Telstra News |

Supporting Indigenous customers with a new Darwin-based dedicated contact centre

By Michael Ackland March 10, 2021

We’re on a mission to improve the way we do business. Central to that is our customers, and how we serve them. That’s why we’re opening a new contact centre in Darwin dedicated to the answering of customer enquiries and the reporting of faults from Indigenous communities around Australia.

Every year we receive 25,000 calls from Indigenous communities. These calls are on a range of issues, relating to connectivity, billing or general enquiries about our products and services.

From today, when our First Nations Connect contact centre opens, these calls will be serviced by a dedicated Darwin-based hub, using staff who are regionally based and of Indigenous descent. We’re also anticipating that some of these calls will be taken and solved in-language for our Indigenous customers.

Our Indigenous customers can now directly call the Darwin contact centre via the Telstra First Nations Connect hotline on 1800 444 403. Customers from Indigenous communities will still be able to call the standard 13 22 00 line, and we will use data sources such as mobile base station and fixed line locations, postcodes and census information to divert incoming calls to the new Darwin centre.

With a focus on customer service, the new contact centre is based in our Darwin office and will operate five days a week between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Calls made outside this time will be responded to by trained operators located in Australia.

This new contact centre will complement our existing regional centres in Townsville, Hobart and Adelaide that currently manage calls that come in when a customer is located over 100km from one of our stores.

We are committed to building and maintaining trust with all of our customers, including operating responsibly and learning from the feedback we receive. It’s a daily test that we hold ourselves to.

I’m excited to see the results from our new contact centre, and to welcome our new colleagues from these regional communities into our team.

Telstra News |

Responsible business in the 2020s, and reflecting on our journey through COVID-19

By Andrew Penn July 9, 2020

At a speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, Telstra CEO Andy Penn spoke about the importance of responsible business, and how now is the time to think deeply about the role business has in society.

Thank you for that warm welcome and hello everyone. Before I start, I would like to acknowledge Tanya Oziel from the Trans-Tasman Business Circle. Thank you for being our virtual host today.

For many years the Business Circle has been an important forum for the exchange of ideas on key issues for our country, for our region and also for our future. That dialogue has never been more important than it is today.

The last speech I gave in a forum like this was in February, before we understood the full significance of COVID. I was talking on the topic of responsible business in the 2020s and in particular highlighting the point that the “how” business does things is just as important as the “why” we do them.

Sitting here today it seems like a lifetime ago and it is hard to comprehend how much has already happened in the first 6 months of this decade.

And yet everything that has happened has only reinforced my conviction, my conviction that the topics I spoke about at that time are those that must be at the top of our agendas today. The only difference now is that we need to address them with a greater sense of urgency than ever before.

The enforced time we have all experienced at home has made us all a bit more introspective, a bit more contemplative. As business leaders we have had to navigate our organisations through enormous change and challenge, but it has also given us an opportunity to think more deeply – more deeply about the role our businesses play in society, and the responsibility we have to the communities in which we operate.

And let’s be honest there is a lot to think about. The fragility of the world in which we live has been exposed in the space of 6 short months. The devastating bushfires, the necessary restrictions on personal freedoms, real health threats, the impact on the economy and jobs from COVID and the escalating and troubling world tensions – the latter being played out in a cyber world where the scale and significance of the malicious activity being perpetrated is difficult for most people to comprehend.

Even in Melbourne today we are dealing with the consequences of further restrictions following a concerning escalation in a second wave of COVID infections as we move back to stage 3 restrictions.

It is easy in the face of this to become depressed, angry even – a natural emotion given the grieving process we have been experiencing as we come to terms with the fact that our old world has changed.

But if we can see these emotions for what they are, then as leaders I know we can also find the strength to see this time as an opportunity. An opportunity to put the world on a different trajectory. One where we can continue to leverage the benefits of technology innovation that has brought so much advancement, but do so in a kinder, more inclusive way and in a way where we take greater accountability for our impact on others, on society and on the world in which we live.

