On Wednesday afternoon 24th March I rang BT to have one of our two phone lines disconnected – we’ll keep the other for broadband & VOIP. (We’ll call this person BT1, and number subsequent BT operatives in sequence.)

By 8pm BT1’s instructions had swung into action, and disconnected the broadband line (though we only found this out later).
Calling BT’s broadband support team (BT2) showed only that there was a fault on the line, and they promised an investigation. Since our broadband comes to us by overhead copper wires, that’s not an unusual occurrence – broadband goes flaky for us perhaps once a year, as roadside telegraph poles get moved by speeding arctics and the road’s slide into the river.

At 10am on Thursday I received an email, confirming that our broadband service would terminate in 14 days.
That’s odd, since we didn’t want to terminate our broadband… a phone call back to the Voice line support desk (BT3) uncovered the problem: in a spectacular piece of muppetry, the operative had disconnected the wrong line.

A long call established that the operative I was now speaking to could get it fixed later that day, and that they’d call back to confirm when it was done. And that if they didn’t speak to me, they’d leave a voicemail.

I then rang the broadband support desk, to try to have the broadband termination stopped. (BT4). They said that the Management Desk couldn’t help until the line was active again, and put me through to the Fault desk (BT5) to make sure the line restoration was in process. BT5 promised that this would be done within the hour.

Two hours later, I rang the Fault Desk to find out what was happening. “It’s in the system” said BT6. Two further hours later, I called again – and BT 8 told me that the fix had just arrived on Openreach’s system. And that they had no idea how long it would take to be acted on.

While I was talking to BT8, BT7 rang on behalf of BT3, to say that the fix had been requested: fine, but BT3 had promised it would be fixed, and that they’d leave contact details. Only a generic 0800 number was left.

Friday morning, still no phone line.
BT9 on Broadband faults bounced me to Domestic Faults (BT10) who passed me to another part of the domestic ‘support service’ BT11. Who gave me the correct number to call – I’ll be speaking to BT12 shortly, though the call has been on hold for 20 minutes.

In two days I’ve spoken to 12 people, only one of whom did what they said. (BT2, who called off the Fault Team – as there was no fault to find.) I’ve spent 3 hours on the phone – much of it on hold. The most shunts in a single call stands at 4 – a call which ended with my calling another number, and re-entering the system I’d just left.

In addition I’ve spoken to five Reception Desk staff – BTi, BTii, BTiii, BTiv, and BTv. Their only role is to ask for the number that you’ve already keyed into the call Handling system, and to pass off your call to a team who may be able to help. Or one with a short queue: I’m honestly not sure which.

It’s hard not to wonder…
– will anybody ever point out to BT1 the trouble their mistake has cost me, and the expense to their employer?
– if the operatives could actually do what was asked of them, in the timescale they promise, how much of customers’ time, and BT’s operational costs, would be saved?
– how BT will measure the compensation for one small business, two teenage children’s homework, and one MSc student, all losing internet access for 2 evenings, 2 days, and counting?

I’m still on hold to speak to BT12 – that’s 27 minutes now…


BT12 moved the disconnection/reconnection problem to the Seized In Error Helpdesk, who apparently deal with this sort of thing. In a ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of way. We can only hope.

BT13 rings – a callback from a previous enquiry, and they’re happy to leave it with BT12’s Seized in Error Helpdesk.

Saturday

8.45am: still no service. This is Day 3 since disconnection, and should be the day that normal service would have reconnected the line, according to BT1.

BT14 (on the general fault number 0800800150) initially can’t find the number at all. I relate that the issue is with the Seized in Error Helpdesk. BT14  decides to pass me through to the Service Team. On the first attempted pass, they’ve disconnected BT14. Connected to Sales: BT15. They’re treating it as a new purchase, so it’ll take 14 days. A new contract. And the business broadband contract will probably have to restart…

This means that two teenage children in full time education will have no internet access during their easter holidays. And a part time MSc student won’t have web access during a vital two week holiday period.

BT15 gives us a new contract & new number.
So as a result of BT’s error, we have a new phone number, Or will have on 15th April… that’s  days.
After 26 minutes, Sales shunts us to Service

BT16 in Service asks what the problem is… and puts me though to a Supervisor – BT17… they’re confirming a ‘turn on’ date of April 15th (22 days after disconnection). BT17 is the floor manager at a BT callcentre in New Delhi – I’ve absolutely no problem with where it is. He’s now passing me to his boss.

