Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More BT

I thought about just adding a comment on the bottom of my last post to update the situation but then I thought I might just keep typing and it would probably justify a new post... let's find out... cover me, I'm going in...

[EDITED TO ADD: this did indeed turn out to be a huge long ramble of a post. The short version is that the fault was fixed after 5 days but only because I managed to e-mail the CEO of BT who - to his credit - took action and got a top trouble-shooter on the job. I believe the system that's in place at the call centres should have resolved the issue in a day or two but that the staff are ridiculously ill-trained. Managers at the call-centre were no more competent than the front line and they blatantly ignored company-policy on several occasions... the long version is below... enter if you dare...]


Tunnel, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.



So... the first thing to say is that I'm now back with my broadband connection. I don't know what the problem was exactly but I do know that it should have been fixed sooner. I spent two days with no connection and three days with a next to useless dial-up connection... that's two days standing besides the information superhighway with my thumb out and then three days sitting in the passenger seat of the beaten up milk float that came to my aid. It wasn't nice. I don't want to go back.

Here are a few snippets of information.
I kept hearing the following phrase:
"Your case has been escalated to the complex faults team but due to a system error the task has failed."

I kept asking the helpdesk staff to explain what this ridiculous sentence meant. On every single occasion, they just repeated the phrase as if repeated listening would make its meaning transparent. Then, when locked in a two-hour+ conversation with one of them and having long reached a state of tetherlessness I started trying to break it down.
"What is the system? What is the error? What is the task and how has it failed?" I asked.
"Due to a system error the task has failed."
"Yes. But I don't know what that means. I need you to explain the words to me. What task has failed?"

Guess what? What it meant was: we've sent a message to the engineers but due to a cock up, the message hasn't got through.

In short, their department was doing nothing because they thought the engineers were dealing with it and the engineers were doing nothing about it because nobody had told them about the problem in the first place. Apparently this was the situation for the first twelve hours... so the first half day was wasted doing nothing.

Of course if they'd had to say, "we failed to pass the message on" it would be like admitting they'd cocked up which, um, they had... and that would involve having to apologise and stuff and it's probably far easier to make it sound like some diagnostic test has let them down by saying, "due to a system error the task has failed"... isn't it?

My other highlight/lowlight is as follows. Each time I spoke to someone on the help desk they would start by scanning through the notes on their system and then say something like:
"I see you have an intermittent loss of service, Mr Gorman...?"
"No," would say I, "I have no service at all..."
"Really? It says here that it's an intermittent fault..."
"Well it isn't... it's a complete loss of connection. Just like I told the last person. And the person before that... and now you."

Then they'd make me perform the same tests as the last person and then they'd conclude that there was indeed no connection and then they'd tell me that the engineers were aware of the fault. Or not. Depending on whether the task had failed or not at that time.

On the fourth day I was speaking to one of the help desk managers and he suddenly said:
"Oh no... what's happened here is that someone's entered the wrong code for your case..."
"What do you mean?"
"It says here you have an intermittent fault..."
"I know... I keep telling you that it isn't..."
"Someone should have changed the code... the engineers won't be able to fix this because they're looking for the wrong thing..."

Four days. Four sodding days. At this point I was thinking about buying a car just so I could hunt Kris Marshall down. At least I would have done if it hadn't been for the assistance of one of you...

In the comments left on my last post someone (perhaps wisely remaining anonymous) said that they worked for BT and then provided me with e-mail addresses for Steve Robertson, the boss of OpenReach (the part of BT that deals with their infrastructure) and Ian Livingston, the Chief Executive Officer of BT... he's been in the job for about two months.

I wrote an e-mail to Steve Robertson. I tried to keep it concise and polite. I tried not to rant about the small details - I'm sure they hear about helpdesk incompetence all the time - so instead I tried to focus on constructive suggestions (why not offer dial-up as a matter of course? how about usb-dongle-modems for longer cases?) while also detailing a couple of specific failings - not of the helpdesk staff but of the helpdesk system.

I didn't think there was much chance of a reply but for the hell of it I cc'd the top dog, Ian Livingston as well.