Today I want to share some reflections from this period, how it has affected me personally and how it has shaped our thinking at Telstra.

I have essentially three observations:

Firstly, I have always been a technology optimist – in other words I believe the benefits of technology advancements outweigh the risks they introduce. What has been fascinating for me is that we have made more progress in the last three months in becoming a digital economy than we had in the previous 5 years. And what this tells me is that previous constraints to our progress were less to do with the technology itself but rather our ability and willingness to adopt it.

Secondly, the obligations we have to our customers should not be defined by the small print of our contracts but by our purpose and values as organisations. I spoke earlier this year about how a greater level of empathy and responsibility is required from companies in understanding their customers’ needs and meeting them fairly. We have seen a fantastic response from corporates in Australia during COVID, particularly large companies in supporting their customers almost as if they have rediscovered the meaning in their purpose.

Thirdly, if there was ever any lingering belief in the Friedman theory that the sole purpose of companies is to focus only on its shareholders, it has been finally put to rest. Community trust in the corporate sector had reached a new low point at the end of the last decade and yet in a short space of time more and more corporates are standing up on important issues. Companies are demonstrating they understand the expectations upon them and our responsibility to the communities in which we operate. Thoughtful companies realise they will only be successful for their shareholders if their customers, employees and communities enjoy success too.

In sharing these reflections today I hope I can connect with some of your thoughts and experiences. So let me turn to the first topic, the digital economy.

The digital economy

So why is this important? We are sitting on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution. A revolution that is arriving through the convergence of new technologies that will enable the physical world to become infused with the digital. Sensors in everything from wheely bins to traffic lights, from agricultural equipment to militarised drones. Over the next 20 years we are going to see a dramatic increase in automation and robotics in every aspect of our lives.

This is a technology revolution that is taking the concern about computers replacing jobs to a new level. Sparking new debates on such issues as the ethics of using artificial intelligence. At the same time, an increasing volume of data about our every move in life is being captured and this is bringing into question new concerns over our privacy.

We are not going to hold back the tide of technology so the question is how we embrace it ethically and for the value of everyone in our society. How do we use it as a tool to advance Australia’s prosperity?

COVID has accelerated digital adoption for Telstra and our customers interaction with us – something that before COVID was taking years to achieve.

We have seen a fundamental shift in online usage – from customer service support to online shopping to telehealth to home learning and working.

As businesses and as a country we should be looking at how we can consolidate this momentum to make it a permanent trend.

In this regard I believe there are four areas that we can focus on to accelerate our progress even further:

  • Firstly, getting the Regulation and Policy settings right to support a digital economy;
  • Secondly, investing in infrastructure that enables connectivity to drive the digital economy;
  • Thirdly, helping small and medium businesses to realise the benefits of becoming digital;
  • And finally, fostering the development of the right technology skills.

From Telstra’s perspective, COVID-19 has also shown us the value of our existing investments through our T22 strategy to transform Telstra for the future. The reasons that we introduced T22 two years ago – a need to rapidly simplify and digitise, to remove customer pain points, to remove legacy systems and processes – have never been more important and have enabled us to respond effectively through COVID.

New core capabilities that we have established as part of our T22 strategy have meant we could fast-track the digitisation and automation of our tools and move more customer enquiries online, removing the need for many customers to call us at all.

Now customers are connecting with us through self-service and online tools such as asynchronous messaging. In fact, before COVID, around 50% of consumers contacted us through digital options, now this is more than 70%. We have also seen almost 4 million customers download the My Telstra app during COVID in a period of just 8 weeks.

One of the negative consequences of COVID however, has been the impact it has had on our workforce capacity. This has been particularly significant in overseas locations such as India and the Philippines which went offline due to strict lockdowns and have still not fully recovered.

While we have managed to move a large amount of this work online and to Australia, we are very conscious of the impact it has had and is still having on some of our customers in trying to contact us – some of you in the audience today may have been affected.

