Service standards poor: Optus boss
Optus chief Kevin Russell has finally come clean on what most of us already knew: The poor service standard of the Australian telecommunications industry.
Local telco providers often fell well behind technology companies and even Australian banks when it came to looking after customers, Mr Russell said.
Proof of the poor service found in complaints against telcos to the industry ombudsman reached "stratospheric" levels in recent years, he said.
"The standard of service in Australia relative to the standard of service in the UK just seems have gone backwards," Mr Russell told an Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne.
It was important for the industry to lift its game on customer service to head off competitors like Google and Apple and recoup billions of dollars invested in super-fast 4G network and spectrum licences, he said.
"It makes me nervous that two core competitors have brand recognition with customers that is fundamentally higher than our relationship," he said. "That is a strategic risk that makes me nervous."
Optus is Australia's second-biggest telco with more than 9 million accounts linked to its network.
Meanwhile, Mr Russell said he worried about whether telcos were able to get returns on their large investments in spectrum and 4G networks in an environment where revenues were expected to decline steadily.
Australia's big telcos, including Optus, recently paid a combined $2 billion to expand their wireless data and broadband capabilities.
Telstra, Optus and TPG all bid for new licences in the auction of wireless spectrum previously allocated to analog television.
"My simple logic is if you are going to ask people to pay a bit more, your service better be good. Happy customers will pay a bit more and my experience tells me that unhappy customers will not pay a bit more."
Even so, he said telcos were likely to charge more for data in the coming months as they roll out their super-fast 4G network, which allows people to download data faster.
Mr Russell acknowledged banks had a better record in serving customers. "It is not my aspiration in life to be completely outgunned by banks but they have done a good job," he said.