Spark! This Is A Totally Unworkable Situation for Anyone


The service standards at “Spark” – New Zealand’s not-so-aptly named national telecommunications provider – continue their downward spiral.

Last week I received an account showing an overdue amount . . . an amount I’d already, in fact, paid.

At the same time, I received another account from Spark . . . an account saying, “no need to pay anything”, and showing a credit for the amount I’d paid.

Two invoices: One showing an overdue amount, and one in credit for the same amount.

So today I bite the bullet at what I expect will be the normal unnecessarily lengthy and frustrating exercise New Zealanders have come to expect from their not overly sparky telco.

On my first attempt, after the usual round of ads for phone apps etc, I was directed by an automated voice message to “request a call back”. I did, and was mechanically advised that I would “receive a call back later today”. No indication of whether said call-back might be within five minutes or five hours.

So – let’s think about this. That means I have to stay within earshot of the phone, and stay off it, for the rest of the day, in hopeful wait for the “call back”.

Not an option, as far as I’m concerned. So I decided to see what would happen if I tried the 123 “customer service” (the broadest possible definition thereof) again.

This time, as you’ll hear from the recording, there was no call-back option offered. I was just put straight on hold. But . . . this time, an expected timeframe was given: “Current hold time is greater than two hours.”

So . . . let’s get this right: Spark’s management thinks Spark’s customers have nothing better to do than sit on hold for “more than two hours” (and, precisely how much longer than two hours would that be?) in the hope that someone will finally answer their call.

Is it just me, or do other phone users have something better to do with their Monday afternoon than sit with their phone to their ear listening to banal on-hold music for some period “greater than two hours”?

Spark Management, What Gives?

What gives, Spark top brass? Would it be perfectly OK in your world, if you were made to sit for a period “greater than two hours” in your offices, with your phone to your ear, able to do nothing with the rest of your work day than listen to someone else’s choice of music? To say nothing of the fact that – for a cell phone user – there are health implications associated with sitting with a microwave-emitting device stuck to the side of one’s head for 2+ hours?

PS:  I finally got a “call-back” from the first exercise. It came approximately six hours after the request.

From New Zealand's 'The Main Report':

Don’t Let Frontline Staff Do This

According to the editorial team of ‘The Main Report’ (New Zealand’s long-standing “business newsletter”), an organisation’s frontline staff should NEVER make any of these three statements to a customer:

  • “It’s our policy.” The purpose of this is to simply to shut someone down, TMR’s editors say.
  • “There’s nothing I can do.” There’s always something you can do, they challenge.
  • “It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility.” Your customer has a relationship with you, not your supplier, the editors point out.

Phone Companies: The Most Infuriatingly Uncontactable Utility


There can be no doubt that, of all the utilities types, phone companies are – and have always been – those that demonstrate the greatest disrespect for their customers’ time and stress tolerance levels.

I am currently trying valiantly – without success through any channel (phone, live chat, email) – to make contact with Spark (the relatively new but definitely not apt name for what was Telecom New Zealand) and Telstra Australia.

Read and comment

You’re Only As Good As Your Suppliers


After waxing lyrical about Spark’s great “save” (see my post about my five-year struggle for a reliable landline) courtesy of the very proficient staff member from its “Customer Capability” team, the goodwill is fast going out the door again, thanks to Chorus / Downer.

One of the aspects of the solution offered by the switched-on Jonah from this “special forces” division of Spark, was to install a second, back-up line at no charge (i.e. I’d get the installation for free, but of course pay the monthly rental on it). Given the very significant installation fee I would have otherwise incurred, I was delighted.

Read and comment

Be Savvy With Your Information

One of my real hobby horse issues is privacy . . . of which each of us has very little left, and certainly far less than we assume.

As always, I urge readers to think twice about the necessity for disclosing their personal information to any organisation – public or private – before they simply plop it into the fields of online forms and the like.

Assumptions that an individual can take at face value – and rely upon the supposed integrity of – broad-brush assurances that “your information will be kept in the strictest confidence”, are naive.

Read and comment

‘Your Call Will Be Recorded for “Quality & Training” Purposes’

Firstly . . . bullshit. If your call was being recorded for “quality and training” purposes, with the volume of customer calls that are recorded each day, there’d be a lot better-trained call centre operators, with a lot better manners, offering more efficient service than is my regular experience.

So, a strong word to those organisations and agencies that feel the need to record every word spoken by their (paying) customers:  Let’s have a bit more honesty, eh?

Read and comment

Customer 'LTV':

An Eye-Opener for the Ignorant

“Customer Lifetime Value” (“LTV”) is a principle of formal marketing that took a lot longer than it should have, to receive active consideration by today’s consumer-driven industries.

Despite its fundamentality, “LTV” is, in my opinion, still given insufficient (and more often, scant or no) serious attention.

Read and comment

The True Stakeholder Experience:

Do CEOs Have Any Idea of The Experience Their Customers Are Having?

Do CEOs and other senior management executives really know what’s happening out there “on the ground”? And how important is it that they do, anyway?

As contentious as it may be, I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that CEOs and other C-suite executives often know very little of what goes on in their businesses “out there” at “street” and stakeholder level.

Read and comment

Thought for the Day


In today’s era of call centres, phone queues and super-smart technology, any organisation too tight and insufficiently respectful of its customers’ time to employ “Time In Queue” or “Position in Queue” announcement software doesn’t deserve to have customers.

The ROI of Listening:

Patience & Selflessness Pay Off

If you want to be smarter, sharper, and enjoy stronger client relationships, simply listen more – and listen more intently.

According to David Mezzapelle, author of ‘Contagious Optimism’:

“When you listen, you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts.”

Read and comment