I therefore wanted to apologise for the delays and thank you for your patience.

For us, there is no doubt therefore that this is the right time to also be thinking differently about our customer service in the future. Of the things that we have implemented temporarily to help us through this period, what can we make permanent?

We know that it is critical to continue to invest in accelerating our digital engagement, including messaging. This will give us more capacity for customers who want to call us for more complex support and also for those Australians who are not as comfortable using digital tools.

It will mean that over time we will need a smaller call centre workforce for our consumer and small business customers. In fact our aspiration is that by the end of our T22 program all inbound calls from these customers to us will be answered in Australia.

This in turn will enable our teams in the Philippines and India to continue to support our digital experiences.

I mentioned that another crucial area that will make a difference in becoming a digital economy is in expanding our digital skills as a nation.

As a major employer with significant technology skills, Telstra very much wants to play its part in this and to that end we have established a partnership program with a number of universities developing specific capabilities in STEAM and we will be making a further announcement next week of another significant partnership.

Finally as we do move more rapidly to a digital economy, we need to be cognisant of the growing cyber risk this presents as more and more people do more things online and those with ill-intent take advantage.

You heard the Prime Minister recently raise awareness of the significant, sophisticated and ongoing cyber attacks against Australia including by a state-based actor. We are also seeing significant increases in cyber crime targeting Australians and Australian businesses.

It could not therefore be a more important time for the Government’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy and I look forward to tabling the report of the Industry Advisory Panel to the Government that I am chairing on this strategy in a couple of weeks.

The report contains 60 recommendations to improve the country’s cyber defences and it is pleasing to see the Government already taking significant action through the announcement of a $1.35bn Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness package of initiatives, including our own ‘Cleaner Pipes’ initiative announced a few weeks ago.

Redefining our obligations to customers

For Telstra, in addition to helping support our cyber defences, another area of critical importance is the underlying infrastructure for the digital economy – our telecommunications networks.

With the NBN also nearing its completion and as we enter a new era with 5G, there has never been a better time to set a new technology-agnostic vision for telecommunications in Australia particularly regional and rural Australia. A vision with the right policies in place to encourage investment and innovation in these crucially important aspects of our critical national infrastructure, particularly.

We know the important role technology plays in delivering educational benefits and helping people in remote communities.

In 2018 for example we worked with the Federal Government to provide mobile base stations to six remote communities in the APY Lands, located near the South Australian and Northern Territory borders.

This brought not only mobile service to the APY townships and their residents but it also provides a vital communication link for the people who travel to the lands to provide much-needed services to those communities.

Telstra has also worked with the South Australian Government to deliver improved connectivity to eight schools in the APY Lands and enhance teaching and learning experiences.

At the same time however, when we like to think we are doing good things we have to face into the reality that we have also let down some of our customers in Indigenous communities. As you may have heard me talk about in February, some years ago a small number of our partner stores, those operated by third parties under a license agreement, sold mobile devices and plans to customers that ultimately could not afford them or where they may not have been appropriate for their needs.

When we investigated, we found there were instances where our processes had not been followed by some front-line staff and that in some cases, there had been serious misconduct. There were examples where we had not fully understood some of the cultural and customer behaviours unique to these communities. Where we had failed both in the first instance and in our response to complaints, to recognise that many of these customers were vulnerable. Our remediation was based too much on our literal terms and conditions and not on our purpose and values as an organisation.

The learning from this experience is we did not treat these customers fairly. We failed ourselves, not out of intent but we let them down and we failed in my second observation today that the obligations we have to our customers are not defined only by the small print of our contracts but by our purpose and values as organisations.

In this case our purpose and values did not permeate every aspect of our business operations and the standards we set ourselves were not sufficient. This is why I said in February that while I am no lawyer, I agree with Rod Sims’ advocacy of a new consumer standard of fairness. Because when you think about it that’s what responsible business is all about.

Since 2018 we have been implementing a comprehensive program to address the specific issues. Waiving debts, refunding customers, introducing new processes, rolling out training and tools to assist frontline staff in their interactions with vulnerable customers.

