What Businesses Can Learn from Telstra’s Latest Outage

Yesterday, Telstra’s internet service went down bringing many businesses reliant on their service to a standstill. One day later and the issue is still not fixed.

It’s not the first time this happened, it’s the fourth outage since February this year.

Plenty of time for Telstra to prepare a response in the event that widespread disruption of services happened again.

Perhaps they know that a typical customer would phone to report the issue. And they would know that their phone lines are likely to be jammed with calls from frustrated and bewildered customers.

From a company that already has a poor service record, 79 minutes on hold waiting for an operator to answer a call is unacceptable.

This was our experience.  79 minutes of my life wasted. Not to mention the disruption to this business.

When we eventually did get through, the customer service person informed us that we could get a dongle from the Telstra business centre and plug this into a router and get wireless internet in the meantime.

Unfortunately, their service was still not restored the following day and upon calling the business centre, we were advised us that they did not have anyone at the business centre that could help provide or program the dongle.

So another 85 minutes was spent on hold waiting for support. Which is probably not too bad, considering some have been on hold for longer… (cough, cough)


The point is, no-one should really have to wait that long.

Telstra had an opportunity to get it right.

Instead of listening to repetitive music, they could have had a message announcing they were experiencing a service disruption.

They could have created a splash page that showed updates and areas affected and directed people to the splash page.

They could have announced the length of wait time and given customers the option for a callback.

They could have pointed customers to a page where they report the issue online and be assigned a case / reference number.

They could have requested the customer’s mobile phone number and provided SMS updates.

They could have provided status updates on Twitter or their Facebook page.

They could have sent an urgent memo to business centres so they could provide the dongle solution to business customers.

So many missed opportunities to get it right.

Instead, they got it wrong, dreadfully wrong.

They had time to prepare!

Now while the above options may not have solved the problem 100%, the customer would have at least been informed, and I am willing to bet that some of their backlog of calls would drop thereby improving their customer service. All a customer wants is communication.

Communication and choice help customers feel like they have some control.

Unfortunately, many businesses would struggle to survive the aftermath of such a massive fail. They simply haven’t had the market advantages that Telstra has enjoyed over its long history.

So what can businesses learn from Telstra’s failures?

  1. Evaluate your business from a risk perspective – determine what are the major things that could go wrong from a customer perspective.
  2. Map out the customer journey and understand significant customer pain points and road blocks.
  3. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Understand how you would feel if it happened to you.
  4. Brainstorm ideas on how you can help either overcome issues or improve your customer’s overall experience. It’s a good idea to involve staff from cross-functional teams during the brainstorming process – you might be surprised at what solutions they come up with that you hadn’t thought of.  Don’t kill off any ideas at this stage.
  5. Evaluate the ideas based on ease of implementation, degree of impact on customer satisfaction and cost.
    • High impact, easy to implement and low-cost ideas should be a no brainer.
    • High cost, low impact ideas should be scrapped.
    • High cost, high impact and easy to implement ideas may need to be assessed more carefully by analysing the cost v/s benefit.  If the end benefit is to retain customers or avoid losing them, then that can be evaluated against the cost to acquire a new customer. It goes without saying that if the cost to acquire a new customer is higher than the cost to retain a customer, then it should be adopted.
  6. Prepare a risk management & response plan incorporating the ideas from your findings.
  7. Train staff on how to handle negative experiences and what solutions are available.
  8. Develop your customer risk mitigation plan so you can easily activate it if you need to.