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A high proportion of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman feature simple issues related to customer service and complaint handling. New consumer survey results show the 60% of respondents indicated that they had spent more than 3 hours engaging with their provider to have a complaint resolved. This occasional paper details a number of key observations from a survey of consumers that examined in more detail their interaction with their telecommunications provider and the difficulties that had prompted them to contact the TIO for assistance. We note here that the survey reports on the experience that consumers report; we have not sought to investigate the circumstance of each complaint. Overall, 79% of respondents indicated they had interacted with their provider on a minimum of 3 occasions before approaching the TIO for assistance More than half - 54% of respondents - reported that their provider had been aware of their matters for a period of more than one month Most consumers reported spending several hours trying to solve their problem: 60% of respondents indicated that they had spent more than 3 hours engaging with their provider, and 20% of respondents claimed to have spent more than 9 hours dealing with their provider 61% of respondents stated that they dealt with 3 or more separate departments when trying to address their matter with their provider 142 consumers indicated that they had asked for their matter to be escalated but that their request had been declined – over half of those who stated that they had asked to speak to a supervisor Notwithstanding the inroads that were made during and after the connect.resolve campaign, some customer service and complaint handling issues have increased and consumers continue to report difficulties in trying to resolve matters with their telephone and internet companies. Such consumer concerns promptedthe Australian Communications and Media Authority (‘ACMA’) to launch a public inquiry, ‘Reconnecting theCustomer’, to focus specifically on customer service practices in the telecommunications industry. Recent TIO complaints data, as well as information submitted to the ACMA’s inquiry, suggest that customer service and complaint handling practices are still a significant cause for concern among consumers. While the TIO routinely captures and categorises a great deal of information from consumer complaints, there has not previously been an effort to identify the underlying causes of consumer customer service and complaint handling difficulties.

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