Sunday, 8 May 2016

'Yes Optus' ... Uh...actually, NO Optus...

I swear I must be turning into a grumpy old woman... Then again, try as I might, there DO seem to be irritations piling up - things that really shouldn't cause such irritations. And it's really NOT a good look to be seen stomping through a public space muttering under my breath...but I was SO cranky...

This morning, I went to my local Westfield in order to drop into the Optus shop to pay my mobile phone bill. I had a couple of reasons for going to the actual shop and doing this face to face: 1. My preference, today, was to make a payment that was part cash and part EFTPOS - something I can't do online or over the phone, and 2. I was running precariously close to incurring a late fee for the payment, and paying at the store would be the quickest way to have the payment register in their system, thereby avoiding said extra fee.

So, I toddle on in there, having pushed myself to get to the centre early, as its carpark can be a feral nightmare, and walked into the shop only to be told that as of 1 May, payment of bills is no longer a service offered at Optus shops. I could, the girl told me brightly, pay online, over the phone, or at the post office (oh, and BTW, this centre closed its post office about a year ago - a MAJOR shopping hub with NO post office...but that's another rant for another time...). 

I didn't WANT to use any of those options, I told her. I wanted to pay in the store in person, because that's what suited me, the customer... A customer of a telco, which provides a service for which I pay, ie., a SERVICE company... When I asked her why this had come about, she informed me, equally brightly, that the decision had been made to improve digital efficiency, and therefore, customer service. I was trying VERY hard not to unleash my temper on her, as she's just the poor bunny in the front line having to communicate company policy created by those much further up the food chain than her, but it was a big ask. I could see by the look on her face that she was becoming very quickly aware of just how cranky I was getting. As I pointed out to her, this decision was NOT creating a better customer experience for me, and if I were to use the post office option, it meant getting back into my car, driving to a different suburb, and then trying to park, because the area is notorious for poor parking availability. Her smile was getting a bit brittle at that point, as she attempted to sympathise, and again trotted out the current payment options. 

They maybe need to rethink their current logo...because I didn't get a 'yes' this morning. Nor did I get an answer to my queries that I regard in any way as satisfactory.
I gave it up, stalked off to my regular cafe in the centre (muttering as I went...) and while there, paid online by bank transfer - and I just hope that I don't get charged the late fee - heads will roll if I do! 

When I got home, I looked up the post office option, out of curiousity. The reason they're not offering in store payments, remember, is to increase digital efficiency - and supposedly, reduce the carbon footprint. Payment in store was easy - I did it last month. Give the employee your phone number, they pull up the bill in their system, customer pays - takes five minutes, if that. The post office requires a printed bill - so that bill I now have emailed, to reduce paper usage, and postage costs, now needs to be printed. And then, once at the post office, there is a charge of $1.75 for the privilege of paying in person - well, in person one organisation removed. I'd REALLY like someone at Optus to attempt to explain to me how much more efficient that process is, on any number of levels. 

I also, when I got home, had a look at their customer service page on the website.
The subtext of this statement, as I read it, is summed up in the last sentence, 'However, because of the range of products and services we offer, you will also need to be comfortable with "systems"'. And herein lies the problem. For what its worth, this is not just limited to Optus. Optus, like many of the things we pay for in this modern day and age, is a service company. They provide customers with a platform for communication. For us, the customer, to continue utilising their service over that of a competitor, they need to be able to provide us with a service that offers over and above their competitors. However, in their customer service policy, the emphasis is more on the organisation servicing itself. At the entry level, where employees have contact with actual customers, all those employees can do is pass on the results of decisions which they played no part in creating. They're just the people who have to pass them on, which can't always be much fun - to whit, the girl who got me this morning... Those in customer service personnel that exist higher up are 'predominantly about leading teams, rather than dealing directly with customers' - therefore, are removed from customers, customer needs, and customer feedback. HOW is that providing the best possible service?

Someone famously once said about a new hospital, in the stage of it having been staffed with the administration staff but yet to open for business and admit patients, that the hospital worked so efficiently WITHOUT patients. It's an oxymoron of a concept, of course, but so many organisations appear to ascribe to this way of thinking. The 'service' they offer is getting to be much less about the customers, and much more about the organisation itself. We, the customers, just get in the way of their efficiency.

Talking with friends who, like me, run the gamut of the medical system on a regular basis, I hear similar stories. People who go to their doctors to update prescriptions, only to have the doctors refuse them, because they need tests to verify, or that the doctor doesn't think that it's appropriate... IF the patients in question were newly diagnosed or had a new complaint, that would be a completely valid position to take. If, as is more often the case, they are patients with long standing chronic conditions, for which they've evolved a standard of treatment, and all they need is a simple prescription to continue that, then that is the service the doctor is required to perform for said patient... Apart from anything else, the patient is still charge for the visit, whether or not they receive the treatment they need. Or the doctor who never calls back when contacted - whether that's the doctor themself not getting back to the patient, or the reception staff not relaying the message to the doctor... Either way, again, there is a service to be performed, for which we, the patients, pay and if it's not performed, why the hell are we paying?

On the weekend, Dragon Dad and I pottered around the city before and after a lavish lunch, window shopping. Again, a job in a retail store is a service position. A retail sales assistance is hired to sell the products in the store - ergo, as a customer I expect to be greeted, asked if I want any assistance, and then served when I do. The number of stores we wandered in and out of where that was completely absent boggled my brain - particularly given that a number of them were at the prestigious end of the spectrum, where you'd really expect to be taken good care of, because SHOULD the customer be planning to spend money, it will be a LOT of money.

Service appears to be a dying art. I can't see that as a good thing.

I sent a message to Optus via their Facebook page when I got home. Their page says that they 'typically' reply within a day. I'll be interested to hear whether that actually happens...not that I'm expecting them to come back with anything particularly constructive.

Edited to add:

Optus replied... Most frustrations. On the one hand, they tell me that they want to offer me the most convenient option to pay my bill. In the same breath, they just reiterate the now existing options - which don't suit as well... Not really surprised though - because ultimately, it's NOT about me, the customer, is it?


  1. We have a situation in the diabetes community in the US this past week that sort of reminds of this use. A diabetes device manufacturer signed a contract with a large insurance company to limit device selection to only theirs. Closing out about 5 other manufacturers that many people really like. It has us all riled up and we might even get the chance to be ignored some more.

    Yeah customer service rules

    1. That truly sucks, Rick... It boggles my mind how much ignoring of the customer goes on, it really does. Without us, they have no business ultimately - do they seriously not realise this?
      Still having grumpy moments left over from yesterday... An isolated island and the hermit life starts to look infinitely appealing sometimes!

  2. This is the second post I have read in as many days about dissatisfaction with the postal service. I'm glad it is not me, but wishing it was!
    You forgot - these companies don't serve 'customers' - they serve 'shareholders'. I feel your pain.

    1. Oh yes, silly me....I completely forgot about the shareholders....!!!