The e-mail to Steve Robertson bounced back telling me that the domain openreach.com didn't exist. So I tried .co.uk instead. That bounced back telling me there was no such user. Oh well. But - and I'm genuinely surprised by this - Ian Livingston did write back. Or at least someone using his e-mail address did. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was him. I don't think it's fair to directly quote any correspondence but the gist of it was that most of their broadband issues are sorted quickly, that the suggestion regarding dial-up would be passed on but that the usb-modem suggestion was probably too costly.

I was about to write back to suggest that if the majority of their broadband issues were sorted out really quickly the cost of the usb-modems shouldn't be prohibitive because they'd only have be used in a tiny number of cases... but when I looked at the clock I realised I didn't have time to write that e-mail. Someone from the call centre had promised to call me about half an hour earlier and - as happened every time they promised to call - they'd failed to do so... so I picked up the phone, took a deep breath and launched myself once more into the abyss.

This phone call began with someone telling me that I had an intermittent fault. After ten minutes of pointless conversation I asked to be put through to a manager... who then told me that I had an intermittent fault before going back to square one and repeating the questions that I'd already heard from his colleague...
"Who do I complain to when your department fails to do its job?" I asked.
"I'm a complaints manager," said he.
"Well you're not trying to solve the problem," I said. "You're just giving me the same pointless answers as everyone else... can I please speak to your supervisor."
"I'm a complaints manager."
"Yes, but I don't think you're doing a very good job and I want to complain about you." This was met with silence so I continued. "You must have a boss, right?"
"Mr Gorman, I'm a complaints manager."
"Please just answer the question... do you have a boss?"
"Yes."
"Then can you please put me through to your boss...?"
"I'll just put you on hold." SILENCE. "Thank you for your patience, I'm afraid I am your last port of call."
"But I want to speak to your boss."
"There is no phone number for that. I can't put you through because there's no number."
"Then please ask your boss to come to your phone. That's who I want to speak to."
"I'm your last port of call."
"Please put me through to your supervisor."
"I'm your last port of call."
"Please put me through to your supervisor."
"I'm your last port of call."
"Please put me through to your supervisor."
"I'm your last port of call."
... and so on for a full two or three minutes (I kid you not) before I eventually gave in and put the phone down.

I had a cup of tea and then called again. I got through to a different man - another complaints manager. This conversation stretched to over two hours and it was this conversation that ended up revealing that vital four-day-wrong-code fact.

When this call ended (with the manager promising to call me back later... guess what... it didn't happen) I unplugged my phone and launched the slow, buzzy whirrs that set me limping on to the internet. And then I wrote my reply to the Chief Executive of British Telecom... replying to his points... and then adding the freshly minted information that his staff had spent four days not dealing with my problem at all because they'd failed to diagnose it in the first place.

I don't know if this last e-mail tipped things over the edge or whether the process was already in motion... what I do know is that about three hours later I received a call on my mobile from a man called Chris who told me he was one of BT's Business Improvement Specialists. Ian had called him and told him to fix things. I reckon that when the CEO wants something fixed he speaks to someone with a bit more clout than those I'd been dealing with... Chris was the first person I spoke to who appeared to know what he was talking about.

I don't understand the technical details but he told me that he'd had the engineers dismantle my account and then rebuild it from scratch and that it seemed to have sorted out the problems. It was now possible to log in remotely... but the real test would only come when I tried to log in at home... something I wasn't in a position to try until this evening... when it failed. But Chris had given me his mobile number and in less than ten minutes it was working. Hurrah.

Here's the thing though. I asked Chris if there was anything he'd done that couldn't have been done on day one... he paused... and then told me there wasn't. I think he was able to speak to more qualified engineers more quickly but he assured me that the tools he'd used were all available to the call-centre staff who should have known how to use them...

He wanted to know more about the problems I'd faced. I explained it all. Apparently the company policy is that every case that isn't solved within 48 hours should be automatically escalated. This obviously wasn't done in this case. Apparently it should always be possible to take a case to a higher authority... but no matter how hard I tried it simply wasn't. (Except of course by e-mailing the CEO... and I can't help thinking that everyone involved would prefer it if I could go just one stage higher instead of going straight to the top dog.)