The matter is still being investigated by the ACCC so I cannot comment on the specifics any further.

What I can say is that I know that the people that work at Telstra represent our brand, deliver on our purpose, live our values and follow our processes in the overwhelming majority of cases. However, if experience has taught us anything, it is that even when we make decisions and we think we are operating in the best interests of our customers, there can still be unintended consequences and things you miss for too long. Therefore when things do go wrong, which they will, it is important to look to your purpose and values for how to respond. The best lessons come from the toughest experiences and this has been a tough one for us and me personally but, more importantly, a tough one for our customers.

The lessons we have learned though, through this experience, which started with us addressing specific complaints and incidents has led us on a journey of a much broader reflection on what responsible business looks like in the new decade. This takes me to my last observation which is that it is not just in our dealings with our customers where we need to act responsibly but more broadly in the communities in which we operate.

Our role in the community

Big business as a key contributor to the economy, as a major employer, and as a major user of resources has a responsibility to make contributions to the betterment of society. Not just in the goods and services we provide, the jobs we create and the dividends we generate. But also in the way we conduct ourselves.

For Telstra, during COVID, that sense of responsibility has included many things we have done in the interests of our people, customers and the economy. They included suspending job reductions, supporting casual workers, increasing recruitment in Australia, bringing forward capex spending, creating relief programs for small business and consumer customers as we did in the bushfires and providing unlimited data allowances for fixed broadband and mobile customers.

Responsible business also means speaking out on issues that do not sit right against our values. Not on every issue but those that are pertinent to the business we conduct and that impact our customers and our people.

It means being accountable for our own actions.

Climate change is a perfect example of where business should take meaningful action because the business sector is a material contributor to greenhouse emissions. This period of COVID has provided a chance to experience our world as a quieter environment and under clearer skies. If ever there was encouragement for bolder and more significant action on climate it is now.

We announced a significant increase in our response to reducing our impact on the climate earlier this year. As part of that I am very pleased to announce that today we have received formal certification from Climate Active that Telstra is now carbon neutral in all of our operations – well ahead of our initial plan.

We have achieved our carbon neutral status largely by signing agreements with a number of carbon offset organisations. Two of these projects are based in Australia, including a project that uses the knowledge of traditional landowners to reduce greenhouse gases emitted from savannah fires which today make up 3% of Australia’s total emissions.

The other projects are in India where Telstra also has extensive operations.

Our experience has been that it is extremely difficult to purchase carbon offsets from projects located in Australia. This is something that needs to be addressed because what it says is that there are not enough projects contributing to a reduction in greenhouse emissions.

Our climate commitments also include enabling renewable energy generation equivalent to 100% of our consumption by 2025, and to reduce our absolute emissions by 50% by 2030.

Another area of corporate responsibility is in the role business plays in creating and supporting an inclusive and nondiscriminatory society.

I think we have all been rocked by what unfolded in the US with the Black Lives Matter movement and we must not allow ourselves to get caught up in thinking this is only a US-issue.

We witness injustice in Australia every day – at work and in our communities. We must not tolerate it and we must support those that are hurt by it.

I experienced this myself only a week ago when I saw a video post on Instagram from Alfie Gledhill.

Alfie worked on an advertising campaign for us and his photo was featured on a local street ad. He discovered a racial slur scrawled across this ad and as he explained to me his social post was really part his way of dealing with the pain of it.

I rang Alfie to tell him how I thought he deserved so much better, that we were incredibly proud to have worked with him, and that we absolutely stood by him. I also thanked him for his courage in calling out a senseless, cowardly act.

I am proud of Telstra’s track record on inclusion, as founding members of the Male Champions of Change and initiatives such as All Roles Flex, our office workforce in Australia of 25,000 were already working from home 2 days a week on average before COVID.

I am also proud of the extensive work we have done through supporting victims of domestic violence and our reconciliation action plan in Indigenous communities.

