Once again telecommunications is New Zealand’s most complained about industry. It’s a story we’ve heard over and over. The latest report is MBIE’s New Zealand Consumer Survey 2018.
Almost one in three people buying a home service experienced a problem. That’s according to According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.
The most common problem, accounting for almost half the complaints, is that the product or service didn't work as expected.
Fixed line, mobile complaints
It’s not only fixed line home services. One in five consumers buying a mobile service had a problem in 2018.
Even allowing for overlap between the two categories, this is a lot of people. The odds are close to even that you, the reader, are among them. The chance that you know a person who had trouble is close to certainty.
Part of the problem is that telecommunications touches everyone.
MBIE says almost two-thirds, 62 percent, of consumers bought a home service in the last two years.
Even so, the category is a long way ahead of building repairs, the next most complained about sector.
Over a quarter of people surveyed say their most recent consumer problem was with telecommunications.
That’s bad. It’s diabolical. But it gets worse. MBIE goes on to say the poorest New Zealanders get a worse deal from the industry’s bad customer service. These are often the people least equipped to deal with poor service.
It adds up to another digital divide. This one looks harder to fix than lack of access. Sorting this out could do much to improve poor New Zealanders’s telecoms experience.
Telecommunications Forum CEO Geoff Thorn defends the industry. He says the sector has been working hard to improve customer satisfaction.
“We know that New Zealand consumers have access to world-class telecommunications services when measured by coverage, speed and price. However, we recognise there are areas where the telecommunications industry can improve”, Thorn says.
That’s fair enough. Although it’s unlikely outsourcing customer support to an Indian company will improve matters. Vodafone already always ranks last in surveys comparing telco performance.
New service quality regime coming
Meanwhile the TCF is working with the Commerce Commission on a new service quality regime. The two plan to develop this in the next few months.
Thorn has a point when he says the poor showing in the report: “…is not surprising given the number of connections and associated transactions people have, and that, in the case of fibre, it is new infrastructure that is being rolled out across the country.”
One area the TCF could investigate is how New Zealand compares with other countries. A quick, unscientific online search shows telecoms where there are comparable statistics.
It’s possible companies don’t set realistic customer expectations. Consumer magazine runs frequent comparisons of local company support. It’s no accident that the firms that do best are those who promise next to no support.