Somewhere there's a team of experts who are meant to be called in whenever a case reaches 48 hours... but as not one of the less qualified staff I spoke to decided to escalate my case even after 96 hours (and I think that includes speaking to 4 managers) it's impossible to imagine this crack squad of engineers actually doing anything. They have their best people sitting on their thumbs while an army of less qualified people sit feeling harassed and exhibiting various blends of disruptive/incompetent and dishonest behaviour.

Apparently "due to a system error the task has failed" is the wording they see on their screen... but they know what it means and they aren't trained to just read the words like a script... or at least they're not supposed to be. And they should have just picked up the phone and passed the message on to the right people instead of just accepting that it hadn't got through and they should have...

Actually, there was a long list of 'they should have's and I genuinely believe that Chris wasn't just saying what he thought I wanted to hear. I'm left with the impression that if their staff followed the correct procedures my problem would have been fixed sooner. Possibly within a day and certainly within two. But I simply don't believe that I got unlucky and ended up speaking to the least able of their staff because I just spoke to too many people and there were too many managers amongst them for that. I didn't get a few rotten apples... the whole system is screwed up. It's obvious that the department isn't adequately trained and/or funded. The correct procedures have been worked out... but nobody's managed to make sure they're actually followed.

I think it's because the vast majority of calls to IT helpdesks probably start with user error. If 95% of calls come from people who've forgotten to plug their computers in then the very basic procedures that are laid out for the helpdesk staff will solve all those problems in minutes. If you were a statistician monitoring that department and you saw that they solved 95% of their problems in a matter of minutes you'd think they were doing a bloody good job.

But what about the 5% of calls from people who have a genuine complaint? Based on my experience they haven't got a hope of having their problems fixed. The call centre staff seem to be stuck in a rut where they will do anything except pass the problem on to an engineer. Of course they're stuck in a rut... they spend 95% of their time telling people to press the 'on' button... the poor souls must be bored out of their minds. How are they supposed to suddenly up their game for that 5% of calls where someone has an actual fault to deal with?

It might look like a really successful department that deals with 95% of problems really well... but in reality it's a woefully inadequate department that fails to deal with 100% of actual complaints.

I can't help thinking there should be a two-tier system in place. Let them have their call-centre and let them locate it wherever in the world they want. Let that call-centre be the first port-of-call for customers... but let that call centre deal only with those calls relating to user-error. The moment it becomes clear that it's not such a case and that the caller is reporting a real somethings-gone-wrong fault they should be put through to a new, more highly trained department. That way, skilled staff aren't wasting time telling idiots that they're monitor is facing the wall and the less technically gifted staff aren't wasting customer's time by telling them that system errors are responsible for tasks failing. Or something.

Anyway... it's a mixed bag of a result. I'm surprised and not a little impressed with Ian Livingston. Whether it was him who replied or not, the fact that someone is monitoring that e-mail account and responding so promptly and politely is to be applauded. Chris was fantastic, proactive and suitably embarrassed by the obviously systemic failure of the department to do what they're supposed to do... He assured me that lessons were being learned as a result. Perhaps I'm naive to believe him... but I don't think so.

Besides, what's the point in being cynical when someone does do and say the right thing? I'm not pretending that everything's now okay just because I've had my problems fixed (and my time and inconvenience sort of compensated for - I should have asked for more).

The helpdesk system that's in place is obviously still a crock. But I really do think that they intend to change things for the better. I wonder how long it will take? I wonder if it will happen at all? I wonder if the problem is caused by a lack of proper investment or management? Or a bit of both? I wonder if they'll be prepared to make the necessary changes. Especially if they cost money. I do believe the right people want the right things to happen... but that doesn't mean they will.

And I wonder if I'm in the wrong game... I should be in business consultancy and BT should be paying me a fortune to overhaul their call centres...