As a company that employs tens of thousands and serves millions of Australian customers, how can we hope to do so responsibly other than by reflecting and representing the full human diversity of each of those as individuals.

I know this is not an easy issue to engage on – it comes with millennia of history and as a business leader it is easy to get it wrong. But we must acknowledge the problem, call it out when we see it, and do our bit to find a better solution.

Solutions are built around actions and for Telstra, that has included partnering with Career Trackers to create paid, multi-year internship opportunities for Indigenous university students. So far 48 students have been through the program which we recently extended for another 10 years with an investment of $1.5m, including a guaranteed intake of 20 students every year.

We are also planning to invest more than $5m over the next few years to extend our partnership with First Nations Media Australia to deliver inDigiMob – an indigenous digital literacy program, to roll-out more specific telecommunications literacy programs for indigenous communities and to extend our research through the Australian Digital Inclusion Index to better understand how the drivers of access, affordability and digital ability play out in regional and remote communities.


COVID has created a unique window to change our trajectory.

As we enter the 2020s there has never been a more important time for business to think deeply about its role and place in society.

I have learnt that, as leaders, decisive action drives confidence and our people needed that in the thick of a crisis.

If we are bold now, we will not only bounce back, but we will move forward and build a kinder, more empathetic, more innovative, more inclusive and more prosperous world.

The opportunities before us today are many but if we are going to get the implementation right there is a lot we need to do:

We need to accelerate our trajectory towards a digital economy.

We need to make sure our cyber defences are in place.

We need to make sure we do not leave any customers behind.

We need to stay active and open on issues that impact the communities in which we operate.

But we also need to continue to make tough and necessary decisions about our companies’ futures. For us, our T22 strategy will continue to provide the roadmap to ensure we are a sustainable business for the long term.

We still have a lot of unfinished business to truly transform Telstra and whilst we have paused some of the harder decisions to support our people during COVID, we have to come back to them.

Ultimately, we need to live our purpose and live up to our values every day – that is at the heart of responsible business.

As we continue to work through this extraordinary year and on into the 2020s and what will be an extraordinary new era of technology innovation, we must also never lose sight of the fact that the “how” we do things is just as important as the “why” we do them.

Thank you.

Woman working from home with laptop, pet, dog, young professional, Millennial
Telstra News |

Keeping job seekers connected

By Michael Ackland April 8, 2020

We are dedicated to keeping people connected during this challenging time.

‏‏‎ ‎

We will be offering a discount for our eligible consumer and small business customers currently receiving the JobSeeker payment, to relieve some of the burden.

If you have a Telstra fixed bundle service and/or multiple Telstra post-paid mobile services you may receive a single $20 per month discount off your total bill for six months, while those with a single Telstra post-paid mobile service may receive a $10 per month discount off their bill for six months.

The offer will be open to apply for from 20 April until 30 June, 2020, unless extended. More details on how to apply for the discount are available via

We have also launched a new $30/month Value Mobile Offer for customers with a valid eligible Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession card.

The offer includes a month to month contract, with 2GB of data to use and no excess data charges in Australia, plus unlimited standard national calls and texts, for use in Australia. Other customers can access the same deal for $40/month.

Customers can bring their own compatible mobile phone or purchase a phone from Telstra. This offer will be available online after Easter. Or to take up this offer sooner, please contact your nearest Telstra Store.

Things you need to know about our JobSeeker offer:

  • If you cancel your eligible plan, or stop receiving the JobSeeker payment, the discount will be removed from your bill.
  • To determine your eligibility for this offer, we will need your Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN), and by proceeding with the application, you authorise us to disclose your details with the relevant government body from time to time to determine eligibility.
  • Your CRN tied to your JobSeeker payment must be held in the same name as your Telstra account.
T22 | Telstra News |

Challenging ourselves to do better for all our customers

By Michael Ackland March 5, 2020

Our purpose is to build a connected future so that everyone can thrive. We’re committed to providing our customers the best technology, the best network and the best experience, and that also means acknowledging when we got it wrong.

