A woman uses her mobile phone as she walks past in front of an Optus shop in Sydney, Australia, February 8, 2018.
A woman uses her mobile phone as she walks past in front of an Optus shop in Sydney, Australia, February 8, 2018. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Optus has warned staff that they would be sacked if they made customers unhappy. Telco CEO Allen Lew has reportedly given employees an ultimatum after receiving 35 percent surge in complaints.

Sydney Morning Herald reports that the last two TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) meetings, where Mr Lew speaks to hundreds of staff in person and via live-streams weekly, had seen him furiously warning employees to improve their customer relations skills.

“The customer is why we exist. If you make customers unhappy, you will be sacked,” he apparently told employees, according to a staff member.

“At Optus, there is only one boss: not me, the customer.”

Mr Lew was said to be reacting from the data released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman a couple of weeks ago. According to the TIO, there had been 40,665 issues brought to the ombudsman’s attention in the last financial year.

In comparison, Telstra had a 7.7 percent increase in complaints, while TPG Telecom and Vodafone Hutchison Australia had improved their numbers on a year-on-year basis. MyRepublic, a smaller telco, was the only one that had a bigger increase in complaints than Optus, and it was probably because the provider had recently launched and now has many more customers than before.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has also commenced proceedings against Optus for allegedly making false or misleading representations over its third-party billing service called Direct Carrier Billing. The ACCC had also filed a similar case against Telstra, which had been ordered to pay $10 million in penalties.

Reacting to both news, Lew is reportedly now encouraging staff to use the company’s independently-run whistleblower hotline to report their colleagues whom they believed to have been upsetting customers. The phone line is usually for employees reporting instances of fraud, corruption and unethical conduct, SMH reports.

Optus VP of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan explained that Mr Lew was just “passionate” about customer service.

“Allen expects every Optus employee to be clear that we are all answerable to our customers, and that we are all responsible for delivering exceptional customer experience, not just those interacting with customers through stores and call centres,” he said.

However, Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia (CEPU) Communications Union national president Shane Murphy called Mr Lew’s comments as “outrageous.” He said that Optus customers were unhappy, not because of staff, but because the telco was more focused on axing jobs and threatening staff rather than improving services.