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

When you phone a utility to complain, or for any other reason, does the person on the other end ever ask you, "Are you THE Dave Gorman? Or a namesake?" (PS. I saw a man that looked just like you last weekend in the Nag's Head.)

rikkus said...

Dave Gorman: The last man in the UK to discover that BT are incompetent.

Stephen said...

I dread call centres. You only discover how good or bad a company is when something goes wrong and you have to speak to customer services.

Unfortunately it's not just BT. I work for The Man, and have been in several large and medium seized companies over the last 12 years. I'm constantly amazed by how poorly organised things are and how ever company seems to get by by the seat of their pants.

Shouldn't be a surprise I suppose. Everywhere is just full of flawed people who might, for example, read comedian's blogs while at work.

It makes it a real joy when you do actually get decent customer service though.

On the internets, I've found:
LoveFilm = bad customer service
Photobox = generally good service (barring a few hiccups recently)

Biz King said...

You only got the problem sorted because you had Ian Livingston's email address.

What about us mere mortals, how do we get it?

Loved the acidic statements of the obviously obvious to the call centre staff though it isn't their fault they aren't skilled enough to help properly.

Now here is an idea for a different blog post (in your role as an investigative comedy guru!) . . .

Try having no phone line or internet and then try calling an 0870 style helpline number on your mobile and having the same conversations with the same staff . . . .
Then see how much money THEY make out of YOU for THEIR systems being faulty! Sounds like a bit of a setup doesn't it? They make extra money out of you if their stuff breaks . . . sounds like the bad old days of British Leyland doesn't it?
I'm going to scream . . . . .
AAAAAAAAAGH !!!!!!!!!!

Ah, I feel better now . . .
:O)
cheers

Biz

Anonymous said...

I think what scares me most about this is the awful sense of deja vu. I spent five days trying to get BT to fix my business broadband service about two years back, and was told after two days that there was an error in the system that meant the fault could not be reported to the technical team and would have to wait until their error logging systema was fixed. After three days the same problem. Only after five days and me actually proceeding to close my account did the system magically get sorted out and I spoke to an engineer who fixed the problem in ten minutes. So, is their software the least reliable error logging system in the world or is it a handy excuse to cover a policy of "leave it a few days and the line fault will probably fix itself"? Oh, and yes I had to go through their line test process a dozen times too - including a day when that system was apparently not working either!

Anonymous said...

Dave,

It's the Anon who did the CEO contacting suggestion - glad it seemed to help at least a bit.

For people who need to know the CEO of Openreach's email address is:

steve.j.robertson@bt.com

Cheers,

BT Dude

StudentGamer said...

So when are you changing ISP then Dave? At least phone BT to tell them you're going to change to try and get them to give you a better rate!

steph_angel said...

Congrats on getting it all sorted Dave...

I once contacted (or at least attempted to contact) Richard Branson to get my Virgin 'F' ing Media problem sorted... I've no idea if I reached him (I doubt it), but I did get 6 months free broadband offered to me shortly after. It was almost worth all the stress and hours wasted on the phone!!! I'll push for a ride on his new plane next time :-)

Anonymous said...

This is like a blog.

Simon said...

Who ever suggested Dave should take this nightmare tale of ISP non-service-providing - brilliant! I definately think it would strike a chord with a lot of people.

May you could even broadcast a live show over the web - and get it sponsored by BT?

Mupps said...

I had a BT broadband wireless network problem on saturday, it took 80 minutes for the helpdesk person to realise i knew what i talking about and put me through to an engineer who fixed it in 2.

At one point i asked the question:
Are you reading this off a script or do you actually understand the BT Broadband and Wireless Home Hub System?
Answer: Yes
To which one?
Answer: Can you tell me which operating system you are using?

Arrrgggghhhhh

PaulT said...

I've had mixed experiences with BT. They repeatedly messed up in their attempts to deliver their TV service that I'd ordered off them, and that was annoying for a couple of weeks. But the only time I needed to call them for technical reasons, they were extremely professional and helpful. (The problem in the end was that the password they'd posted me for one of their services had a digit 1 in the middle of a string of lowercase letters and in the font they were using it looked exactly like a letter l.) They've not yet seemed to me to be any more or less incompetent than any other company. I guess their system just handles some kinds of fault well and others fall through the gaps in the procedures and you get Dave's experience.

