@Optus Where are your priorities? Obviously in the wrong places


Many years ago in Australia we had only one Telecommunications provider, Telecom (later Telstra), which was part of our national infrastructure.  We had no choice until Optus came into the market and, after numerous rain incidents where Telstra refused to come and fix our leaking phone box, we switched to Optus.  I’ve been with them ever since.  I have had a few problems here and there but nothing that has made me seriously consider switching.

Until now.

My 90 year old Aunt lives alone in her flat in a different city to me and my family.  She has recently been diagnosed with a nasty cancer and has just been through three bouts of radio therapy.  She has macular degeneration and is legally blind.  She has a wonderful network of friends and supporters who all take her to her various appointments and everyone, including me, keeps tabs on her daily via her phone.  This is how we have managed to keep her at home and will do so as long as we can.

Last Tuesday her phone died.  She contacted Optus to report the fault, and there happened to be a Telstra technician working in the building.  He checked the line and all was okay up to the point of entry to her flat.  He couldn’t “cross the threshold” because of competition rules.  On Wednesday she managed to get her electrician, who was working in the building, to check the lines in her flat which he did and couldn’t find a fault, but the phone was still not working.

I am currently in London so I can’t call them directly, and, I have found out, they can’t call me, so, I contacted Optus via online chat and here is how it went:

Hi!      You are now chatting with Mariz
You:      Hello there Mariz. I’m emailing on behalf of my Aunt.  She is 90 years old, pretty much blind with macular, and is not well. Her phone line died two days ago and she’s been able to get on to Optus but has been told they can’t fix anything until Monday 6th July. Her phone is her only link to the outside world at the minute and she’s been having radiotherapy treatment so it is crucial that it works. Optus are diverting to her mobile but she finds it hard to use the device. This is appalling that a 90 year old woman has to wait a weak for her line to be fixed. Apparently there was a Telstra technician at the building who said the lines were fine and the problem was in her flat, but he couldn’t walk over the threshold due to competition rules … not a story that I am at all impressed with. I am currently in London so there is not much I can do. Help please
Mariz:      I’m sorry to hear that you about your Aunt’s situation and I apologise for the inconvenience about her land line.
You:      PS – her phone also has her emergency help service attached, not much good at the minute!
Mariz:      But no worries at all, I’ll be more than happy to help you check what we can do.
You:      Yup, apology accepted … can we get it fixed as a matter of urgency please!
Mariz:      Sure. Can you give me a couple of minutes while I check the account?
You:      Yup, go for it
Mariz:      Thanks for waiting, Anni.
Mariz:      Upon checking the technician already checked and fixed the line yesterday at around 03:57 VIC time.

This is obviously not true, the line still isn’t working.  But no one actually went in to see my Aunt to check so I’m not sure what they checked.

You:      So all should be good then … when I spoke to her last night (Aus time) it was still not working … and my daughter said the same thing.
Mariz:      Sure. Because the report is already closed and the technician already confirmed that all should be working now.
You:      Okay … I’ll give it a try … thanks Mariz
Mariz:      Anything else that I can help you with today?

I then tried to call my Aunt and the line was permanently engaged, so I called her on her mobile, which we have recently got working as a backup, thank heavens!

You:      Mariz … I’m speaking to my aunt and her phone is still not working. It is engaged
Mariz:      Oh, did she tried to unplug and replug the handset?
You:      Optus have told her that another technician will be coming in within the next 24 hours so it’s not fixed … something wrong with your records
Mariz:      I’m really sorry, Anni. Please let me know if it will not work. 🙁
You:      She had her Electrician in to check on her end and all seemed to be fine, so it’s now that an Optus technician should be calling her within 24 – 48 hours. Given that there is a weekend coming this will mean Monday … not good.
Mariz:      I’m really sorry for the trouble, Anni,
Mariz:      Let me call our technician so we can check what is happening.
You:      So it seems that her electrician has been through her place and can’t find anything wrong. The Optus wires from the street are supposed to be okay … could be a case of old wires …
You:      Yes please call the technician …
Mariz:      Sure.
Mariz:      I am calling them now.
You:      Just another thing … her home number was supposed to be diverted to her mobile but when you call her number it is permanently engaged and not working – numerous people have tried to call her.
You:      Also … if the technician is supposed to be calling her he won’t be able to get through …
Mariz:      I apologise for the inconvemience.
Mariz:      I will check the diversion as well.
You:      Thank you
Mariz:      Please stay on the line.
You:      One other thing … they keep sending my Aunt texts but she can’t read them … even though she’s told them not to. She is getting really quite distraught
Mariz:      I’m really sorry for the trouble, Anni.
Mariz:      If I may ask, when did your Aunt called an electrician to check the line inside the unit?
You:      Her electrician came in about 11.30 am this morning. He is the electrician who services her flat
You:      He tested phones and plugged and unplugged wires etc. He is back in the building tomorrow morning but think he’s done all he can
Mariz:      Oh, I see. Because according to our technician who checked and fixed the line outside the premises there is no problem outside the unit.
You:      But there is obviously something going on between outside and inside. My aunt’s electrician checked other handsets as well. We need someone to go there and be able to check right up to the phone itself … not just outside.
Mariz:      I understand. Here’s what we ca do, Anni. We send another technician but it is not a technician from Telstra. It is a private technician that Optus is renting to check the connection inside the a unit.
You:      Sounds like some common sense is beginning to emerge. Her contract is with Optus so Optus are responsible for the line to end point I would assume. This is what should have happened from the outset I would have thought. Can this be escalated please as a matter or urgency. And before the weekend. And people not confuse her by texting or things. Also her home number is supposed to be diverted to her mobile and it clearly is not.
Mariz:      The reason why we sent a technician from Telstra is because we are renting line to them.
You:      But then the Telstra technician couldn’t go in to her flat!!! Not sure what sort of logic that is … 🙁
Mariz:      That’s why we will send a private technician who is trained from Optus who can check the line inside your Aunt’s unit.
You:      Can we get a time for the technician to come please and confirm it. She has a doctors appointment tomorrow and will be out between 12 to 3 pm. She will take her mobile with her but we need to book a time.
You:      Good idea 🙂 Perhaps that might have been a good idea from the outset
You:And if they try to contact her they need to contact her on her mobile not her home number because despite saying the number has been transferred it hasn’t …
You:      She has just recently switched from Telstra to Optus … and is now regretting it …
Mariz:      There is normally a charged for $220 for the private technician. However, I already talked to my Supervisor and I requested to waive the charges.
You:      Excellent … sounds like a good idea.
Mariz:      Now what I need to do is call the private technician so we can check when they can come to check the connection inside the unit.
You:      Yes please … they should check from the street right through if they can … the only thing we want is to resolve the issue please. We are dealing with a very old person who is ill and totally relies on her phone not only for communication but to monitor her health and safety
Mariz:      I am now talking to our private technician’s department.
Mariz:      According to our private technician, the earliest schedule that we have is on 06/07/2015 between 7am – 12pm.
You:      That is not acceptable
You:      This could quite literally be a matter of life and death. If she has a fall there is no way she can seek help. She has medical people monitoring her, she has nurses coming in and she has family trying to check on her
Mariz:      I’m really sorry, Anni. I tried to get an available technician tomorrow however they are all booked.
You:      So bump her up the schedule … how many other situations are as urgent as this?
Mariz:      I understand, Anni. If you want I can escalate this and connect you to my Supervisor.
You:      And she registered the line problems two days ago so that means that Optus will have taken a week to fix the problem
You:      Yes please … I would like this escalated
Mariz:      I will connect to my Supervisor.

