I have five phone accounts and one internet account with Telstra. This is not a matter of choice. Because of my work in fairly remote areas I have no option but to use their services, as the other networks don't have their infrastructure.
This doesn't mean that I'm happy with either their corporate structure or institutional culture. In fact, it's probably not accurate to describe one institutional culture when it comes to Telstra. I've always found the people on the ground in the bush honest, helpful and obliging.
I can't say the same for those I've encountered in metropolitan areas, especially those involved in marketing. They generally come across as interested only in getting your signature on the contract, and revert to disinterested mode if there are any problems with services.
I did have some success in 2007 in having a problem resolved, but it took lots of time and determination. It all started with the shutdown of the CDMA network.
My handset (the standard one supplied when I had no choice but to exchange it for my old reliable and effective CDMA Nokia) simply didn't work in the bush. I was suspicious of the new network from the beginning, after many of the people I worked with in the styx kept saying "you'll be sorry" when I told them I was using 3G.
My suspicions turned out to be well-founded, as most of the time I had to stand on the roof of my car to make and receive calls. The yarn going around the bush was that they worked off the street lights, as you had to be in sight of these same lights to get coverage. After one particularly nasty situation when I arrived on the scene of an accident and wasn't able to summon help, I decided enough was enough. I went into the local Telstra shop and complained.
Basically I was told (without much courtesy) that my handset did work in the bush, because Telstra head office said it did, and I would have to prove it didn't.
I got myself a copy of the coverage map, and took it with me on every trip. Every time I tried to make a call, and couldn't, or had a call drop out, I made a detailed note on the map. In no time at all, it was covered with annotations. I took this data into a Telstra Countryside shop, and presented it to the local manager. He accepted it with good grace, and told me to expect a phone call. About two weeks later, I had a call from a "consultant" with an Indian accent, who asked me a set of irrelevant questions, including what kind of roof was on my home. Protesting that I didn't make mobile calls from home because I had a perfectly good hard line got me nowhere.
About a week later, a different Indian-sounding chappie phoned offering to exchange my handset for a Telstra "Bush" phone, and to credit my account with the cost of an in-car kit to suit. (My existing installation was incompatible with the new phone). Before the corporate mind changed , I scooted down to the Telstra shop with the magic job number I'd been given, and was duly relieved of my useless lump of plastic and metal, in exchange for a ZTE F165, which I was told was the bee's knees in the bush.
Indeed it is, but it's clunky and looks more like something that was current about ten years ago. Having said that, I'm happy, because you can actually make and receive calls on it in the areas in which I work. So I'm a satisfied customer when it comes to mobile services.
I can't say the same for Bigpond. When my bill arrived last week I discovered that I'd been billed for storage capacity I hadn't authorised.
I phoned the enquiries number on the bill, and after the routine shuffling from business unit to business unit (speaking to disembodied robots all the way), I got to speak to a human being. This person listened to my query (after I'd proved by quoting my birth date that it really was me calling and not some miscreant who had time on his hands intent on annoying Bigpond) and asked me to hold the line whilst she looked into my problem. I listened to all sorts of in-house messages, a variety of silences and examples of white noise, until 30 minutes later, the battery on my remote handset died. This of course terminated the call.
Today the phone rang, and a Telstra robot introduced herself and asked me to comment on how useful the original assistance call had been. Because I don't talk to robots, I neglected to hit any keys, but listened long enough to understand that Telstra seemed more intent on keeping a supervisory eye on staff than on meeting my needs.
In one call they'd succeeded in further annoying an already browned off customer, and if truth be told (and I'd cooperated with their mini-inquisition), an employee as well. I'll take the bill to the Telstra shop in an attempt to speak to a living breathing human being.
Wish me luck – I've been told that Telstra shop employees disown Bigpond enquiries, unless you're actually intent on writing new business.