A journalists BT customer service hell – By Paul Harris

This BT customer service complaint was detailed on the thisismoney website and we wanted to share it with visitors of BT complaints and include it in the report that will be sent for investigation along with all comments on this website. Email us you complaint if you want your complaint to be included in the report that will be sent to BT, Watchdog and Offcom.

Paul Harris, journalist of thisismoney (pictured right) was left hanging on the phone by BT customer services

They didn’t say exactly where the call centre was based, but I swear I heard a tiger roaring in the background. The chap’s accent was hard to understand at first, and he had just as much difficulty comprehending mine. But I wasn’t going to let him go. Not after so long.

It had taken more than 40 minutes to get to this stage, and he was the first human being I had managed to contact, unless there was actually a bloke playing ghastly music down the phone each time I was ‘transferred’.

Every other part of the process had been a push-button… please hold… your call is in a queue… we value your custom… nightmare. I lost count of the number of times I keyed in my telephone number. Followed by a hash. And a star. And a sigh.

But I really should have known better. I had done a very stupid thing. I had tried to ring BT.

You’d think that of all the people in Britain who might have got their telecom system sorted, British Telecom would have been pretty near the top of the list. The clue’s in the name, you see. But you’d be wrong. For in the world of communications, where the idea seems to be to make it as difficult as possible for your customers to communicate, BT is king.

Of all the services that need to be contacted when you move house (and the Harris family are serial movers) this is the one I have come to dread most. They get things wrong. They don’t listen. They don’t do what you ask. Things don’t happen on time, or at all. Worst of all, they’re a phone company that doesn’t seem to like answering the phone.

Not that I’m unused to this sort of frustration, which, I guess, is probably being mirrored right now in thousands of homes across the land. I had, after all, done telephonic battle with Sky TV, when we discovered that some obscure code was needed in order to make the TV work.

I trained in unarmed combat with British Gas after travelling 250 miles to keep an appointment the engineer didn’t; held on the line until hell froze for the water company to find someone with a brain in customer services; noticed I could hum every bar of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while holding for Netgear’s alleged ‘customer support’.

But this was BT. This was different. This was a fight to the finish — at my expense. The thing is, you’re kind of handicapped when the reason you’re ringing is because the phone doesn’t work. So I called on my mobile phone.

At least that way I could walk around the house with the handset on loudspeaker, even if the pay-as-you-go card was going-as-I-paid.

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  • All these complaints sound very familiar. I can well understand where people come from – I used to work for the company that they outsource much of their work to called HCL in Belfast, though its an Indian company.
    Due to the nature of the low-paid work and high-turnover, the calibre of staff was often much to be desired. But then, seriously, few people would work for such places if they had a choice.

    The company is responsible for many aspects of BT's work I guess because it's cheaper for them (the employees get low wages). But the work is badly-paid, appalling organised, conditions are unrelenting, there were few incentives to perform well, and the daily attitude of the company was basically one where few seemed to care.

    The common experience was that the training was not very good and was enough to get you to perform the minimum. It's only when you get down on the call-centre floor and take calls that you realised the inadequacy of the training. When you had a problem and tried to find an answer (often with the customer waiting on the phone in the meantime) there was no-one around to ask and those that should have known often didn't know or simply didn't care. If you were getting sales and achieving a target, that's all people really cared about.

    Product knowledge was often very poor (due to the training) when dealing with customers so to cover this up, customers were often referred somewhere else or often given poor or misleading information.
    Emails were sent out to customers that were full of appalling grammar and wrong information, unvetted by anyone until the company clamped down on it. But it was too late by then.
    Errors were made often because the systems we used and the information provided to us by BT was out of date. Names could be wrong, other peoples' broadband details were on the record of the customer you were dealing with etc.
    Often when you did sell to a customer such as a new broadband etc, the order was not processed for weeks if not several months afterwards due to staff shortages! Then many didn't get their routers either! If that is good service, then I don't know what is. Truly, it's the worst company I ever worked for.

  • I have a BT cordless phone system which can support 5 handsets. I had a package with 4, but now needed a 5th.I looked on the BT website and eventually found that I needed to phone BT to order one add-on handset with its charger (but no answerphone). I ordered it on the phone and it arrived this morning – they had sent a phone with answerphone (ie a base unit).
    Today I phoned to get this rectified. I was on the phone for over an hour being passed from one person to another. Each time I had to go over all the details, and some departments had no record of my order number.
    Eventually (at about one hour and 10 minutes after I had first been connected)I spoke to someone who said he would send the correct phone, but would I (again) hold the line. A few minutes later another man said, "Can I help you?" He knew nothing about the matter,didn't know I had been holding on for his colleague to come back. At this point I expressed my frustration and asked to speak to someone in charge, to complain. This request was refused, but I was able to get an address to write to. He refused to give me the name of a person to write to at that address. I needed a named person as I was considering taking legal action, and a Court Summons cannot be sent to a company, only a named person.

    At this moment I still have no idea whether my order was actually processed and whether I will get the phone I need.

    I gather that the only way to complain about customer service is, you've probably guessed, through Customer Service!!

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