This complaint is about BT web consulting services and the problems experienced when they built a website for this customer.
Here’s my BT complaint. This is a complaint about a business service and product that BT failed to deliver and has cost me thousands of pounds and much wasted time. Despite strong evidence to show that their incompetence in building the website to proper standards they have always refused to refund the cost of the build, even though the website was unfit to launch. Yesterday they sent me a demand for hosting services they said they would pay!!!!! This was sent one and a half years AFTER the last correspondence I received from them about the whole sorry saga and was sent from a debt collection Agency. In all that time I never received any demand for payments and the website and hosting was NEVER used.
Here’s a summary of the complaint sent to the ‘senior complaints’ team that supposedly manages complaints for Ian Livingston. Their customer service is appalling and was just made worse by a complaints team that were totally ineffectual and effectively managed by the very people in BT I was complaining about:
- Massive delays in the web build caused by BT’s incompetence. The original web build was due to take 6 weeks from April 2009. By the end of August 2009 they still couldn’t tell me a final build date. I signed the contract for the build on April 20th 2009.
- Rude, aggressive and uninterested staff, including one member of staff trying to blackmail me to sign off a problem ridden site so that he could get his bonus
- Unprofessionalism, including no project plans, no risk management, no communication and constant lies and misrepresentation of what had happened around the delays
- Sharp practice in terms of their support and pricing policies, seemingly set up to recoup the low prices they initially set
- After I’d signed the contract to go ahead with the web build, no one contacted to organise the next steps. It was only when I rang a week later to find out what was happening that anything started to move. It then took another couple of days before the web builder contacted me. This created a delay right from the start and has been indicative of the unprofessional way people have worked since the beginning
- The web builder JD sent an initial email indicating the build would take around 6 weeks to complete, at no time then or later was I ever given an actual go live date or asked when I would like it to go live. The whole thing has always been managed to BT Web Consult’s schedule and not mine as the customer
- From the outset there was never a proper project plan (activities, milestones, dates etc) which meant I had to keep questioning what was happening or raising issues because the web builder was uncommunicative. In the early part of the build it was me that had to phone to find out what was happening or send emails. The lack of a proper basic plan compounded the delays, when I queried why it wasn’t being properly managed the web builder said ‘you don’t expect me to project manage it do you?’ I wondered if he thought it should be me, like a hiring a house builder then doing it yourself. I thought that this was an unprofessional and unhelpful thing to say. Having a plan would have saved us both a lot of time and numerous problems
- I had to constantly clarify the web build objectives to JD who didn’t really seem to understand the full picture of what I was trying to achieve and as a consequence this led to numerous forced changes along the way. This was because limitations as to what could or could not be done were not explained to me upfront and were just mentioned as we went along and quite late in the day which was difficult. Things came to a head one day when JD seemed to lose the plot and started shouting at me down the phone, saying that I was being rude and saying over and over ‘talk to me’, ‘talk to me’. I was astonished and when I asked him what he meant he said that my clarifying what I wanted was rude ‘you asking for what you want all the time’. To say it was weird is an understatement not simply because as the customer I think I can ask for what I want and secondly it was me that instigated most of calls and often when I did speak to him he just gave yes/no answers. I found his comments and his behaviour bizarre and upsetting. He later sent several grovelling emails apologising and blaming his behaviour on stress
- As a result of this first problem I set up an excel spread-sheet so that we had a central place to log and work through issues. At first John said that it was a good idea, although for me it was another example of poor management in that I as the customer had to pull something like this together
- As we started working through the sheet and I started testing site further errors came to light, including numerous spelling errors, weird non English grammar etc. All of these needed to be added to the list. JD kept referring to the list as ‘changes’ which was really unhelpful. I have copies of all the spreadsheet versions and everything on there was an error or something that wouldn’t deliver the site requirements
- One day JD suddenly announced he was going on holiday but only bothered to tell me on the day he was due to go off on annual leave. I queried who was to support the development of the site whilst he was off. This didn’t seem to have been a major issue for him but he did arrange for LD to help me which she did. However she was limited by her lack of detailed knowledge of some of the components and didn’t want to touch JD’s coding, which I can understood. This created further delays as although some things were completed during this time the site build could not be moved on significantly
- When JD came back things progressed a bit but he then lost the plot again with the number of ‘changes’ still on the spreadsheet. I had to point out to him again that these weren’t changes but a log of problems/issues that still needed to be rectified. They were in fact problems that had been raised before and were a result of really, really, poor site testing and build. There were things on the spreadsheet that shouldn’t have been there if JD had done thorough testing and coding. There were really basic things on there such as the wrong email address, blank screens, weird messages, no email confirmation and so on. John constantly kept saying that things were tested and working and we would go in check and test to find that this just was not the case
- He then said that the spreadsheet was totally ridiculous, when I queried what he meant he said having 300 outstanding items on it was ridiculous. I asked if he had read it and although he said yes I’m not sure if he had as he would have understood why things were noted on there as they were either new or continuing issues
