholders will also see a radically different Telstra, and have a radically different experience with us, built on simple, intuitive digital platforms that enable them to make changes to their products in near real-time via our 24×7 App. Improved training means service in our stores and contact centres will also be faster, easier and more digitally enabled and integrated than ever before.

Our ultimate success will be reducing the need for customers to contact us with queries and complaints by making things simpler, easier, and more flexible and giving them more control.

The next few months are very much like the last few in that I will continue to share more about the transformative power of telecommunications with our customers and teams at events (large and small) all around the country. Again I am certain the unifying thread in the many conversations at these events will be on how connectivity is now a key part over everybody’s lives. What continues to be in the front of my mind is the responsibility Telstra has for making it happen.

Tags: customers,

Getting Priority Assistance right

Telstra News

Posted on October 8, 2018

2 min read

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today announced it found that we have breached our Priority Assistance obligations.

The Priority Assistance service is a free higher priority connection and fault restoration service for customers who have, or live with someone who has, a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition, and whose life may be at risk if they don’t have access to a working telephone service.

Telstra provides services to millions of customers, including around 146,000 who are registered for a Priority Assistance service. We visit the homes of more than 13,000 customers each day to assist with connections and faults and we work hard to ensure these are successful and meet the appropriate standards for our customers.

We are the only Australian provider required to offer this kind of prioritised connection and fault restoration service and we take this obligation very seriously.

The ACMA commenced its investigation after they became aware of two cases where Telstra customers with life-threatening medical conditions passed away while their fixed-line service wasn’t working.

We acknowledge failures in our processes and systems meant these customers were not provided with the level of service that they required, and we apologise sincerely to the families concerned. We are also sorry for adding to the families’ stress at what would have been a difficult and traumatic time.

The ACMA has directed Telstra to appoint an independent person to review our Priority Assistance processes and historical complaints, and to ensure we have systems, processes and practices in place to support compliance.

We are cooperating fully with the independent auditor to ensure they have all the information required to provide a comprehensive report to the ACMA.

These cases make it clear that we need to do better. We have implemented a number of changes to our management of Priority Assistance customers including offering a free professional installation of modems for Priority Assist nbn customers; rolling out to new training to our employees; and creating a dedicated nbn connection management team with the sole responsibility of managing PA customers.

It is critically important that our customers can rely on us to manage this vital service and we are ensuring we have the processes, systems and training in place to meet our obligations and, more importantly, the expectations of our customers.

Tags: customers,

5G: where promise meets reality

Network

Posted on September 10, 2018

5 min read

with Channa Seneviratne, Executive Director, Network and Infrastructure Engineering – Telstra

More than 600 delegates from the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) – the body that will set global standards to enable 5G – are meeting on the Gold Coast this week.

5G will underpin the adoption of a whole raft of world changing new technologies including the Internet of Things and driverless cars, so it is not hyperbole to say the 3GPP meeting will be future shaping. With so much at stake we thought it was important to explain what 5G is, and why it matters.

We have been asked many times – “Will 5G change the world?”. The short answer is absolutely yes. The slightly longer answer is this blog.

The best way to understand 5G is to realise it is more than just a faster, more efficient technology for mobile phones. What sets 5G apart from every earlier “G” is its ability to carry signals significantly faster. Latency – the time gap between a request for data being sent and the data being received – on 5G is reduced dramatically.

To put that into context, on an older 3G phone, latency was around 100 milliseconds – that is one tenth of a second. 10 years of steady development and investment meant 4G latency was down to around 30 milliseconds. With 5G though, typical latency will be as little as 4 milliseconds and with smart network engineering may go as low as 1 millisecond – one thousandth of a second – for ultra-critical Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Why does that matter? Because while 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G were primarily about connecting voice and then data, 5G will be about connecting everything: what is referred to as Internet of Things. We may not notice one tenth of a second delay when we are waiting for a webpage to load but that type of lag will not work in the emerging body of applications that will require virtually instant response times.

Doctors performing surgery remotely using tactile internet tools need instant responsiveness far beyond what today’s 4G technology can provide. Autonomous cars need to be able to react instantly to obstacles and traffic directions to be able to safely navigate through busy traffic. Sensor-laden factories, smart electricity grids and other infrastructure need to be able to make adjustments instantly if they are to deliver the promised efficiencies and cost savings.

A world gearing up for 5G

We are already seeing industry gearing up to seize opportunities from 5G. Some forecasts indicate 5G will enable US$12 trillion in economic output globally, support 22 million jobs and drive US$200 billion annually by 2035. We believe we are on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution where the physical world is infused with digitally enabled mass automation. Because it is not just 5G on its own – 5G is arriving at a same time as other technology innovations in software defined networks, big data analytics, machine learning and IoT. It is the combination of these things that will be so transformative.

We are already seeing consumers eagerly anticipating lightning fast 5G connectivity, and the many things that it will enable in their lives. And Telstra has been at the forefront of the 5G charge with a string of world and Australian 5G firsts culminating in our recent launch of 5G network readiness in selected metropolitan and regional areas.

