A Guide on Dealing with Telcos – How I conquered Telstra!

I received over $3,800 in credits, $500+ in accessories, extra data on my mobile plan and reduced my bill by $70 per month because of slow internet and there’s no reason why you can’t achieve the same thing. Have a read and see how I did it.

Telstra, not only the biggest telco in Australia but the biggest pain in the arse when wanting to get a query/complaint resolved. Anyone who has tried, would have no doubt experienced the same thing I have on multiple occasions, here’s a little step by step guide on how it goes.

  1. Ring Telstra and ‘explain in a few words what your query is’.
  2. Sit on hold for 15+ minutes
  3. End up in the wrong department
  4. Ask Rajesh or Rajita2 to direct you to the right department
  5. End up in the wrong department
  6. Ask Madhup or Ranjit to direct you to the right department
  7. Finally end up at the ‘right’ department
  8. Get told they can’t handle it and get sent to another department
  9. Then another department
  10. Then another department
  11. Then another department
  12. End up back where you started 3 hours later with zero answers and a massive headache.

Now I can’t say this with 100% certainty because quite frankly I don’t know, but I am convinced that Telstra has set up this system deliberately to force you to give up. Those who aren’t as stubborn as me would have given up after being on hold for the first few minutes. Unfortunately for Telstra (and my girlfriend) I am WAY more stubborn than that.

I have included a link below1 which explains (quite comically) one of the phone calls I made to Telstra which kicked off my query/complaint. This also gives a background to my story and why I wanted compensation in the first place.

So, how do you deal with Telstra? There’s a few basic things you will need to know and do to be successful.

Know your shit

You’ll need a basis for your complaint. If you’re on ADSL2+ and getting speeds of 18mbps instead of 24mbps, that’s not a reason to complain. If you’re getting 1mbps, that’s a reason to complain. You will need a basic understanding of the technology and why it isn’t working, I knew for a fact that mine was due to congestion. Why? Because I spoke directly with the Telstra technician. Telstra are willing to send out a technician to attempt to fix your issue, always take up the offer and ask plenty of questions. I have found these guys to be excellent in giving you a ‘no bullshit’ explanation of what is actually going wrong. They will likely be as frustrated with Telstra’s laziness and incompetence as you are!

I also had a lady tell me she could ‘speed boost’ my ADSL2+ connection, which I knew wasn’t possible despite her saying she ‘could do it now and will be activated within 24 hours’. Picking up on all these little mistakes help builds your argument. If you get muddled up and contradict yourself, you’re going to have a hard time getting your complaint resolved.

Get EVERYTHING in writing

Telstra record every phone call, but good luck getting a copy of the call. Instead, when you finish talking to someone, ask them to confirm your conversation by email. Don’t take no for an answer either, the staff can and will do it if you ask. I managed to get a quick email from one employee confirming compensation early on, this made it very easy to build on my argument. The email they send will have a quick summary of your conversation and will also have the person’s name and employer ID, which leads to my next point.

Get their name and employer ID

Every Telstra employee has an ID, every time you speak with someone, ensure you get their name and ID and write it down. You will constantly be speaking to different people, when you can refer back to someone with a name, employer ID and email in writing of what they said, you will avoid a ‘he said, she said’ situation.

I spoke with a Technician who confirmed the congestion in my area, I asked for his employer ID and to confirm in an email there had been a congestion for many months and that Telstra had no plans on fixing it. He was happy to do this for me, he also submitted that report to Telstra. Time and time again I was told there was nothing wrong with my connection and that it was something my end, to which I would reply “Kevin, employer ID XXXX confirmed in an email that there was congestion in my area and that Telstra had no plans to fix it, would you like a copy of this email?”.

Keep ‘file notes’

As a financial planner, I got drilled into me early that file notes are king! It is basically a summary of everything you are doing and every conversation you had, I believe my comprehensive file notes were the nail in the coffin for Telstra. During my initial 3 hour phone call to Telstra, I wrote SEVEN pages of file notes. I put the phone on loudspeaker, and wrote down every key detail that we spoke about. Focusing on names, employer IDs and comments they made which I felt were important. This was going to be my ammunition when going to the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman).

You will also be given reference numbers, be sure to write all these down and what they relate to. Telstra keep file notes of their own which are attached to these reference numbers, it’s far easier to give a reference number than explain everything to every staff member you speak to.

