Optus has overtaken Telstra and Vodafone to claim the dubious honour of being Australia’s most complained about telco, according to new figures released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
The figures compared the number of complaints the TIO received for each carrier, per 10,000 services in operation (SIO), between April and June of this year.
According to the report, the number of Optus customers contacting the TIO grew steadily from 4.6 per 10,000 in the three months to September 2014 to 8.5 in the recent June quarter.
The increase saw Optus become Australia’s most complained about telco, as Telstra’s rate fell from 7.1 per 10,000 customers in the March quarter of 2014 to six in the June quarter.
An Optus spokesperson acknowledged the figures, attributing them to a significant increase in 4G mobile data usage along with enhanced smartphone capabilities and video services.
The spokesperson also said some fixed-line customers experienced delays in on-boarding combined with performance difficulties, and weather conditions caused mass service disruptions across the country.
“In response to the rise in complaints, Optus has implemented a number of initiatives to help both mobile and fixed customers,” the spokesperson said.
The initiatives have included the rollout of improved usage alert tools, new tools and training for support staff and additional field technicians.
“These initiatives have been well received by our customers and we have already seen complaints decrease in the quarter from July to September 2015.”
Telstra had previously been the most complained about telco due to a spike in the number of issues between January and March, according to figures released by the TIO earlier this year, but it appears the situation has improved since then.
In its statement, Telstra noted that overall complaints to the TIO about the telco in 2015 decreased by more than 2500 in a period when the company added more than 850,000 services.
“We’re giving our customers our names and a way to get back in touch if they need to, and we’re checking in with our customers from time to time to see how we can do better,” a Telstra spokesperson said.
The most dramatic drop came from Vodafone, which has seen the number of its users escalating issues to the TIO plummet from 19.3 per 10,000 in early 2014 to just 6.3, placing it below Optus and within striking distance of Telstra.
The result follows a concerted three-year turnaround effort that wrapped up last year, with customer service remaining a key focus for current chief executive Iñaki Berroeta.
Vodafone director of customer service Errol Van Graan attributed its result to continued network and customer service investments, as well as bill shock initiatives and simplified products.
“It’s very pleasing to see our customers are even happier with their Vodafone experience, with the ratio of complaints in the April quarter less than one third of that just 18 months before,” Van Graan said.
Across the industry overall, the number of TIO escalations fell to its lowest level since the survey began, at 6.5 complaints per 10,000.
This is down 9.7 percent when compared to January-March 2015 (7.2) and 14.5 per cent lower than in April to June 2014 (7.6).
The figures also showed the number of complaints about the major network operators remains several times higher than the levels for their smaller competitors. MVNOs amaysim and Pivotel each recorded just 1.8 complaints per 10,000.