After looking at all of the different plans on offer, I decided to stay with Telstra, the former government-owned monopoly. I do a lot of rural driving and so I require good coverage across the state and it’s well-known that in a country with substandard mobile coverage, Telstra’s network easily outshines the others.
With my mobile phone in hand, there were two things that I wanted Telstra to do:
- Change my Telstra mobile account from a legacy post-paid plan to Telstra’s Pre-Paid Cap Encore.
- Replace my old 2G SIM card with a 4G microSIM.
Sounds easy, right? Far from it!
This is a blow-by-blow account of how Telstra have turned a simple process into a major ordeal.
Wednesday 30 January: 12:30pm
With my HTC One XL 4G smart phone in hand as well as my wife’s new Samsung Galaxy SIII 4G, I enter the Telstra Shop at a major Melbourne shopping centre to get both phones connected to the Telstra network. My wife is switching from Three, and so requires a new microSIM and phone number. The woman behind the counter is able to sell me a $30 SIM card and explains that my wife would need to activate it online, which is easy enough.
She then explains that I will need to have my legacy plan switched over to pre-paid and then have my new microSIM activated. After issuing me with a blank microSIM, she asks whether I would like to do the conversion. Somewhat surprised, I question this and am told by the woman “I can do it for you, but I am just going to call the same phone line that you would so you can just as easily do it”.
I tell her that I’d prefer that she does it. (After all, it is her job).
The Telstra sales assistant is still on the phone to Telstra. We’ve both been listening to muzak for 20 minutes on the speakerphone at the shop counter. There’s an ever-growing queue of annoyed-looking customers waiting to be served. The Telstra sales assistant has been explaining what she’s trying to do to various call centre staff who have shifted her from one department to another.
I ask why she can’t log into the Telstra computer system and do the work herself. I am told that it’s “very complicated” and that “these people are the experts”.
Finally the phone call is done and I can leave the Telstra Shop. I am told by the sales girl that the work will be completed overnight. I am also told that a Telstra employee will call me to check that it’s all done. We make an appointment for me to receive my call at 9:30am tomorrow.
My HTC One XL says “no service”.
Thursday 31 January: 8:30am
I check my smart phone, which still says “No Service”. My wife’s phone is now connected to Telstra and has full network access.
No phone call from Telstra.
I decide to investigate my phone account online. I notice that Telstra have a Live Chat help service, so I log on. I have to make four attempts as the chat session frustratingly terminates after a couple of minutes on each occasion.
I decide to call Telstra and see what’s happening. After 12 minutes, my call is routed through to a friendly woman in Manila. I provide my account details and she advises me that it was done at 9:15am but an “error has occurred” and that a remedy will take “up to 24 hours”. I ask whether the matter can be manually fixed and am told that it can’t, but am given a random 12-digit ‘activity code’. I am unsure what to do with this but write it down anyway.
The woman on the phone makes an appointment for a person to call me at 12pm tomorrow to confirm that the work is completed.
My phone says “no service”.
Friday 1 February: 7:30am
My phone still says “no service”.
I have another attempt at Live Chat and speak to ‘Mary Ann’. I am told that there has been another error, but that my call is being ‘provisioned’ and that it could take take “another 24 hours” but is scheduled to be done at 12pm midday and has been escalated. Given that I was previously promised a call at 12pm to confirm that the work is done, this puzzles me.
She said to me “I promise that we’ll give you a phone call when it’s done”. Given that they cannot use my mobile phone number, I asked whether they have my alternative phone numbers and I am told that they don’t. Looks like I’ve saved myself from another broken promise.
I have signed-up for My Telstra, so that I can check my Telstra accounts. The account shows my landline and old mobile plans as being active.
No call from Telstra, despite the ‘action code’.
Again I turn to Live Chat and speak to ‘Christine’. She tells me that my old plan was changed at 10am yesterday but was still ‘provisioning’. She will escalate the matter as I had exceeded “the expected time of 48 hours”. Despite assurances to the contrary, it appears that the matter hasn’t been escalated until now.
I ask whether I can use My Telstra to check when the work is done, and am told that there is a lag between when the accounts are updated and when it will show on My Telstra. So that appears rather useless.
I get a call from Telstra. I have been assigned a ‘client manager’ who tells me that “I need to reset my expectations” (lower them?) and be a “bit more patient”. She then tells me that my mobile won’t likely be connected for “a few more days” and that I should get an update “some time next week”.
When I suggest that it is rather pathetic for Telstra to take 5 days to reassign an existing customer’s account, I am told that’s “quite normal”. After I point out that the Telstra Pre-Paid website (below) says it will take 4 hours (not 5 days), there’s no response from the client manager.
We discuss this ‘provisioning’ and I ask why someone can’t intervene, and she tells me that she’s “just a client manager, I can’t do it” but when I ask why an appropriate technician can’t do it, I am told “it’s not possible”.
Realising that I can’t get any further, I thank her for her getting back to me and we end the call.
I receive an email from Telstraemailbill_noreply1@online.telstra.com thanking me for agreeing to receive my Telstra bills via email.
I never agreed to have electronic billing and the account number is unfamiliar to me. Ah, one more stuff-up.
Saturday 2 February: 1:39pm
I log-in to My Telstra and I can see that my mobile phone has been removed from the post-paid plan.
Despite previous advice of needing to wait until next week, I persevere and log onto Live Chat to follow-up my case. I am told that I can add credit and start using my phone immediately, despite it saying “no service”. I add $30 credit. The phone still doesn’t work.
I log onto Live Chat again to find out why I have no connection. I am told that I will have to be connected to a technical expert. Elated that I am finally getting proper help, a friendly computer technician starts guiding me through the settings to get my phone connected to the Telstra network.
In the process, he discovers that my microSIM has not been registered.
After more than 45 minutes of direct technical assistance, I am finally able to get my HTC One XL 4G phone to connect to the Telstra network. After a few tests to confirm that I can receive calls and have internet access, I am ready to go.
Question: How long does it take Telstra to:
- Change a Telstra mobile account from a legacy post-paid plan to Telstra’s Pre-Paid Cap Encore.
- Replace an old 2G SIM card with a 4G microSIM.
Answer: Three days and only with a lot of perseverance on my part.
Now that I finally have a connection, the phone seems to be working well.
Telstra’s service has been very disappointing.
I don’t expect instant service or special treatment, but I don’t think an existing customer of 15 years standing should have to fight for three days to change a telephone account and get it switched over. I also expect that when I walk into a Telstra Shop that the staff have the knowledge and capability to perform basic tasks, like access customer records. Finally, if their website says 4 hours, that’s the timeline they should work to.
Telstra, you leave much room for improvement.