How coronavirus is impacting telco call centres

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As many Australians stay home to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that we’re turning to our broadband connections and mobile phones like never before to keep us connected and keep morale high. But if you’re experiencing telco-related technical difficulties, it’s likely to be harder than ever to get help.

With quarantine and social distancing measures now mandatory across parts of Asia, many Australian telcos are seeing their overseas-based call centres heavily impacted. Telstra, Optus, Amaysim, Woolworths Mobile and ALDI Mobile are some of the providers reporting customer service delays, generally due to Manila call centres being closed by the Philippines government.

Customers: expect long waits, frustration

While moving call centres overseas is a cost-effective option for telcos, the impact of coronavirus is a reminder of the advantages of maintaining a local customer support team. Canstar Blue Editor-in-Chief, Simon Downes, said call centre delays are likely to cause serious customer frustration, particularly with so many of us now relying on our home internet for work and school.

“This is really unfortunate timing for the many Australians now starting to work from home who may need technical support from their internet provider. Having someone to help at the end of the phone is clearly something we’ve taken for granted.” said Mr. Downes.

“Communicating with your telco via email or online chat is just not the same and can be very frustrating if you don’t get a timely response.

“We’re in unprecedented times and of course this can’t be helped. But it’s a reminder to consumes that customer service – including the location of that service – is an important consideration when picking a provider.”

Telstra

Telstra has advised customers that its customer service workforce has been temporarily reduced, but its Australian and Indian-based support teams are operating as usual. Customers may experience delays when calling Telstra support or using online chat features, and the company will be prioritising Medical Priority Assist and high-risk enquiries.

The telco giant has also confirmed it will recruit 1,000 new temporary contractors to join its Australian call centres. However, it may take weeks or months for new staff to be hired, trained and start work, so prepare for extended phone support delays.

Where possible, customers should use self-service help channels, such as Telstra’s support portal and the MyTelstra and Telstra 24×7 apps. Telstra’s retail stores also remain open, and the telco states it has imposed ‘robust hygiene standards’ in all stores to keep staff and customers safe.

Optus

Like Telstra, Optus has advised customers to expect longer call times and to use self-service channels where possible. Customers can find support at Optus.com, through the telco’s service chat, or via the My Optus app.

Optus retail stores and business centres currently remain open as normal, albeit with increased sanitation measures and frequent disinfecting.

Vodafone

Vodafone is currently the only ‘big three’ telco not to report support disruptions. The provider insists its customer service centres are currently operating as normal, but people are encouraged to self-serve via the MyVodafone app and website where possible.

Although the telco has temporarily closed all stores and kiosks at Australian airports, other Vodafone stores remain open. And as with Telstra and Optus stores, Vodafone retail staff are implementing disinfection and sanitation procedures, and practising social distancing as a precaution.

How to get help

If you’d prefer to avoid a two-hour hold time, you’ll need to make phone support your last resort. Depending on your problem and provider, you can try the following channels:

  • Live chat: Most major telcos offer online live chat, although this may also be impacted by call centre closures if staff are located overseas.
  • Online help and FAQs: Try checking your telco’s online FAQs and support section before you call – if your issue is a common one, you’ll likely find an answer here.
  • Official forums: Many telcos run their own official community forums to help customers crowdsource advice (e.g. Optus’ YesCrowd). These forums are moderated by telco staff, so between fellow customers and moderators, someone should be able to help you out.
  • In stores: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are all operating retail stores as normal. In terms of device issues, Samsung and Huawei service centres and stores remain open, while Apple has closed all Australian retail stores until further notice.
  • Social media: Major providers usually have dedicated social media teams manning their Twitter and Facebook accounts during business hours – these employees are used to customer enquiries, so don’t be afraid to drop them a DM.
  • Whirlpool: If the above methods don’t work, you can always pay a visit to Whirlpool’s discussion forums for expert advice from tech enthusiasts across the country.

With the coronavirus pandemic likely to impact our day-to-day lives for the foreseeable future, customers may remember the difficulties experienced in securing help when the time comes to renew or change their phone or internet plan. That’s why Canstar Blue places a large emphasis on customer service with our annual customer satisfaction ratings for things like NBN and phone providers.

Find the right NBN plan

Unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

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Image: Flotsam / Shutterstock

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