Ian Kynnersley said...

Hi Dave

I fear you are being rather naive in thinking that anything will change at BT. Their helpdesk system and the business processes around it will be monolithic and the cost and hassle of doing anything to it is just not worth their time. It simply doesn't cost them enough to have useless, incompetent processes. There are always enough new people coming along who think that some 2 bit ISP won't be able to provide them with decent customer support so they'll go to BT instead.

I have worked for enough large companies to know that these things just don't matter to them. Certainly not to the people who make these decisions. They have shareholders to appease.

It is almost unheard of for a large company to offer anything other than abysmal customer service. Those that do have invariably grown from small companies founded with the very goal of providing good service (e.g. dealing with First Direct still puts a smile on my face every time)

Just hope it doesn't go down again!

Ian

Dean said...

You have wasted a few hours of your life talking to people who live in a petridish and read from a script all day. Welcome to my world. I work in I.T. and I have to talk to morons like that regularly. I also hit the dead-end of 'I am your last port of call.' or words to that effect.

TIP: Don't call the rip off 0870 number, use www.saynoto0870.com and see if you can save yourself a few quid ;).

neuro said...

Dave,

you mentioned having a two-tier system in place ... in fact this is how most competent ISPs work, at least the ones I have worked for or dealt with. The frontline support handle the "easy" or simple queries that can be dealt with by a script. If something has to be escalated, it progresses to the second tier, or second line support guys and gals, who are usually located in the UK and are very, very competent at their jobs. They do not have scripts. However, some companies will be reticent to escalate problems to their second line, and you're stuck with the "I'm your last port of call" bullshit, when actually a friendly, technical staff member could deal with your queries and problems quickly and efficiently.

I hate to join the chorus of "leave BT Broadband, leave it now", as the whole thing usually smacks of Harry Enfield going "you don't wanna do it like that, you wanna do it like this, you wanna do it the proper way" ... but yeah, leave BT Broadband, leave it now ;)

Anonymous said...

I work in a call centre for a communications company and I understand exactly how you feel.

So many times I have heard colligues of mine give out information that simply confuses people instead of brteaking it down into plain english. What's the point of telling customers they need to do a manual network update to reconfigure their access to the network when in real terms it means you have to turn your phone off and on and then seearch for a network.

I also have experience working on an IT helpdesk and it is true that 90% - 95% of calls are usually in the same league as 'try plugging the monitor in' or 'have you installed the drivers?' That's why I left. With all the knowledge of computer hardware and software diagnosis systems I found myself turning into another dribbling moron reading information on a screen.

It is hard to get motivated people to sitt willingly infront of a screen for 8 - 10 hours without loosing the will to live. So I'm afraid getting any true change would only happen with shorter shifts for call center staff or teaching every single member of the public to make sure everything is plugged in and turned on before they pick up the phone.

Knitman said...

I am having my own BT nightmare right now!
http://colinknits.blogspot.com/2008/07/calling-dr-bombay.html

Andrew Cooper said...

Let me be honest, Dave. I gave up reading half way through. And I thought my blog posts were too long.
Posts like that need a management summary, and possibly an appendix or two.

Meanwhile, please could you let me know whether you're going to be the first celebrity guest to enter my World's Best Innovation competition (aka the - uselessly named Brainies) about which I emailed you yesterday. If not, I fully understand and will move onto number 2 on my list.

Cheers

Andrew

PS - try switching to Virgin: works fine for me. Also, buy a Vodafone 3G dongle: if it wasn't for the kids needing to have wifi here at home I'd drop Virgin and just use Vodafone.

Dave Gorman said...

@anonymous#1: Yes, it has happened where someone on a helpdesk has asked if I'm _that_ Dave Gorman or not. To be honest I hate it when it happens in that context. The person invariably has my home phone number and address in front of them and it seems like an inappropriate question... especially if they're not being very good at their job.

