Customer Service Fails – In Which I Name and Shame

09 Dec

While we were away, and in the week since we got back, I have experienced some monumental customer service fails.

1. Australia Post.

We had our mail redirected while we were away. All items addressed to our home or to our Post Office Box were to be redirected to my brother’s house. I have written elsewhere about the monumental Failure of Brain that led my brother to not open any of the Australia Post envelopes (which contained collected mail, where there were several envelopes on one day) – but here I am going to rant about Aussie Post.

At least 1 parcel was delivered TO OUR HOME while we were away. And left in front of the house. To be stolen or rained on. Fortunately Dave or Neroli (our kind house-checkers) noticed it and moved it inside.

Worse … rather a lot of MAIL was delivered to our home. Some was catalogues (but addressed catalogues, not regular junk mail), other mail was not. Said other mail included a bill from Yarra Valley Water (more on this later), a reminder notice from Yarra Valley Water and a Death Threat Debt Collection notice – you guessed it, from Yarra Valley Water. Also Superannuation statements and, if I recall correctly, a share dividend notice. And an Electrolux reminder notice (more on this later). And Optus bills. And a gas bill, but we pay that by direct debit so it was OK. Sigh.

I rang Australia Post to complain. At the time, we thought there were 70 items, we have now revised that to between 50 and 60. Still not bad going when the redirect was only in place for just over 4 months. Especially as most of our mail is sent to the PO Box …

Australia Post took my details. They suggested that we shouldn’t open the mail as we need it as evidence (um, no, it is overdue bills … had to open them). We have a large folder filled with bills and catalogues stapled to envelopes. Also, I believe, some yet-unopened items, just for proof. And they said it would be nice if someone got back to us within 2 days but it is more likely to be around 2 weeks.

Lesson: When a customer contracts you to deliver a service, deliver it.

2. Electrolux

Before I left, Electrolux sent us a bill for a washing machine service that was done 11 months previously, on a machine that was covered by extended warranty.

Fraser mailed the invoice back with a note explaining this.

The reminder notice was delivered to our home, as (I think) was the debt collection letter (or maybe it was in one of those Aussie Post envelopes); the solicitors’ letter went to Dave’s and was opened, causing us stress. I emailed them to say that the machine was under warranty, we had made contact but apparently had been ignored, and got … no response!

I mailed them 2 weeks later to say that we considered the matter closed as we had not had a response.

Lesson: It is always good manners to reply.

3. Yarra Valley Water

As I said, there was a series of Yarra Valley Water bills ending in a debt collection notice.

This was in fact probably a good thing, as we looked at the bill carefully.

First thing we noticed: Our water use (for the period from 15 June until 26 September – remember, the girls and I left Australia on June 25, Fraser 1 month later) was UP FIFTY PERCENT ON OUR PEAK USAGE IN SUMMER (and nearly double last winter, or something like that). OMGWTFHuh???

Second thing we noticed: Our water use figure was an ESTIMATE.

That shouldn’t matter, right? I mean, if they had us using too much water, it would just carry over to the next bill?

Well not entirely, because they had us on penalty charges for using such a very great deal of water.

Fraser checked the meter, and came in confused: it was on only 625.

So I rang them.

Oh yes, said the Nice Guy on the Phone, we had to replace your meter on October 2nd because it was faulty.

OK, I said, so why is our usage so much higher than it has ever been before?

Ah, said NGotP, well the meter reader doesn’t have access to your usage data. They just make an estimate based on the size of the property.

My mind boggled.

Let me repeat that: If your water meter breaks, so they don’t know how much water you have used, THEY JUST MAKE UP A NUMBER.

In this case, they had us using over 700 litres of water a day. In the period from October 2nd until I rang the water company, a mere 26 hours or so after we got home, we had used 625 litres.

Something was not right.

They have now waived the water and sewage charges for that period. And they had better do the same on our next bill, too – at least for the period between the meter reading (mid September) and the new meter being installed.

Props to them for sorting the problem out quickly. But a big thumbs down for absolutely appalling estimation practices.

Lesson: If you are going to guess, try to be smart. You have customer usage history for a reason.

4. Telstra

Bet you were wondering when I would get to these guys 😉

Most of our Telstra experiences have been OK. Annoying that I couldn’t downgrade my plan so had to pay $49 a month just for access while I was away and unable to use the $200 of included calls and SMSes, and very annoying that I didn’t think to cancel my $5 a month data pack, but that is trivial.

