Telstra's new mobile plans are all about fixing customer service

Telstra wants to take away customers' pain by removing excess data charges and additional service charges, as well as providing more entertainment offerings by year's end, the telco's group executive of Consumer and Small Business Vicki Brady has told ZDNet.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra's simplification strategy across its mobile plans is "very deliberately" addressing customer pain points in an effort to reduce the number of complaints, Telstra group executive of Consumer and Small Business Vicki Brady has told ZDNet, with the telco also hinting at adding to its media entertainment offerings.

According to Brady, step one of reforming Telstra's plans was Tuesday's introduction of a solution addressing excess data charges, while step two in October will involve greater opportunity for personalisation.

"We gave a sneak peak at what's coming ... October will have very much a focus on that choice and flexibility of what services I add to my core plan, with a particular focus headlining entertainment with exciting new things coming into our entertainment portfolio," she explained to ZDNet in an interview.

According to Brady, Telstra will additionally be bolstering its "superior entertainment services and content" -- which currently includes A-League, NRL, AFL, netball, and Foxtel packages -- in October.

She would not confirm whether this will involve the announcement of additional media content acquisitions by Telstra, saying she would be able to reveal more details towards the end of the year.

In regards to how the 8,000 job cuts across Telstra over the next three years could impact the company's professed focus on customer experience, Brady again said the point of changing up its mobile plans is to prevent customer complaints across bill queries in the first place.

"From a customer support point of view, we will always resource to service our customers' needs at a good service level," she added.

"As we take customer effort away -- so for example, addressing something like excess data charges ... our focus is to take away that effort for customers, and that's where then we see you get reductions in things like call volumes, [but] we will always resource to meet the needs of our customers."

In formulating the new mobile plans, Brady acknowledged that international roaming is growing in importance across higher-end customers, which she said ties back into reducing excess data charges for customers.

"International roaming is really important to a segment of our customers, and we have over time really addressed concerns around international roaming with our day passes, so we have more than 70 countries now covered with our day pass."

The AU$5 billion networks investment in the three years to June 2019, referred to by Telstra CEO Andy Penn earlier on Tuesday, is the total reached since initially announcing its intended AU$3 billion spend two years ago rather than being an additional amount, she added.

"For the three years to June 2019, our total network investment will be AU$5 billion, so it's not on top, it's just saying in total we are putting a huge amount into our network," she explained to ZDNet.

"We're absolutely investing to put a high-speed core network in place [and] it goes into capacity into our mobile network. With data growing at 50 percent per annum on our mobile network, it's important that we're putting the right capacity in to ensure we keep delivering a great experience for our customers."

When customers do start running down their monthly data allowances, Brady said one of the first things to go is video streaming -- which ties into the telco's LTE-Broadcast launch last week.

Lastly addressing the report from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) released on Monday, Brady pointed out that it involved a small sample size of customers and used data from 12 months ago.

Telstra had taken a battering in the ACCAN report, including on providing accurate and relevant information, lacking knowledgeable staff, and only managing to solve one in two issues at first contact.

The dominant telco had almost a quarter of all issues take a month to resolve, according to ACCAN.

"We measure our customer experience every day ... so we have millions of customers giving us feedback across a year. We are incredibly focused on making sure we keep improving that experience, and I completely recognise there's still many things for us to do," Brady told ZDNet.

"Over the last few months, we've seen some very positive trends in things like complaints coming down, and obviously these changes under our T22 strategy ... will go a long way to helping further improve that experience by simplifying that for customers."

Telstra's goal is to have 20 core plans in a modular design by June next year covering both consumer and small business.

The mobile plans were announced earlier on Tuesday as part of the Telstra2022 strategy unveiled last month.

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