- He then tried to blackmail me by saying that if I signed off the site by the end of June, even though it wasn’t working, he would be able to get his bonus of £150 and he would offer me additional support over and above the 5 hours I was due. The worst of it was when he said that if it wasn’t completed by the end of June he wasn’t sure that he could commit much more time to it as he had other ‘projects’ to complete. I was amazed he would be that unprofessional and felt that it was really out of order. He basically left me with the view that if it wasn’t done by the end of June it wouldn’t be done at all and that was in fact the case. In addition my contract said that I would be given 2 weeks support not 5 hours spread over 2 weeks when and if the site went live
- I then raised a concern with the managers of the team JD re the continued delays, poor communication, no planning etc. D arranged a meeting for us all for when JD returned from another break to talk through the issues. JD was very defensive during the meeting and he kept stating things had been agreed when they hadn’t been, too many examples to give here. J&D mentioned that part of the problem, apparently was that I didn’t understand how the process worked or how websites were built. Why should I? It’s BT Web Consult’s job to manage the process effectively from start to finish, that should include managing customer expectations from the very beginning, setting out what’s going to happen, checking the contractual elements match what can be done and their business needs. None of this was done which has caused lots of re-work and delays and issues. If I’d know from the start about the limitations around certain components I could have either have had a re-think about the way we were heading or just not bothered at all on the understanding that you couldn’t meet my needs. That’s why I went to them in the first place because they were supposed to be the experts
- After this meeting things progressed ok for a short while but since the beginning of July I’ve started to notice that things that used to work before have now stopped working i.e. events registration no longer works, membership registration doesn’t work (two major elements) and user name checking doesn’t work on Firefox. In addition the Jobs Board is really problematic and has never worked effectively and actually wasn’t what was asked for. I’ve not fully tested the site again as I honestly have almost lost the will to live and I know there will be multiple problems that will surface. It’s almost as though as soon as one thing is fixed something else goes wrong…it is I assume deliberate
- We did our site ‘training’ which consisted of John sending me some videos and then asking me what training I wanted…which was unbelievable. Like asking me what training I need to build a car, well I don’t really know what training I need. Also, in the contract it says I will be trained so that I can fully manage the site, which hasn’t been the case
- In the last week or so, I couldn’t believe it when he announced he was on holiday once more. I know his wife has just had a baby but I had to question again who would support the web build. He just sent a couple of snotty emails saying the same person as before and was just generally obnoxious and aggressive on the phone. I just feel worn out by the constant reviews of site, constant re-testing, sniping, constant re-work, constant removal of functions because they don’t work, constantly getting nowhere
- I no longer feel comfortable working with him, the constant battles are stressful and unproductive and I never imagined I would have to work like this and really do not want to. What I have said all along though and the reason why I came to BT to help me, is that I will not sign off a site or go live unless it works as it should and it is built to good level of quality and professionalism. And that means going forward as well over the next year or so
- Bearing in mind this point, I also have concerns over site security and whether there has been any proper capacity or stress testing. Concerns over security include who can access the site and being able to check who has accessed it and why. On the 12th July we started to upload profile pictures and these were uploaded without any problem. The next day when we uploaded further pictures for some reason they now need to be approved before being published. Now that’s either because I haven’t been trained or given information as to why they suddenly should require approval (which isn’t how it’s supposed to work), or someone has changed the configuration (and that someone wasn’t me) or the site coding is so poor or problematic that random errors occur and this does seem to happen a lot which worries me going forward
- It is now nearly 18 weeks later and the site still has numerous errors and coding problems which means it is still not in a fit state to be launched. In fact the number of corrections that still need to be done will probably take another couple of weeks to rectify and test
My aim right from the very beginning has been a really simple one. To get a high quality well designed site, built within the budget, that fully supports my business requirements and is secure, robust and safe for people to use. And that’s not what I have received.
I also have to mention that I think the resourcing, timescales and the complexity of this build has been seriously underestimated and may have in some way contributed to the pressure on John and his frustrations with me. It was a big ask for someone to build a site like this seemingly on their own, I don’t know if this was the case or whether this was normal practice. I get a sense that web builds are managed like projects, which are to be completed to Bt Web Consult’s timescales and interests and not the customer’s. Dan Roberts said as much, telling me in passing that ‘we really need to get this project completed’. Really? It was as though I was holding things up with my insistence on getting things right and causing them problems with meeting their deadlines. At no point was I asked how this mythical date fitted in with my plans.
I felt very angry about the way I’ve been treated by this company and the insulting compensation offered of £180 which surely must be a joke (the hosting fee they are now demanding from me….) I feel so angry in fact that I intend to make it as public as possible how poor the service has been and as I wouldn’t want any other business to waste their money and time.
I went to BT, as I believed that as a ‘big’ company they would be able to offer me the professionalism and support I need to build and launch a successful web business. This was not the case I was constantly told that the site was working and was fault free…what a joke. Over the months that dragged on during the build I received many random system generated emails informing me of system errors and much of the basic functionality of the site never worked.
I do hope you can add this to your site so that others can be warned. I eventually launched my site by building the website myself on WordPress and had to wonder why they found it so difficult when in the end a non techie like me could launch a successful website. The only downside has been I have only been able to launch half the business I originally intended due to their failures but the message for other small businesses would be to start off building your own website (for free) and learn the basics.