Today, we got a new “streamlined” bill – which means that none of our calls are itemised, despite there being over $70 of international calls made and received that I would like to check. So I rang the number and fought my way through the IVR to request that future bills be provided with detail.

Then I rang the other number and waited on hold through countless IVRs until I spoke to a person. Along the way, I supplied the number of the phone I was calling about.

Hi, I said, I am the authorised user on this account. (Complicated story – due to a billing deal we were on for ages, we switched my phone into Fraser’s name and added me as an additional user)

What account? he asked – the phone number had not been passed through. Sigh. It then took a good 90 seconds or so for him to get the phone details up.

Ah, he said. When they added you as an additional user, they didn’t make notes of some details on the system. I will need to speak with the account holder.

Nice try, buddy. But I have been using that account for YEARS and have regularly called about it. Now I was annoyed.

Ah, sez I, you have a new billing system do you?

Well yes, he agreed. But he would need to speak to the account holder pls.

I could have put on any random male. Hell, I could have been gruff and blokey and no-one would have been any the wiser. He didn’t ask for any security information, just annoyed Fraser for a few minutes until he had “updated the system” – then asked me what I wanted.

No, they could not supply me with itemised call info. I would have to get that myself, online. He tied himself in knots explaining why that is in fact Really Good — but the truth is, this is Telstra passing the costs of printing itemised bills on to the consumer. My “shorter bill” was 3 sides of paper anyway, plus the other sheet with the letter explaining it.

Lesson: Never blame the customer when your new computer system is at fault.

5. RACV Home Security

We had a breakin while we were away. More specifically, our alarm went off and the alarm company sent round a patrol car. The guy reported in that nothing was disturbed, but my brother came round to check.

Nothing was disturbed … unless you count the CHAIR by the OPEN WINDOW and the DIRT all through the bathroom and the MESS on the floor … seems the guy panicked when the alarm went off and threw things down to try to block the way for anyone coming from the front of the house.

In amongst the joy that was sent to our home was an account … for $72 … for the patrol guy to “check” our house. Still need to follow up this one to explain why we will be declining to pay that particular account.

Lesson: Houses have FOUR walls. Not one, two or three. (Some may even have more)

So there you have it. We don’t have a lot of service providers. There’s Optus and the gas and power companies, that’s probably it. So we’re batting about 50/50 on screwups, so far.

Of them all, it is Melbourne Water and Australia Post that annoy me the most. Perhaps that makes me a pessimist – that I think people will do as little as possible and will charge you for it if they can and blame you for it if they can’t – but those two just seem like massive systemic failures.


Posted by on December 9, 2009 in rant


5 responses to “Customer Service Fails – In Which I Name and Shame

  1. Racing Hippo

    December 10, 2009 at 12:11 am

    It’s actually the last one that would annoy me the most: stating they’ve done something (and charging for it!!!!!!) when they quite clearly haven’t. Did they think you were born yesterday?!?

    I’m ever so glad you’re you. Because I know you’ll hound the buggers until you’re satisfied. Many wouldn’t.

    Go you. And I pity the poor sods who are on the receiving end of your righteous indignation!

    • Melissa

      December 10, 2009 at 12:18 am

      I think the last one annoyed me a month or two ago, when I figured that it was what they would do … so I have had that time to mellow. Also, we had to get the alarm system serviced the day after we got back and both the phone booker and the tech who came out were really good. That spoiled my righteous indignation a bit 😉 (what is the opposite of harshing my mellow? I guess it mellowed my harsh?)

  2. David Foo

    December 10, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Thank you for the pitfalls of trusting these utilities. It is good to know what to watch for.

    • Melissa

      December 10, 2009 at 7:08 am

      Welcome to my blog, David Foo.
      I am sure that there are many, many other pitfalls to watch out for – but to have all of these within a 2-week window was more than just annoying.

  3. Friendless

    January 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    When we moved house we had a mail redirection, and it was just pathetic. The people who’d moved out of our house had a mail redirection as well, and theirs was pathetic as well. Maybe about 70% of mail is correctly redirected. We also received redirected letters from the redirection office which clearly said DO NOT REDIRECT. I’d punch them if I could.


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