Yesterday I spoke about responsible business at the Financial Counsellors Association of Queensland’s Annual Conference – including why it’s important to us, what it means for our culture, and why we’ve committed to do better.

Since we announced our T22 strategy in June 2018, we have made strong progress on our journey to become a simpler, leaner business and to focus more on our customers’ experiences with us. We have removed major pain points for our customers and fundamentally altered the way we sell our products and services, including radically reducing the number of plans we offer from more than 1800 down to just 20.

We’ve also made many other changes to become a more inclusive, aware and responsible business – which has meant confronting some uncomfortable truths about our past actions.

We’ve spoken previously about an issue we became aware of in a small number of our partner stores which had sold mobile devices and plans to some customers that ultimately could not afford them. This included sales to Indigenous Australians, some living in remote communities.

Some customers found themselves facing significant debts, particularly in excess data charges, that caused stress and anxiety. We didn’t make it easy enough for customers to engage us about this – it’s an uncomfortable truth that we let some of our customers down.

The issue is currently being investigated by the ACCC for potential unconscionable conduct and may result in a legal action against us. This is a serious matter, and we’re not shying away from it.

We recognised at the time that we had to do more than just improve our processes and work harder; we needed to change how we provide access to connectivity for our customers.

Changing our business to better suit our customers

Underpinning our change was a move in 2018 to implement new “peace of mind” plans with no excess data and no lock-in contracts across fixed, mobile and broadband services. This removes high excess data charges for our customers. We’ve also separated the phone purchase from the plan purchase, so the financial commitment people are making when they put a phone on a plan is more explicit.

We’ve changed how our partners are incentivised and have removed some frontline staff that haven’t followed process, and have implemented new training including cultural awareness education. We have waived bills over $1000 across some of our high-risk postcodes, and bills over $100 for sales in a number of specific stores. We’ve also improved our credit processes, and have gone above and beyond the new Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code with more safeguards and restrictions on device purchases.

Data is also helping us identify and respond to the needs of vulnerable customers. We’ve profiled the accounts of around 465,000 customers which we believe have indicators of some potential form of vulnerability or hardship, and have excluded these accounts from all direct mail, SMS, mail and telemarketing. We have also been working towards a process to allow customers to trade down or trade in devices when they are no longer affordable.

We recognise that these things help customers purchasing from now and will help avoid the problems of the past, but we are also very focused on resolving any existing issues our customers may have. Our intention is to do right by all customers, and we know every customer is different, has different needs and will need a potentially different solution.

Importantly, we have met with customers and communities affected by this issue to apologise.

While the issue of how to better serve vulnerable customer groups is and continues to be of critical importance, the underlying issue is affordability more generally. We are increasingly aware the cost of many devices is rising, and that is why we are looking at asking questions of customers to better help determine what they can afford based on their income, other expenses and personal circumstances.

We know that our changes as a whole are having an impact. Indeed, complaints around mobile data have reduced 68 per cent year-on year. Complaints around lack of clarity at sale have also reduced 37 per cent. We believe our plans represent the best and fairest in the market, and we are helping customers move onto them.

Introducing a mobile phone affordability initiative

We’ll also be introducing a new mobile phone affordability initiative at the end of March for people on a low income. This is a $30/month mobile plan offer with peace of mind data shaped after 2GB, with an optional $99 Blue Tick handset.

There is more that we can do for customers in financial hardship, too – so we are. We are setting up a dedicated 1800 number for customers in financial hardship to speak directly to a specialised customer care team, and improving our website to provide more information and guidance on financial hardship.

We’ve already made our Telstra Top-Up program available to specialist homelessness services across Australia, and we’ve extended this to emergency relief agencies assisting people impacted by natural disasters. We’re also working with financial counsellors on a simplified authority form to make life easier for them when advocating for customers.

We have thought long and hard about how this issue should change the way we do business. We have taken several significant steps to do this, but we also acknowledge that we have further to go.