While there is a lot of excitement around 5G, we still often get asked by analysts, investors and even other telcos why Telstra is so committed to leading on 5G? Many people still want to know what the use case or application is that justifies the investment necessary to deploy 5G? These are the same questions that were asked ahead of the previous generations of wireless technology. Before 2G it was hard to conceive of the mobile phone becoming a mass market device owned by billions of people. Before 3G, it was questionable that enough people would want to access the internet on their phones. And before 4G, it was a brave call to suggest enough people wanted access to HD video at all times.

But in every one of these occasions the demand not only materialised it did so with remarkable speed and on a remarkable scale. Indeed, each new technology has been embraced more quickly than the last. 4G took just five years to reach 2.5 billion people, compared to eight years for 3G. And the customers of first-mover telco’s such as Telstra, enjoyed the earliest and greatest benefits of new technology.

From Telstra’s perspective, the baseline business case is simple. We are facing rapidly growing volumes of data and we need more efficient ways of meeting our customers’ demands. What that means is that we need to transform our network economics, and the 10X greater capacity of 5G at lower cost per bit will help do that for us.

On top of that we see incredibly exciting opportunities to open up new applications and services delivered over mobile using 5G – everything from IoT on a massive scale, to 4K and 8K video, to mission critical services, to remote robotics will be brought to a whole new level by 5G.

Tags: 5g, customers,

Connecting Australia’s farmers to the world

Network

Posted on August 29, 2018

2 min read



Today I was in Toowoomba, in the heart of the Darling Downs region in Queensland, where we have proudly achieved another 5G first – activating the first 5G mobile base station in a regional city in Australia.

It’s an incredibly exciting time as we start expanding 5G coverage to more capital cities and regional centres over the coming months.

It follows our switch on in selected areas on the Gold Coast, cementing our position as the first mobile network in Australia to be 5G ready.

Bringing the transformational technology of 5G to Toowoomba, a regional centre and one of the fastest growing cities in the country, is exciting for the possibilities it will enable in education, health, community services, business and agriculture – all major industry sectors in the local economy. We’re only starting to imagine the possibilities.

For a sector like agriculture, the fibre-like data speeds, low latency and high performance and capacity of 5G open up fantastic opportunities for growth as well as for overcoming some very real challenges.

Toowoomba and the Darling Downs are home to 4300 farms, and an agricultural sector producing almost $4 billion in annual value. It is also the second biggest employer.

Across the country, agriculture is one of our most important industries, with more than 300,000 people working in the sector, generating almost $60 billion in value and growing enough food to feed 80 million people each year.

It is the life blood of much of regional Australia – joining communities together, creating jobs, and sustaining the standard of living for Australian farming families and the businesses and suppliers that work with them.

Tags: 5g, customers,

Premium Direct Billing

Telstra News

Posted on March 26, 2018

3 min read

You may have heard today that we ceased providing Premium Direct Billing (PDB) earlier this month, and that we have also reached an agreement with the ACCC in Court proceedings relating to PDB.

We have agreed with the ACCC to jointly submit to the Federal Court that we pay a penalty relating to the management of our PDB service.

Premium Direct Billing enables our mobile customers to buy content such as games, apps or videos from third parties by subscribing or purchasing online and have it charged to their mobile phone bill. These services had been introduced by a number of mobile providers to give customers a convenient way of charging certain types of online services to their phone bill.

A large proportion of customers who decided to subscribe to a service were happy with it, however the number of complaints received over time shows there were issues with the PDB service that needed to be addressed.

I want to apologise to any customer who has been charged under our Premium Direct Billing service unexpectedly for these subscription content services and to those who may have experienced difficulty when trying to opt out from them.

And I acknowledge that customers may have raised concerns and I understand that the steps we took over the years in response were not effective and put in place fast enough. We did not get this right, and I apologise.

Following our decision to stop providing new subscription based services in December, from earlier this month we completely exited this service.

PDB services have been recognised as an issue for the broader telecommunications industry – we took a number of steps to improve our processes, but acknowledge we could have done more and done it faster. At Telstra, providing a great customer experience is our top priority and we recognise that our management of this service hasn’t always allowed us to deliver good experiences.

Our number one priority, right now, is working to continue to identify customers who have been impacted through being charged for third party PDB subscriptions, they either didn’t knowingly subscribe to or had tried to opt out of unsuccessfully.

We have a dedicated team working through this and we will commence contacting these customers from next week.

Once we have identified impacted customers, we’ll be proactively reaching out to them, but if you’re concerned about PDB charges on your account you can contact us directly.
Our number one priority is customer experience and the large majority of our customers have a great experience, but we don’t get it right all the time and in cases where we identify issues we will absolutely take the steps to rectify it. In this case, we have committed to identify, contact and offer to refund impacted customers, and we have now completely exited this service.

Background: Premium Direct Billing enables mobile customers to purchase online content such as games, apps and videos from third parties on a subscription or one-off basis by pressing on a subscribe now or purchase now button or similar and to have it charged directly to their mobile bill. We exited this service entirely on 3 March 2018. We will continue to enable customers to purchase some content from third party providers and have it charged directly to their mobile phone bill – more information on these services can be found here.