@biz king: I got the CEO's e-mail address because someone left it in the comments to my last post. You can find it there as easily as I can. And to be honest, if you know his name you can take a good guess and get it right.

@BT dude: Thanks.

@ian kynnersley: you're probably right. But I've had problems with other helpdesks before and this is the first one where the solution when it's come has been genuinely impressive. With other companies I've had bad service that has bumbled along to an eventual conclusion... I've not witnessed someone step in and crack the whip so effectively before. I agree that it's unlikely to change, but I do believe they want it to... I know that's not much but...

@neuro: to be honest I suspect that BT does have that two tier system. It's just that the first tier is so incompetent and so script-locked that they don't even know how to escalate things to the second tier. Which gives me an image of a big room full of well-trained, helpful, competent staff doing nothing. The people I've been speaking to _were_ supposed to escalate my case to another team but didn't even know how to do that.

@Andrew Cooper: I won't be switching to virgin.net. I used to be with them and defected to BT because they were so ridiculously appalling. And in spite of this recent episode I'd say that Virgin were definitely worse when it came to customer service. With BT it feels like I encountered a poorly trained and unmotivated staff who failed to follow company policy (don't just read the words on the screen/escalate a case that hasn't been solved in 48 hours/if a message doesn't get through pick up the phone and communicate etc etc.) This is bad and they failed to solve the problem because of it. But if they were well trained the problem would have been solved.

With Virgin I never got the impression that people were incompetent. They did follow company policy and procedures. And they also failed to solve problems. (Actually, they normally spent two days denying there was a problem until the number of complainants reached some kind of critical mass... only then would they try to solve things).

It seems to me that Virgin's procedures were inadequate. Training staff to use the system correctly would solve BT's problems. A tall order, I know. Training the staff to use Virgin's systems wouldn't solve anything in my experience.

Rob said...

Hi Dave

I'm having a problem with T Mobile at the moment. Can I give you the details and get you to sort it please? Dominic Littlewood would do it but he's a bit busy. If you don't do it then i'll have to try and contact Ruth Badger.

Rob

Emma said...

I had a BT helpdesk person once ask me what I was doing at the weekend, while he was running a 'test' on my line.

I was already annoyed that my phone wasn't working through the router, but that freaked me out (like you say Dave, they have your number and address). I told him it wasn't any of his business.

Is that in the script? Be sleazy to female callers?

He didn't apologise. Just carried on with what he was doing. And was very smug when the thing he suggested worked, and it hadn't done before, making me look stupid.

Other than that though... I have always had more success when explaining things directly to an engineer. And the 'if your phone is down we'll cover the cost of your mobile calls' thing is nice. My phone/'tweb isn't an essential item.

Andrew Cooper said...

Take your point re Virgin, Dave. Have to admit that since I've been using them the service hasn't failed so I haven't had a chance to find out how bad their customer service is.

Still think the Vodafone dongle is worth a try. I'm using it on a £360 Dell I bought from Tesco and it is life-changingly fantastic. Spent some of today working in a pub here in deepest West Berkshire and it was, I have to say, just bliss. Just me, the Dell and my dongle. Bliss.

(I don't work for Virgin, Vodafone, Dell or Tesco: only myself.)

http://tinyurl.com/5hauws

Anonymous said...

Having worked for an isp I know that some of the first line support isn't great due to mixture of the people they hire, inadequate training and a lack of resources. Plus they maybe getting paid buttons so I cannot really expect a front line agent to care and have any kind of pride in their work so believe they are just going through the motions.

Unless you are on an LLU line once your issue has been diagnosed as
needing the intervention of openreach or BTW to resolve the issue
your isp has no option but to escalate this to diagnostic officers within the BT organisation from their diagnostics it is decided if an engineer will physically attend the exchange or the customers premises to resolve the issue. Sometimes they will even send it back saying their is no issue, which means the isp will probably contact you to see if the issue is resolved.

What customers need to remember is that the troubleshooting they are asked to do is partly for there benefit, as it could become a costly site visit to the customer if an engineer just replaces a filter.

