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The Long Flat tower

By Sophie Love - posted Thursday, 7 March 2013

As many Australians know, on Friday night the mid North Coast of NSW was hit by the devastating storms and floods that are currently battering much of Australia. Our little old cottage is perched above what is now a raging expanse of muddy, debris laden, water.

We don't have TV or Radio out here (no reception) so the internet and phone are our only means of communication with the outside world. All Telstra, of course, we don't muck around with any other carriers. It's Telstra's network and they maintain it after the fires, floods, storms etc which play havoc with our lines.

There's no chance of any fixed line internet out here. We tried the Government subsidised satellite and that was only marginally faster than dial-up so after a lot of trial and error and frustration with Telstra call centres, we found a fantastic solution – wireless internet via 4G modem and fixed booster (yagi) aerial on the roof. Briliant.


Until anything goes wrong, of course, and we have to actually speak to Telstra.

We call it 'the vortex' – that endless loop of automated response which eventually grants you an audience with an operative in Singapore, India or the Philippines. I am no xenophobe but I want to talk to someone on my home turf. Someone who might have an understanding of, or interest in, the problems we experience.

In reality no call centre operative, for any business, ever has any understanding of life in the bush and it is very frustrating explaining that no, their door to door courier or mail service will NOT be delivered to our door because the nearest any courier will come to us, is an hour's drive away.

On Saturday morning, after a night of no sleep, checking the rising river, investigating every crash and bang after each wind gust, and preparing to evacuate, we realised we had no mobile phone signals and no internet so no way of checking the state of the roads, the weather forecast etc. We assumed the local tower was down after the deluge and furious winds. By the end of the day we thought maybe we should ring Faults or someone and check the state of the tower. Simple question you would think.

There was no listing in any of our 2012 Yellow Pages for Faults. I scoured it, front and back. No listing for any mobile communications tower questions/help/faults. This is the same Yellow Pages that two years in a row has either omitted or incorrectly printed our company's ads for the last two years (costing us many thousands in lost revenue) despite signed contracts etc.

So I rang the vortex. All the automated responses were skipping so I muddled through by guessing which numbers to press. When I was finally answered by a girl in the Philippines I tried to explain that the patronising robotic voice of Telstra was on the blink, but she couldn't understand what an automated response was. I asked my simple 'Is the Long Flat tower out of action?' question. But of course, she had to find out my account number, name, address, date of birth, weight, height, inside leg measurement and what I had for breakfast before she could engage in any sort of dialogue with me.


My simple question didn't appear in the script. Half an hour later I spoke to someone else. At one point I was told that there was no problem with our local tower and that the problem was with the modem. Both my husband and I were taken through numerous scripted test procedures which finally, at 10.30 after THREE and a HALF wasted hours, and six different operators, we were apparently elevated to Level 2 and someone will ring us back.

They can't. The phone is out now too. So we are isolated, marooned, with no contact with the outside world. If this gets to you it will be via a jungle drum chain of friends and family.

There is no excuse for the appalling service Australians receive from their national carrier. There is no reason why each and every call should take a minimum of one hour, there is no reason for the incompetence of their staff and the inability to use initiative, deviate from the script, or even listen to the question or the answers they are being given. And Australians have a right to expect that the huge fees they pay for the privilege of communication, will provide Australians with jobs, will help Australian families, will assist the Australian economy and unemployment figures. Why are we propping up Asian economies?

Last week Telstra said that service will improve under offshore call centre operation. How? Not one person we spoke to on Saturday night either knew or cared about the natural disaster we were experiencing. There was no empathy, apology for the ineptness of previous operators or sense of accountability, responsibility or ownership. Just apathy, disinterest, and relentless ineptness.

The state of our national carrier's so called customer service is no laughing matter. Lift your game, Telstra, lift it fast and forget about off shore processing, we want our calls answered in Australia, by Australians. And, by golly, we want you to address yourself to a less scripted, more intuitive, more compassionate, humane and results based customer management procedure. The brief is to fix, not further frustrate.

Oh and by the way, the Tower WAS down . . . I shall send Telstra a bill for our time. I suggest others do the same. Maybe if they saw just how much their appalling customer service was costing them by disgruntled Australians sick of the wait times, they would shape up, rather than ship out.

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About the Author

Sophie Love has been involved in the advertising and media industries since the 1980's 'greed is good' heydays. British by birth, but Australian by choice, she is passionate about this beautiful sunburnt continent and re-connecting Australians to their literal roots - where their food comes from. She runs a farm, a family, and a marketing/design agency. In her free time (!) she likes to put pen to paper and share her thoughts about a wide variety of issues and modern day dilemmas. You can read more at

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