Telstra News |

The heart of responsible business

By Andrew Penn February 6, 2020

As we enter the 2020s there has never been a more important time for business to think deeply about the role it plays in society. This was the idea central in a speech I gave today at the American Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne.

In it I shared how a deep commitment to our purpose and values continues to drive Telstra’s efforts to do the right thing for our customers by delivering the best technology on the best network so our customers can thrive.

We do these things because they are the right thing to do, because they align with our company purpose and values, and because they are the sort of things Australians trust Telstra to do when times are tough, as our response to this years’ devastating bushfires and our commitment playing our part in addressing the pressing challenges of climate change show.

But we don’t always get it right and if experience has taught us anything it is that even when we make decisions we think are in the best interests of our customers, there can still be unintended consequences. To illustrate that point today I shared – as a moment of truth-telling – details of a difficult issue we are currently addressing.

In 2017 we became aware of an issue where a small number of our partners had sold mobile devices and plans to customers that they ultimately could not afford and also may not have been appropriate for their needs. This included sales to Indigenous Australians, some living in remote communities. In some cases, the checks and balances we had in place to ensure this did not happen were not followed.

For us, the challenges have arisen while expanding our network to provide connectivity to communities that had not previously had it during a time of dramatic increases in data usage together with the escalating cost of smartphones. We did by not fully understand customers in those areas and we have let both them and us down.

The issue is currently being investigated by the ACCC for potential unconscionable conduct and may result in legal action against us. We will obviously respond appropriately to the ACCC but in the meantime, I can share what we have been doing about it. Put simply, we did not always meet the standards our customers expect from us, and that we expect from ourselves and our partners. We have grappled with the gravity of this issue and acknowledge the impact to the customers involved was significant.

The key question is what are we going to do about it? We have taken a number of actions:

  • Implementing contact centres specifically for our rural, remote and Indigenous customers with staff specifically trained to cater to these differing needs;
  • Strengthening our external credit assessments;
  • Undertaking additional training for frontline staff to refresh their awareness of acceptable sales practices, along with cultural awareness and capability skills;
  • Actively reaching out to customers to ensure they are on the right plan. Our work here has focused on customers who our records show have outstanding debt, or who have missed or are late making payments;
  • Providing proactive support to customers who have found themselves in financial hardship by proactively buying back debt;
  • The introduction of new plans which eliminate many of the causes of high or unexpected charges, including excess data charges and fixed-term lock-in contracts;
  • Enhancing our performance monitoring tools, and increasing the checks and balances we have in place to ensure they aren’t circumvented; and,
  • Deepening our engagement with financial counsellors and other groups on our sales approach to ensure customers are supported and our sales processes are sensitive to the needs of all our customers. This engagement will also help us identify any emerging issues and get ahead of them.

For a company focussed on building and maintaining trust with its customers and being focused on operating responsibly its incredibly disappointing when things go wrong. However, it is important we confront it squarely and address every concern. It is also important we listen to the feedback, learn from it and act.

I have visited communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia to meet in person with some of the communities and customers affected and to hear first hand the impact these failings have had and how our program of initiatives to address them is being received. What I told them was that as Telstra’s CEO, I regret our failings and I apologised for the impact they have had. I told them these issues are not representative of the company Telstra is and that the vast majority of our people come to work everyday to do the best they can for our customers. I also told them the unequivocal commitment we have to continue to take action.

We will of course also respond to any additional issues raised by the current ACCC investigation into the matter. However, I am equally focussed on instances where our conduct, even where it meets legal requirements, still does not deliver the right outcomes for our customers, and my speech today was made in that context.

The biggest lesson for us for us is that even the simplest positive changes can have unintended consequences. You can’t set and forget. You can’t assume good intent is enough. You need to live your Purpose. Live your values. Recognise words are easy but living up to them is a daily test. That’s at the heart of responsible business.

I encourage you to read my speech and welcome your thoughts and comments.