Anonymous said...

from my experience the only UK ISP that has decent customer service is Zen Internet. they do charge a premium over other ISPs (which is the only reason i personally left them, although most my clients are with them) but if cost isn't overly a concern then i would heartily recommend them. literally all of their CS staff know what they're talking about. its a breath of fresh air having to ring them after battling BT or virgin or the hell on earth that is AOL

Mark said...

Dave,

I had exactly the same story to tell two years ago - my saviour was a great lady called Jacky. At the end of the whole saga I wrote to her boss and got a nice email back which included the line "Jacky is indeed a very valued member of my Team and of BT." I hope that Jacky received the recognition that she justifiably deserved. The 8 hours of 0870 buildup prior to that showed just how variable BTs response was (and unfortunately still is).

Pete said...

Dave,
Can you email Ian Livingston, and asking him when BT are going to ditch Webwise?
See the Inphormation Desk for details.
You might wish you hadn't tried so hard to get your BT line fixed. :)
Pete

Mark said...

I had a very similar ordeal recently.

Having spent 2 months trying to order broadband and phone line (admittedly a little complex due to my home having 2 additional retired lines in it) ahead of returning to the UK after some time out travelling, I arrived back to find it wasn't connected.

It took 7 failed attempts to then reorder the line, and when they did switch it on it had an immediate fault and I had a strikingly similar experience, report fault, get told it's fixed etc.

I won't go into detail because I am getting annoyed just writing this - just one statistic.

27 hours of mobile phone calls.

"couldn't care less" must be like their staff training mantra - or is it "computer says no"?

Its a bloody wonder they EVER connect anyone.

... and breathe ..

Anonymous said...

Dave,

In general the reason that problems don't get escalated to 'those who know' is because the call centre has a metric of how many calls are passed on, with targets for minimising it.

From the PoV of the business they don't want the call centre pushing everything towards those that can (which is the obvious way for them to make their life easy), so its discouraged.

That means its in the call centres interest to fob you off and push you on to the next person you phone, rather than taking the time and metric hit of getting someone useful involved.

In that situation either find another route (which you did) or get the exact name of the individual responsible and threaten to make a formal complaint about them to the organisation. The balance of fear will then get your call escalated properly.

Of course, if the company didn't have such simplistic and counter-productive targets in the first place...

thesignedphotograph said...

Hi Dave
I spent 14 hours on the phone to BT, in one week, trying to sort out a similar problem having similar conversations. I got compensation credit on the account in the end, but only as I kept insisting. I can't wait till my contract ends! Gah!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Going through a similar problem at the moment, only not with broadband, with my phone lines - BT managed to renumber both of them... Didn't bother telling me they'd done it, or what the new numbers were...

So for the last week no-one's been able to contact me, while I've spent days battling with customer services to try to get my old numbers back.

I found Ian Livingston's email address this morning (along with loads of other CEOs' email addresses), so I emailed him and got a reply within the hour. Impressed, although I'm not entirely convinced it wasn't automated, or whether the promise of getting the 'high level service team' on the case will actually do any good... I asked for an engineer to call me back today - nothing so far... Your story is encouraging though (and brought a bit of light relief to an otherwise f**ked up week) so thanks for posting it.

fourstar said...

Agreed that Zen has reportedly the best customer service although I have just taken up Be Broadband ('up to 24meg' = currently showing 13.6 at my house which is pretty impresive all the same) and they have been utterly brilliant also from start to finish. No minimum term either so if it goes t*ts up, move on.

Oh and avoid the previously-excellent Demon like the plague if the Cable & Wireless bid for parent company Thus goes through, after which it'll be dead in the water in 6 months (a la Bulldog).

Geek out.

Carolyn Ann said...

Wow! I'm a bit chastened with my rushing in to say I used to work in telephone repair! For BT, no less...

It was a bit different in my day. Not much, just a bit. Sorry.

Carolyn Ann

marksany said...

There are a few companies trying to sort out their customer service, with the help of a guru called John Seddon. His book "I want you to cheat" is an enlightening read on how call centres work, or rather why they don't and what to do about it.