Telstra Fails to Deliver on Pre-Paid Mobile Services

  • PR & Promotions: 5/5
  • Ease of purchase: 5/5
  • Phone Activation 1/5
  • Web usability: 1/5

The Story of a New Pre-Paid Customer
Last week I bought a Pre-Paid SIM card at Coles from Telstra. In theory it is a great service. Simply buy a SIM card over the counter. In just a few minutes you can have a card installed in your phone, receive text messages and phone calls, and call emergency numbers.

If you need to ring or text anyone else, you need to buy credit. It is very easy, with credit accessible via ATM, online, and a range of supermarkets and other convenient stores purchased over the counter. But wait! Don’t expect to activate your credit on a weekend.

If you try the BPay service available at St George Bank as I did, your cash transfer won’t be approved via their online system until the next business day. Hoping to add some credit late Friday night for the coming 3-day long weekend? Sorry, you’ll just need to wait until the next business day on the following Tuesday.

Well, don’t let the online banking system get you down: Telstra has a whole range of other alternatives to keep you on the go. Say…a pre-paid credit purchased at Coles. All you need to do is ring the number on your receipt, punch in the voucher number and your credit it ready to use.

Problem is, despite being able to buy it on the weekend, this weekend (24-26 April) the phone activation system can’t help you. It tells you to go to their website to complete the activation…or ring the SAME NUMBER as you just rang for help.

Mmm…phone networks can be tricky things to run, especially automated activation systems. I mean, they need to enjoy the long weekend too! So I tried Telstra’s online activation system, where you need to register before you can login to activate your pre-paid credit. But guess what? As soon as you type in your number and details and click to submit…you get an error message with advice: please ring us and quote this error message.

Ah, I’m beginning to see the pattern. So I did as I was told and rang the number, which strangely seemed to get redirected to a message that told me my request couldn’t be handled at the moment, but I could once again call the SAME NUMBER or visit the website for support.

So in despair, I am left waiting for Tuesday, hoping someone at St George Bank will clear my BPay cash transfer (manually??), and that Telstra will switch on their phone activation system, and that the webmaster at the Telstra website will come back from holiday feeling motivated to fix a bug in their submission process that is spitting out ERROR messages to all those unfortunate customers hoping to activate their mobile phones.

Meanwhile I have $40 worth of virtual credit floating around somewhere unable to be used.

TKS Telstra! You’re the best.

Post Script

27 April: the very friendly Rosa at Telstra customer support helped me activate my account and credit my pre-paid mobile phone with my purchased value. But it needn’t have got that far.

In order to add credit to your phone, you first need to activate your new phone. And to activate your phone, you first need to register an account online. Yet the registration process would not recognize my street name…and confused it directly with another street in the same suburb. “Must be a computer glitch,” said Rosa.

After clicking “this is not my address” I was kicked out of the process and told that my street didn’t match the telstra database. Hopefully, Telstra’s cable and phone installers aren’t using the website database for rolling out new services down Australia’s streets.

So how do you activate your phone when you can’t register it? Well, you hang online until you are answered by customer support. That can take 15 minutes when the system is undergoing “unusual demand” as in my case; that’s after shifting through endless layers of options to choose which service you want, then which sub-program you want to subscribe to. In the end you are passed to a customer support person to help with the process anyway.

Happily, I now have my pre-paid phone activated, with credit added, and a complaint registered in the system (apparently).

TKS Rosa!


Surprise Call from Telstra Support

28 April: Today, Danielle from Telstra called. She wanted to know if my phone was working okay and if my pre-paid credit was working. She helped check if my BPay payment had been made and confirmed that my pre-paid credit had been added to my account.

Amazing to receive such service, considering how difficult it is to find clear instructions on how to activate a new pre-paid SIM card, and reach a support representative by phone or the internet.

TKS Telstra!


 Customer support 2.5/5


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