I’ve suggested that on Monday I may drop into BT Centre in St Pauls London, to see who I can talk to. and perhaps Live Blog the experience. BT18 apologises.

Jill,  BT19, the helpful one, calls to tell me what’s going on. a new line was turned on On the 26th.
Nobody knew till today

1 hour long call… and the first concrete progress since Wednesday.

BT Business Order Management Desk BT20 who puts me through to BT21 in Business Broadband Sales… they’re working offline on Sat morning, and aren’t available.

Back to Order Management Helpdesk, where BT22 sets up order id 37436 to reestablish a broadband contract on the new number

Monday
BT23 Monday morning
Re-order broadband in 48 hours, on a fast track basis.
They offer a new modem, new contract etc etc

On Tuesday morning I receive paperwork confirming the order, but with an installation date of 7th April.

Wednesday
BT24 Wednesday morning (47.5 hours after reconnection promised by BT23) tells me there’s no fast track order, and the line will be active on 7th April. She asks who I spoke to on Monday – BT23 – but of course I don’t have a name: only one person at BT has offered a full name (BT19). So that’s just a ploy to try to put me on the back foot, as if it’s my responsibility to know who I spoke to, rather than expecting BT to have a functional order management system.

I lose it
Big time.
Sorry, BT24

I have to tell BT24 what the old line number was…. so that they can go and find out what’s happened. (What was I saying about a functional order management system?)
I’m back on hold, and rapidly heading towards another 30 minute call – that’s almost 6 hours of phone calls…
I have to go to a meeting; BT24 agrees that I’ll be called back later.

(I’m beginning to wonder what else they can do to mess this up)

I call back 15 minutes after my meeting finishes. 6 minutes on hold before speaking to BT25. A very clear explanation of where were are… and that the Manager is asking the Sales person why the promised Fast Track order wasn’t placed. I’m promised a callback before 1pm.
Which is fine, but I don’t need explanations of why the sales process didn’t work; I need an active account.

Incidentally, the security question is now “Who placed the order?” but the order confirmation has come through addressed to Mr W Unknown – it’s that functional order management system again!

The promised callback by a Manager hadn’t happened by ten past, so I called BT (again).
BT26 apologises… says that the manager is very busy and will call back.
There wasn’t a lot of point in promising the 1pm callback then, was there?

He chides me for losing it with BT24, and tries to give me a lesson in handling call centre operatives. He in effect hangs up mid call by willfully mis-understanding what I’m asking for, and passes me off to another department (152)
after 16 minutes on hold & talking to BT26.

BT27 comes on the line after further 5 minutes on hold. Very helpful. Figures out that even if a Fast Track order were put on now it wouldn’t be active until the currently scheduled date of the 7th, anyway.

BT28 – the manager – leaves a phone message. Promises a callback.
It never happens.


ReEstablishing VOIP

BT29 bounces me back to the start of the phone system
BT30 advises me that Sales aren’t available on a Saturday
I don’t quite beleive them so call back in & press different buttons to speak to Sales
BT31 takes my details and promises a callback “within hours” to fill out the form manually

Saturday: BT32 doesn’t call to fill out the form
Monday: BT32 doesn’t call to fill out the form
Monday evening, I complete the form online. It’ll take five or more days to be set live.

That’ll be three weeks to fix BT1’s foolish mistake.
And 6 hours (or more) on the phone, some of it not spent punching numbers on BT’s IVR system.
Of all 31 BT operatives, two that I spoke to. were genuinely helpful, and did something. One took useful action (to set up the new broadband line) but didn’t tell me or their colleagues what they’d done.
And just one caused the mess in the first place.

  • reply John Allan ,

    I am an ex BT engineer who has been in the private sector for many years.

    I believe BT to be the finest engineering provider in the UK with a stable efficient network but unfortunatley they are one of the worst communicators. This in my opinion is due to the fact that they do not now use engineers to interface with the public and employ “call cenre operatives” who read scripts and act on prompts from computer scripts.

    I must admit that if BT were not so ineffective in their dealings with the public then I would not be in business providing a managed service which offers contact with a real engineer and not a call centre in sight. I use BT to provide much of my clients services but because I have access directly into their ordering and fault reporting systems I do not have the same isses as when you have to call a generic number and speak to whoever you get connected too.

    Always Contactable was an obvious choice of name for my business as it offers everything that my competition is not.

    Sorry for your problems but best advise is deal with a 3rd party service provider but make sure that they do not simply offer a different call centre interface.

    Personal service should not need to be a thing of the past

    John ex BT engineer

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