Telstra to launch 'mini-help-desk' tool for BigPond

Telstra plans to launch in the next few days a mini help-desk software tool for its BigPond Internet customer base as part of its AU$100 million package to shore up its Internet service provider arm.ZDNet Australia   understands the telecommunications heavyweight is in the final stages of testing the tool -- first flagged in an e-mail from BigPond managing director Justin Milne to customers in April this year -- ahead of a launch by the end of July.

Telstra plans to launch in the next few days a mini help-desk software tool for its BigPond Internet customer base as part of its AU$100 million package to shore up its Internet service provider arm.

ZDNet Australia   understands the telecommunications heavyweight is in the final stages of testing the tool -- first flagged in an e-mail from BigPond managing director Justin Milne to customers in April this year -- ahead of a launch by the end of July.

The tool -- entitled BigPond Assist -- allows the user to diagnose the status of their BigPond connection and be told, via pop-up messages, of ways to correct any difficulties. One iteration of the tool, seen by ZDNet Australia   offers users a three-tier panel of options, with the first tier options entitled 'PC and modem,' 'ISP connection,' 'Internet' and 'e-mail', the second-tier options entitled 'repair centre' and 'help' and the third-tier options entitled 'my accounts' and 'member services'. The bottom of the panel features a button entitled 'start test'.

The tool will allow BigPond to communicate with customers directly on network or system problems.

The launch may also include an announcement related to trialling of short-message-service notifications to customers affected by service difficulties. Milne said in his April announcement that, under the system, BigPond customers who ring the technical help-desk would hear a voice message detailing known technical problems. They would then be offered short-message service updates "so [they] can stay informed about the progress and final resolution of the issue".

The carrier is introducing the services to try to ease the load on help-desk staff and reduce customer waiting times during large-scale outages or delays affecting BigPond services. Milne said "These are cutting-edge technologies, designed to save you from needing technical support.

"Ultimately, that will mean shorter phone queues when you do want our assistance".

Its move comes amid a sharp rise in demand for the telecommunications heavyweight's broadband Internet services, sparked largely by sharp retail price reductions earlier this year that drew bitter complaints from rival Internet service providers and an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Bruce Akhurst, Telstra's group managing director, wholesale, broadband and media, said last month the carrier had experienced a 46 percent surge in demand over five months and expected now to reach its end-2005 target of one million broadband connections -- wholesale and retail combined -- six months early.

The launch of the tool comes as Telstra's group managing director, technology, innovation and products, Ted Pretty, together with other executives, prepares to deliver a comprehensive briefing to analysts on Thursday on the company's network strategy.

The briefing is expected to include an update on the status of the carrier's new e-mail platform, which Milne said in his April e-mail would be launched by July.

The carrier had planned to use the platform for all new BigPond customers from this month, with existing customers migrated to the platform in a staged manner over the next six months.

The telecommunications carrier is also developing a new billing engine for BigPond, which will allow customers to pay for ADSL by credit card direct debit or as part of their Telstra phone bill.

Some reports have suggested Pretty is planning to announce a comprehensive raft of network upgrade measures this week, including sharing the third-generation mobile network of rival Hutchison Telecommunications and migrating its AU$8 billion a year voice business to Internet-based technologies.

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