This interaction was transferred

Hi! You are now chatting with Cris H
Cris H:      Hi Annie!
You:      Hello there Chris. Please read through the chat with Mariz as I don’t want to go through it all again. We have a 90 year old very ill lady who is still living at home and is technically blind and totally relies on her phone for medical and safety support. Waiting a week to get someone in to fix her phone line is not acceptable in a first world country. Also she recently switched to Optus from Telstra (on my recommendation as I have many Optus accounts) so this is not a good look. Her landline was supposed to be diverted and hasn’t been, she’s getting confused and very upset and as a long time Optus customer I am now getting very frustrated myself … so two customers not happy for the price of one!
You:      We just need a technician to go and fix the problem – it cannot wait until Monday. If she has a fall or something then this is quite literally a matter of life and death
Cris H:      I understand and I’m sorry for the trouble.
You:      Don’t worry, I get it. I just need the problem fixed!
Cris H:      For a start i will be dirverting the call to a mobile phone that you prefer.
You:      That is a good start … should have happened days ago
You:      She is using her mobile okay but please don’t try to send texts … she is pretty much blind. She can see the red and green buttons on her mobile but that is about it
Cris H:      Diversion has been set.
Cris H:      Can you call the landline using another mobile to chec if it works?
You:      Not working.  Number is still engaged
Cris H:      I’ll be right with you.

Then the connection died …

Sorry, our chat session has ended due to circumstances beyond our control. Please chat with us again if you need further assistance.

I tried to get back on but for the next four hours but all I got was

We’re sorry but our chat team are all busy at the moment.
For help and support why not join My Optus Community? Ask a question, find answers and join the discussion about Optus products and services.

In the meantime Chris called my Aunt and told her that they could do nothing before Monday but that at least they could divert her home number to her mobile, which they have done.  He also asked her to tell me what was going on as he couldn’t call internationally.

Chris and Mariz have done their best to fix the problem, but they are trapped a system bounded by rules and regulations and relying on information that is obviously inaccurate.  And, they are not even in the same country, let alone city.  This means that nothing remains resolved and she will have been without a home telephone for almost a week by the time a technician even looks at it.

So, we have a very ill 90 year old lady who relies on her telephone as both a connection to the outside world as well as a health and safety monitor stranded within her home because no one will escalate this to be important.  They are all just too busy and booked up.

What is wrong with this picture?

The lack of common sense from Optus to make sure the problem is actually fixed – where did they test the line?  Obviously not to my Aunt’s hand set!

The ridiculous bureaucracy of a system where one technician won’t “cross the threshold” into an old lady’s flat to check because of competition rules?

Or the fact that a fail elderly woman is obviously not a priority for Optus.

She has a very wide network and this will do the rounds of gossip very quickly … it will be more than me who after many years seriously considers changing over to the competition.

I often wonder where our priorities lie in our so-called First World.  We increasingly rely on our technologies to keep us “safe and secure” but those technologies are part of the greater Social Machine where bureaucratic rules and heartless competition seem to outweigh both good old fashioned common sense, caring and compassion.

Perhaps we should bring back the good old fashioned telephone operator who at least has a heart.

And if ever there was a case for the National Broadband Network to the home and not the node, this is it!