Opinion Technology

The UX of Telecommunications

UPDATE: So magically the internet popped into action 6 hours after posting this. Doesn’t change the experience, but I’m glad to be back online 🙂

I’m putting this post together for a couple of reasons:

  1. Because I am so frustrated at the moment that I need to get it off my chest.
  2. Large organisations seem to have no idea what customers actually experience with the systems they’ve developed.
  3. I’m 100% sure I am not alone (just replace company names with pretty much any telco, cable company or mobile provider).
  4. Maybe someone might want to do something about it.

So on the 1st of November I ordered a new ADSL connection for the house we are now living in due to the fire. A simple enough process it would seem. Things started off well despite the odd experience of many of my first interactions with the company being via an Automated Menu System. A technician was sent out and he did his thing. When asked, he let me know that once he’s logged the job as being complete (that afternoon) that within about 2 days the connection will be activated and I’d get a text and email letting me know.

Wednesday comes around and I’ve heard nothing. I log on to my mobile to chat and end up having a rep call me. After back and forth about my order I am told that everything should be live on Friday. Friday comes around, nothing. I call again and spend waaaayyy too long on hold. Registering my dissatisfaction that this is now late I am told that tomorrow it will be fixed. Saturday comes and nothing. I’m call again. I get a more thorough explanation – ie more than “computer says no” – and told that it is a “back of house” issue which has now been forwarded on to another team. When I prompted for an ETA I was given the answer of Monday, as the team it was forwarded to don’t work on Sundays. I asked that I be notified when the job is completed. Monday comes, nothing. I try an use the handy link the service person gave me to get in touch – which was supposed to guarantee I don’t have to negotiate the chat service or call centre again. I get an error on the website. Frustration. Is pretty much at peak now.

Again I go into the chat room. 40 minutes later I have a person on the other end. A person who can’t deal with my request so must forward me to another team. I get a call, am told I’m being transferred to that team, “shouldn’t be a minute” and am then placed on hold. 40 minutes later someone picks up at the other end. I’m told that the due date for my activation is midnight tonight, and that it will automatically happen. I express my frustration – this was the same response I got last Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. I am sceptical that this will be fixed. I asked to have this information emailed to me. I ask to be contact tomorrow with an update. I get another direct line contact email and a phone number. Monday morning rolls around. Nothing. I try the direct link – it does’t work. I try the phone number – wrong number. I am done. This is the most pointless system that I have ever encountered.

I tried calling the helpline and was offered a callback option. I took that and gave them my number to save my ears from another onslaught of “hold music”. About 10 minutes later I got an automated call back and was placed on hold. Then was told there was a problem and was hung up on. This happened 3 more times and then promptly ended without actually having spoken to anyone.

My experience has become completely cyclical

  1. Place order
  2. Technician Installs line
  3. Nothing happens
  4. I call Telstra
  5. I sit on hold for 30 minutes
  6. Responder informs me that it will be fixed in 24-48 hours.
  7. Repeat from 3.

I’ve even made a diagram.

Mapped Process of dealing with telstra listed above

As a side process to all this I’ve been tweeting my frustrations to @Telstra. But these seem to little to no bearing on the outcome. In fact this is how that process works:

  1. I winge on Twitter.
  2. Someone from @Telstra provides sympathy but no solution.
  3. Nothing happens.
  4. Repeat at each stage of above process.

What I’ve done here is give Telstra a pretty good “User Journey”, and if you map that user Journey you find that there isn’t a point in it where the goal is achieved – particularly if this is “make customer happy”. Like some layer of Dante’s inferno i just keep going round.

Later on I got a call from an unknown number. It was the voice prompt lady again. But this time she wanted me to press “1” to connect the call – an entirely different user action – and one that I was unable to perform because I was driving. Because I didn’t press “1” in the allotted time I was then bombarded with a phone number to call and 10 digit reference number to cite…. lot’s of use when you’re a). driving b). not you’re warned and c). you don’t have a pen or paper because YOU WERE THE ONE “RECEIVING” A CALL! You can’t force your expectations on someone nor should you flip the expected modes of interaction. Using a phone is oral interaction, using a chat is text, if you want to change those you have to ask permission first or at least offer options or alternatives. When I got out of the car I called back the mystery number. I spoke to voice prompt lady who then connected me to a human – only had to be on hold for 5 minutes this time.

The responder informs me that it will be fixed in 24-48 hours.

The circle continues.

PS – If anyone from Telstra actually wants to talk to me – feel free to contact me – I’m on Twitter and am using my real name on this blog. I’d be happy to update this post with any news, changes or outcomes.

PPS – I’d estimate that I’ve wasted about 4-5 hours of my own time trying to sort this thing out. There is also the inconvenience that this has caused – not being able to work form home a big one – which has resulted at at least another 5 hours of lost productivity. It’s not how I want to spend my time, nor should I have to. If I measure this at my current hourly rate we’re looking at the process equating to about 6 months of broadband. I’ve also had to purchase multiple data packs for my phone and a 4G modem that was supposed to just be a stop gap. There’s another month there.


By Tim Klapdor

Passionate about good design, motivated by the power of media and enchanted by the opportunities of technology.

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