Australians might seem like a pack of whingers, but when it comes to internet and the NBN, most of it is justifiable. Australian internet speed rankings are falling – we’re well outside the top 10, behind New Zealand in most reports, and even behind countries such as Mongolia, Macau, Romania and Qatar. So what gives? Aside from speed alone, looking at what customers complain about with their internet connection might shed some light on the issue.
Internet complaints on the rise
Internet and NBN providers have had an uptick in complaints recently, mainly revolving around service and the cost of plans in relation to their speed delivered – or lack thereof. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO for short) had a huge rise in complaints off the back of the NBN rollout, with 24,641 complaints made about customers’ internet from July to December 2016. This marks nearly a 54% increase over the same period the year before.
In the TIO’s quarterly review covering January to March 2017, Telstra and Optus bore the brunt of telco complaints. Per 10,000 customers, Telstra and Optus each saw 9.3 complaints. While this is undoubtedly due to these companies’ sheer sizes, servicing much of the Australian population, other telco giant TPG didn’t even seem to be in the top five. The average amount of complaints per 10,000 customers was 8.4, so Optus and Telstra are higher than average. These figures comprise of both internet and mobile phone plans, so internet complaints alone may be a little different. So, what are people actually complaining about?
What are internet customers complaining about?
In our customer satisfaction survey in March 2017, top customer complaints about internet revolved around (in no particular order):
- Customer service
Some comments are too rude for publication, but some people aired their grievances without swearing or offending anyone. Here are just a few, keeping in mind they are cherry picked to offer an overall mix of opinions and may not represent respective companies as a whole:
Complaints about internet speed
“The NBN is slower than I had before.”
- Telstra NBN customer, SA
“Internet speeds are snail slow. It slows the computers down making them nigh un-usable a fair bit, slow loading webpages and takes forever to download anything.”
- Dodo ADSL customer, Vic
“Broadband speed is not performing as what it should be.”
- Optus ADSL customer, NSW
Complaints about internet reliability
“The actual connection is rubbish – constant dropouts, don’t even bother if you like to watch streaming shows.”
- Exetel ADSL customer, NSW
“Their wireless router continues to drop out – advised there was no issue.”
- Westnet NBN customer, ACT
“Wi-Fi keeps dropping out… NBN is not any better where I live.”
- Telstra NBN customer, NT
Complaints about internet customer service
“Staff that are arrogant and rude… I refuse to speak to them and write directly to the Ombudsman.”
- Optus ADSL customer, NSW
“Their customer service has definitely dropped since being taken over by TPG.”
- iinet ADSL customer, Vic
“Customer service is really bad. They don’t approach you with a new offer and don’t help you much to get a deal, which suits you.”
- TPG NBN customer, Qld
Complaints about internet price
“Very expensive, no customer loyalty. Have been with them for years and no reward for that.”
- iPrimus ADSL customer, Qld
“The plans are expensive compared to other service providers.”
- Telstra NBN customer, NSW
“Modem is far too expensive, especially for pensioners like me with no other source of income.”
- iinet ADSL customer, WA
It may seem like we focus more on the negatives than the positives, but the positive comments in the survey generally outshone the negative ones, and not many people want to hear about a provider that does its job as expected. In any case, there are a few common themes here – customers like compliant and pleasant customer service, a connection that doesn’t drop out constantly, one that’s fast enough to stream some shows, and one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. If you have a complaint about your telco, how do you go about it?
How do you complain about your internet service?
There are two main methods to use if you want to air a grievance to, or about, your internet provider:
- Talk to your internet provider directly
- If unsatisfied, take your complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)
Beyond that, there are a few tips you can use to make sure to heighten of chances with getting what you want when speaking to your telco first and foremost.
Know what you want and what you’re actually complaining about
This is probably the first step you would need to consider. If you have a multitude of issues, there’s probably not much use in rattling them all off to the representative on the other side of the phone or computer at once. Instead, pick one or two important issues, focus on those then try and address the others later.
- Write down your complaints if need be
- Think of what you want to say before ringing or signing in to an online help chat
- Write down satisfactory solutions
- Approach the chat in a methodical, measured way
Identify if you’re actually speaking to the right person for the issue (picture here:
Most call centres have wait times – that’s just an irksome fact. However, there’s nothing worse than waiting on hold for half an hour with someone only to be told that some other person will take care of that. Big telcos like Telstra and Optus have many departments, so make sure you’re speaking to the right one.
- Telcos usually have at least two numbers – one for the general inquiries and billing, and one for tech support. Pick the right one.
- Talk to someone with the ability to make decisions. Escalate to a higher-up staff member if need be.
Be firm yet polite
This probably goes for most grievances in life. However, it’s needed in situations none more so than calling a help centre. Often you’ll have to wait quite a while, which is annoying in itself, but yelling or being rude to the person who picks up the phone won’t achieve anything. Chances are they are going from one complaint to the next, and they didn’t personally cause your problem.
- Learning to deal with wait times in a calm manner can be a big benefit
- Being firm yet polite takes the emotion out of the situation
- Emailing or using the online chat function may take longer, but takes further emotion out of the situation and solves verbal miscommunication.
Talk to TIO
There are some solid reasons for taking your complaint to the Ombudsman. If you ask to escalate the issue with your telco to a higher power and are refused, that’s usually grounds for TIO to get involved.
- Talking to TIO doesn’t have to be a ‘last ditch’ or desperate measure.
- TIO often deals with even minor complaints that do not warrant an investigation
- If you’ve spoken to even one person at your telco, a call to TIO is more than warranted if your issue is still unresolved.
Take it to social media, but tread carefully
If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, no doubt you have seen those complaints to various companies’ social media that go viral. Usually if you can garner enough publicity, the company will come back straight away and sort the issue out. However, the majority of complaints are not viral, and social media can be a cruel place.
- If your post comes across the wrong way or seems unjust or overly emotive, expect swathes of cruel keyboard warriors to spray you.
- To heighten your chances of a swift response, grammar, punctuation and layout of your post need to be decent, with the point of your complaint clear and concise.
- The best viral posts are usually either funny, unusual or both.
- Social media is a good way to increase exposure to a problem, and leaves companies with nearly no choice but to respond
Are telco complaints warranted?
Yes… most of the time. If you’re paying for a service, and especially one you think is expensive in the first place, you should rightfully expect it to work smoothly. Australia is a bit behind other countries in general when it comes to internet, so having a subpar connection that goes awry only adds insult to injury – we wonder if those Mongolian telcos receive thousands of complaints like Optus and Telstra do. That being said, there are some things that may not even require a call to your telco, and you may be interested in some of these guides:
- The best broadband for Netflix
- How to pick a good router for the NBN
- How to boost your Wi-Fi signal
- The best NBN providers you’ve never heard of
Telco complaints varied quite a lot in our survey, and it seemed to be spread pretty evenly between NBN and ADSL.
- The NBN may not be as useless or incompetent as you might have garnered from all the bad press recently.
- Main gripes centred on customer service, speed, reliability and cost.
Overall, customers were fairly satisfied with their broadband, with only a few commenters evidently totally dissatisfied. If you do have a complaint, talking to your telco with a clear objective and a polite demeanour is a good way to get what you want out of your complaint. However, don’t be afraid to approach the Ombudsman – chances are your issue can be quickly solved. Australians may seem like a whingeing bunch when it comes to their internet plan, but picking up the phone to sort out a problem never hurt anyone.