Quantum Gardener

Customer experience is dead -- long live customer experience

My wife and I are in the market for new phones. She has an iPhone 6 that drops calls every 5 minutes and I have an iPhone 6S Plus which is now 5 years old. We had planned to go to the local Telstra store this morning but with a new lockdown upon us, new phones don't classify as an essential reason to be out of the house.

Since we can't go shopping, I went online instead last night. For years now I have been a advocate of using Telstra's live chat instead of hanging around on a phone. The ability to run the conversation in parallel with whatever else I'm doing, preciseness around detail (typed instead of verbalised, sending product links, etc.) and the ability to download evidence of the conversation are all plus points for chat.

Customer experience is dead

Last night's chat with Telstra was hell.

No longer can I start a live chat over the website. I have to use the phone app. It's not easy to find the way you need to start a chat and when I did, was greeted with a message that I was a "Gold Member Support" apparently implying a higher level of service. I expect the first "Bronze Member Support" call is still going.

Two and a half hours and all I had managed was to eventually get the customer service operator to confirm I could not buy a phone outright and use my current plan (because I didn't want a new, more expensive one).

The call started at 5:35 pm.

5:55 pm - [Telstra] Sure, I will help you in this. May I know which phone you would like to purchase?

5:59 pm - [Me] - iPhone 12 64gb blue, iPhone 12 mini 64gb red, 24 month purchase, keep existing plans

Note, I've for the first time indicated I want to keep my exisitng plan.

6:00 pm - [Telstra] Let me look into this and I will get back to you with in [sic] 15 minutes. If you have your notifications turned on, you will get one as soo as I reply. Is that ok fir [sic] you?

6:00 pm - [Me] Yes.

6:33 pm - [Me] 15 minutes?

6:35 pm - [Telstra] I really apologise for the delay. I appreciate your patience.

And with that last message I'm then sent through a couple of links to check we are on the same page with the phones.

7:04 pm - [Me] We are now 90 mins for what should be a 5-10 minute transaction.

No response.

7:23 pm - [Me] Can I buy new phone from Telstra and keep my existing plan?

7:23 pm - [Telstra] I really apologize fo the delay. I appreciate your patience. I have find couple of lnks for you please go through it at the bottom you can find add plan select the plan which suit... (and then the same links as before)

Hey, haven't I already said I want to keep the same plan twice now.

7:24 pm - [Me] Must I choose a new plan that's more expensive than I need. Can I keep my old plan

7:27 pm - [Telstra] - Please select the one which is more suitable for you, thank you.

7:28 pm - [Me] - So I have to choose a new plan?

7:31 pm - [Telstra] - Yes, you can choose a new plan, apart from this is there anything else you need my assistance for. Thank you? [sic]

At least we are on roll with respsonses now, even if they show the Telstra representative is not reading my replies.

7:32 pm - [Me] I DO NOT WANT a new plan. If I buy from Apple can I transfer my number accross?

7:40 pm - [Telstra] I meant that you want to buy a mobile from Apple and use new Telstra sim in it, I'm I correct?

That's not quite what I want, which is to use my exisiting SIM, not a new one. Anyway, another two minutes later, they decide I can use the SIM and they are "glad we were able to get it sorted for you... Take care and have a great day!" (downside of all chat is the overuse of !)

7:46 pm - [Me] - Thank you. I'm sure it's Telstra's fault but this was the worst chat experience I've had ever.

Remember, I have been an advocate of Telstra chat for years but with the move to in-app and the speed of this, plus not reading what was written has turned me off it.

Long live customer experience

At 7:26 pm, as I was stil trying to impress upon Telstra that I didn't want a new plan, I opened a browser chat window with Apple.

Some background first. The price for the phones from Telstra and Apple were identical. Telstra offered a two year device purchase plan with no markup on the phone for that duration, but in the end required me to spend $20 more on a mobile plan with a minimum capacity I didn't need. Apple offered %0 finance over two years. I initialy went with Telstra because I thought that would be easier.

Total time to purchase with April from Apple was 45 mins. I have a download of the chat but won't share it here because it has personal inforamtion in it. However, it was a totally different conversation.

  • April immediately checked that I was eligible for the 0% finance
  • We chatted about how we were purchasing each other new phones for Valentine's day just because that sounded better than "We want new phones."
  • She offered Apple Care and when declined offered cases instead and sent links. When I declined those was perfectly fine with it.
  • Checked and confirmed delivery dates before ordering
  • Placed order and explained what would happen next

Apple had a completely different experience from Telstra and because of that I feel better about the purchase. Had I eventually bought from Telstra off the back of that conversation it would have left a bitter taste.


Listening is important. Multiple times in the Telstra call I was clear I did not want a new plan yet the responses suggest that was not being listened to. Had they been listened to, the chat would have been done in 10 minutes max. All of my bad customer experience are where I felt I've not been listened to. I get that people want to sell, but I won't buy what I don't want. I also understand that if you don't have want I want, I can't buy it from you. Listening to my concerns cuts through all of that and we can walk away having treated each other well.