NBN Co should train and certify retail service providers to perform installations and repairs to cut down a backlog of work causing delays of up to three months, says Optus CEO Allen Lew.
Lew told the CommsDay Summit in Sydney that NBN Co and retail service providers (RSPs) needed to “act as partners” and not opponents to fix NBN delivery issues.
He reiterated Optus’ “long-time support” for the NBN - but the project’s ongoing problems appeared to be wearing even Lew down.
“For a project that was launched so full of hope, the NBN’s reality to date has been underwhelming for too many people,” he said.
“This negativity drags down the industry, and it will take an industry-wide approach to address change customer perception.”
Lew said that Optus customers had a “largely positive” experience once they were connected to the NBN, but that getting to that point was “still painful for too many customers”.
He said that NBN connection times had blown out recently “from a target of nine days from order to almost 30 days”.
“This is an average, so some customers waiting even longer to connect – even as long as three months,” he said.
“This leads to a significant uplift in rescheduling, causing huge customer frustration, leading to higher TIO [Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman] complaints and some customers even cancelling their NBN orders altogether.
“It is imperative for the industry to improve its game here.”
While NBN Co is currently the subject of a long-running regulatory investigation over its service standards, Lew warned that RSPs also needed to lift their own game.
“The first step is to adopt meaningful performance standards and service benchmarks that are backed-up by enforceable service guarantees,” he said.
“These measures should apply at both the retail and wholesale level to ensure we can achieve a tangible lift in our combined service performance.”
Lew said that promises to attend a premises to connect to the NBN should also be kept, or - at minimum - customers should receive some sort of contact if plans change.
“When we tell a customer that we will connect them on a certain day then we must ensure that we deliver on this promise, and we should keep customers updated on progress along the way,” Lew said.
RSPs frequently say they are left out-of-pocket and out-of-the-loop when NBN technicians miss activation and repair appointments.
As a case in point, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told the same conference one of its staff members wrangled a $70 discount from their RSP when NBN Co repeatedly missed appointments - a bill the RSP more than likely footed alone.
Lew suggested that some of NBN Co’s technician problems could be solved by thinking laterally about where to find more trained people to perform the work.
“NBN Co should train and certify credible service providers so that RSPs like Optus can install and repair,” he said.