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Are small businesses getting a raw deal from Australian telcos?

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The majority of small businesses pay a premium for their telecommunications services, opting for business grade rather than cheaper residential offerings, but the service they receive does not reflect the premium pricing, according to market research firm, Market Clarity.

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Under a research project funded by a grant from the Australian Communications Consumer’s Action Network (ACCAN), Market Clarity interviewed 260 businesses with less than 20 staff, spread across 14 industry segments, on their experiences with fixed voice, VoIP, fixed broadband, mobile voice, mobile broadband and EFTPOS services.

Commenting on the research findings, ACCAN said many organisations appeared to be confused when dealing with telecommunications carriers, were often unable to distinguish between consumer-grade and business-grade services and were frustrated at complaints resolution processes.

Common issues included ongoing response times to fix problems, English language communication problems, overseas call centres, unresolved issues, navigating automated systems / reaching a human, not getting through to someone who can help and being passed between departments.

However what really reveals the problems faced by small businesses are not the statistics, but the numerous free-form comments provided by respondents on their experiences. According to Market Clarity, “Their stories provide a compelling narrative of the small business experience... By paying a premium for business services, there is an implicit understanding that, as a business customer, they would enjoy a higher level of customer support. As evidenced by respondent comments, this is not always the case.”

Market Clarity observed that, despite charging premium prices for business services, the distinctions used to justify these premium prices were rarely spelt out. “Questions remain as to the precise definition of a business grade service, and how it might vary by provider,” Market Clarity said.

“For example, what are the service level agreements (SLAs) that apply to business grade services, and how do they differ from a provider’s residential service? Are separate customer service areas allocated to business customers? Are account managers allocated to business customers?”

ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, pointed out that telcos’ failures to deal expeditiously with customer issues had a particularly serious impact on a small business. “It is frequently the owner or a senior employee who is forced to spend time on resolving these issues; the smaller the business, the greater the impact."

She said that complaints from small businesses accounted for almost 14 percent (27,000) of all complaints received by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in 2012, and that the number had grown 18 percent since 2011.

M5Networks

M5 Networks Australia are experts in business VoIP and softphone technology with over 10 years experience providing flexible office phones as an alternative to the traditional PABX. The only business phone company will need from the most experienced VoIP Business Phone providers. Contact the experts today.

About M5Networks

M5 Networks Australia are experts in business VoIP and softphone technology with over 10 years experience providing flexible office phones as an alternative to the traditional PABX. The only business phone company will need from the most experienced VoIP Business Phone providers. Contact the experts today.