Telstra has announced a boost in the support it offers customers in regional, remote and outer-metro areas by increasing the number of local on-the-ground experts as well as boosting support for community organisations and events.
"Put simply, our Connected Communities program means more boots on the ground in regional Australia," says Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn.
"We will double the number of locally-based regional engagement managers to work with their communities to improve the customer experience, provide information about coverage, performance and management of outages and build connectivity literacy and digital capability," he says.
"We will triple the number of highly-experienced regional network advisors to work with customers to address complex network issues to help our network work as hard as possible for our customers."
For the first time, the company will appoint a remote community advocate, responsible for monitoring the performance of the network, communicating recovery times to impacted communities, and responding to the needs of these communities.
The remote community advocate will be part of a new Telstra Customer Advocate Council to report directly to Penn.
"This Council will ensure our regional, rural and remote customers have an even louder voice at the table," he says.
"The Council members will also include our chief customer advocate, chief First Nations advocate and our chief regional advocate."
As part of the Telstra Connected Communities program, Telstra will also triple its annual investment in community engagement activities and support organisations such as chambers of commerce and other local groups.
The program will also see the company collaborate closely with NBN Local to improve digital inclusion and community technology solutions as well as partner on emergency response and preparedness.
This comes on top of recent initiatives to improve customer service including:
- Customer calls being answered in Australia by the end of June this year, with recruitment for Australian-based contact centre agents well underway.
- Increasing agents trained in regional connectivity issues to help answer calls from customers located more than 100km from a Telstra store. This is in addition to the First Nations Connect contact centre in Darwin.
- Bringing all local retail stores back under Telstra ownership to give customers a better integrated experience in store and online.
Telstra also welcomed the Federal Government;s investments, announced last week, in response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (RTIRC) report.
Telstra will invest $75 million from the part sale of the Telstra InfraCo Towers business to address some of the recommendations made by the RITRC report. This is on top of $200 million over four years for co-investments with governments and local communities that will extend regional coverage, including expanding 4G and 5G coverage in regional Australia by 100,000 square kilometres by June 2025.
Telstra has also committed $150 million to improve regional mobile network customer experience. This includes addressing areas of network congestion by upgrading over 180 3G sites, augmenting capacity at selected 4G sites with high traffic, and further 4G site optimisations to better balance 3G/4G traffic and address localised customer demand
Penn says that Connected Communities and the ongoing investment in infrastructure showed Telstra was working to build the connectivity that all Australians needed to keep pace with the evolving digital economy, regardless of where they live or work.
"Every regional, rural and remote community in Australia is unique and we understand that there is no one size fits all approach," he says.
"By having the right support on the ground, continually investing to upgrade our network, and responding to the connectivity needs of all Australians we continue to show our support for regional communities."