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Research shows consumer resilience in solving telco complaints

Consumers who contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) report repeated and time-consuming contacts with telecommunication service providers to try and solve their complaints.

The TIO research paper, Resilient Consumers, reported on a survey of more than 500 consumers who lodged complaints with the TIO between July and August 2010. The survey found:

  • more than half of the consumers (55 per cent) surveyed reported contact with their service providers five or more times before ringing the TIO
  • more than half of the consumers (54 per cent) said they raised the matter with their service provider at least a month before contacting the TIO, with 31 per cent stating they had made a complaint more than three months beforehand
  • most consumers (60 per cent) reported spending three or more hours unsuccessfully trying to solve their complaint before approaching the TIO, with one in five (20 per cent) saying they spent more than nine hours resolving their complaint
  • half (50 per cent) reported contact with more than three different departments
  • the most common reasons for complaining to the TIO were because there was no solution offered by the service provider (39 per cent) or a promise to resolve the complaint was not kept (39 per cent).

"Consumers who come to the TIO report spending substantial time and effort solving their complaints," said Ombudsman Simon Cohen. "They report being transferred from department to department, not being transferred to supervisors and, perhaps most frustratingly, getting no solution or a broken promise for their efforts. They are – by any measure – resilient consumers."

The report found that once these complaints were lodged with the TIO about 90 per cent were easily resolved when referred to the right contact within the service providers.

"Most of these cases should not have come to us in the first place," Mr Cohen said. "The fact that they are most often resolved by referral by the TIO to the right department is strong evidence that these consumers can be treated better."

The Ombudsman has recommended introducing clearer pathways for consumers to make complaints, and making sure all employees can recognise when a complaint is being made and who is best able in their company to deal with it.