Opinion

Blimey. I don’t hate Telstra any more

telstra_pinkAbout once a year, I get a phone call from a market researcher. They want to know what I think of Australia’s telcos.

They never say who they’re conducting the research on behalf of, but as most of the questions relate to Telstra, I assume I’ve stumbled onto some database of so-called opinion formers.

Every year I take perhaps too much pleasure in telling them just how dreadful I think Telstra is.  

You see, I arrived in the country about five years ago, at the point the company was arguably at its worse under the Sol Trujillo reign.

As a punter, I honestly thought that after experiencing the customer service of Etisalat in Dubai, I’d never come across a worst telco in the world. But in my early days of attempting to connect to the Internet via Telstra’s Bigpond, I rapidly reassessed.

The staff member who angrily ticked me off when I finally got through just before 6pm, complaining that I was going to make him stay late after I’d spent 40 minutes waiting for the phone to be answered, was a particularly memorable moment. Suffice to say I developed a healthy hatred for the brand, enhanced with every interaction with surly staff or service failure.

Sometimes it was quite hard to be unbiased when writing about them.

But I noticed a few weeks ago that something had sneaked up on me. I’ve started to quite like the Telstra brand.

In part it may may be simply down to better consumer experience. I reluctantly switched my mobile to Telstra after my Optus handset was unable to deliver reception either at my office or home. It turns out that Next G is good as Telstra claims.

And it helped when they killed off small business man Ern. As a part owner of a small business myself, it’s nice that they no longer talk to me like I’m a fucking idiot. (And over the years there has been a lot of bad Telstra advertising).

But the moment I became conscious of it, was when I walked past a billboard on York Street in Sydney the other day. There was no amazing copy writing. Simply the message that customer service was now 24/7. Based on my previous experiences, that poster cut through because it had what to me as a punter was a piece of real and relevant news. And I realised I didn’t hate them any more.

Now comes the brand refresh.

Inevitably the new logo will be slagged off. They always are.

Inevitably the cost of the refresh will be slagged off. It always is.

And I’m not a fan of all of the copywriting in today’s print element of the relaunch. The phrase “imagine dowloading your media at even greater speeds and then being able to enjoy it from a completely connected living environment,” isn’t quite the everyday English they’re promising. When did you last tell someone, “I’m just popping into the study to download my media”?

But it still feels like this is a brand that is turning the corner. The actual product seems to genuinely be improving. And having something new to talk about is the biggest gift that a marketer, or ad agency, can ask.

I’m actually quite looking forward to when I get this year’s call from the market research lady.

Tim Burrowes

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