Be firm, but polite

This doesn’t just apply to dealing with Telstra, it applies in life! There’s no point ringing Telstra and abusing staff, swearing and being aggressive. This will get you absolutely nowhere. Think back to when you were a kid and did something your parents specifically told you not to, but you did it anyway. Your parents find out and you are just waiting to get blasted, but instead, they calmly tell you that they’re not angry, they’re just disappointed. How much more did that hurt?! Why couldn’t you just yell and me and we could move on! The same applies dealing with Telstra, not once did I yell or abuse an employee. Instead of saying ‘my internet is useless and I want it fixed you f*cking dick head’ try ‘I have been paying for a service from Telstra and I am not receiving it, is there a reason I pay the same as the suburb over yet they get internet speeds 15x what I do? Does that make sense or seem fair to you?’. What can they say to this? They can’t disagree, you are effectively cornering them into admitting liability and achieving that by being polite!

Going to the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman)3

If your case is a complicated one, it is unlikely you will solve it by dealing directly with Telstra, so what you will need to do is contact the TIO. I am sure you understand the concept of an ombudsman, but long story short, they will go into bat for you and help you with your compliant. Hot tip: Telstra HATE it when the ombudsman gets involved.

Don’t go to the TIO straight away, you will need to build your ‘case’ with comprehensive file notes, proof in writing of Telstra’s errors and a reasonable resolution you expect. Submitting an application through the TIO is quite simple, they also allow attachments (which is where I attached my file notes and screenshots of conversation from online chat).

Part of this submission is stating the compensation you want. Be reasonable here and make sure it’s relevant to your issue. Saying you want free internet for life because they overcharged you $15 on your bill won’t get you anywhere.

Accepting compensation

Within a few days of going to the ombudsman, I was contacted by the ‘Resolutions Team’ at Telstra. This is the team you want to speak to, these guys have the power to make the changes and resolve your complaint. The TIO would have contacted Telstra by now with your request and will essentially be willing to accept some sort of defeat. Be firm with what you want but reasonable, the person you are speaking to now can action just about anything.

The end result

I had slow internet, like really slow, it had been slow for quite some time. My request from the start was ‘a refund for the internet costs I was charged since the congestion was confirmed by Telstra and free mobile broadband until the NBN is available in my area’… and that is what I got. Telstra agreed to refund my internet costs since the congestion was confirmed ($800) and provide me with free mobile broadband with 150gb until the NBN4 arrived. This plan doesn’t even exist; I was given the 50gb plan with 100gb of extra internet (usually at a cost of $10 per gb) for free. The total credits made to my account was over $3,800. In addition to that I was sent a NetGear Cradle and Mobile Broadband device, worth $550+, free of charge.

Throughout the process, Telstra staff will do what’s within their power to resolve your query/complaint on the spot. Not only did I receive the above compensation, I also received permanent discounts off my bill. How? Shock horror, but the price advertised for plans and bundles isn’t as low as they will go. I was able to knock off $70+ per month along the way by Telstra staff knocking a small amount of each of my plans to try and keep my happy. They also added another 9gb to my mobile plan.

This entire process took a long time, it spanned over months and totalled at least 30+ hours of work. I am fortunate enough to have this time (and level of stubbornness) on my hands. It also meant Telstra accepting liability for a problem in my area which led to friends also receiving compensation without having to go through same process I did.

Final Thoughts

With enough time and effort, conquering Telstra is possible. You just need to work out if you’re willing to commit the time and can justify that time for the compensation you will receive. If you do choose to go ahead, always ensure you keep notes, get everything in writing and be polite yet firm. You effectively need to build a ‘case’ to Telstra, just like a lawyer would. Keep this all in mind and be persistent, Telstra WANT you to give up, but will cave eventually if your argument is valid and you go the right way about it.

Got questions or struggling with getting your complaint resolved. You’re welcome to contact me here, I am happy to help where I can!

  1. https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154882041143793&set=o.9322764314&type=3&comment_id=10154882073038793&ref=notif&notif_t=like&notif_id=1481805481568176
  1. This may have come across as racist which is not my intention. Telstra ‘service’ staff are typically in India and are a large part of Telstra’s problems. Not because they are Indian, but because Telstra outsource untrained Indian workers to resolve queries. It is not their fault, though that doesn’t mean it is not the problem!
  1. http://www.tio.com.au/
  1. Why we are even bothering with NBN technology is a mystery in itself. I ask the question on NBN alternatives here – https://nobullshtbasics.com/2017/04/18/nbn-alternatives-why-are-we-not-funding-this/

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