By Dr John Töns
I received my Telstra account today. Irritated that they were asking me for money I rang their number to dispute the account. Now if you have rung Telstra you would probably have been greeted with the same message: ‘due to the high volume of calls blah blah.’ It advised me that I would be placed in a queue and the anticipated wait time was 20 minutes – 37 minutes later my call was answered.
Normally when you are running a business you do not have time to hang on whilst Telstra decides to contact you but thanks to the coronavirus what else was I going to do with my time? So, I hung on and finally was able to explain why I was disputing my account.
The bushfire came through our area on December 20. Since that time I may have had a total of ten days when customers could actually ring me. Small businesses like mine rely on the phone – if the phone is dead your business may as well be dead.
Most businesses in fire-impacted areas are either small businesses or micro-businesses. All of us have been doing it tough. You may not have been burnt out but the fact that you are close to the bushfire-impacted areas is enough to put customers off. Just as the gum trees were beginning to sprout fresh growth, so many of us began to see the first signs of a recovery – customers were coming back.
Then nature followed up with the coronavirus. This time the trees are not affected but the many small businesses are affected; we were already well behind we are now even further behind as many people simply stop using our services.
The key word here is ‘many’: There are still people who want to use our services. Our existing customers have our email address and mobile numbers, but new customers rely on the landline. When they ring the landline it seems it is a lottery – they will either be told that the number has been disconnected – great when you are running a business or they actually get to speak to someone. A kind person called Glen has complained to Telstra that his phone is not working – but he sometimes gets our calls – he now lets people know our mobile number. Meanwhile, every time I ring Telstra I am told that the problem has been escalated and the A team is on the job. I will be told as soon as it is fixed.
So, receiving an account today was the last straw. I was determined to get answers. Whilst I was on hold, I realised that one of the reasons for the long delay was probably that there are quite a few people working from home. Nothing like beating the boredom to hold companies like Telstra to account. But was my 1 hour and 6-minute phone call worthwhile? Well at last I did get an answer: “the problem has been escalated and the A team is on the job. I will be told as soon as it is fixed.”
So, the virus has given me the luxury of the time to be left dangling on the line to be reminded yet again that privatisation has destroyed Telstra.
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