Buying from BT - woeful silos and terrible customer service

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez August 23, 2016
BT has fallen in line with other communications providers and proven to provide a disjointed and frankly terrible service to its customers.

BT tower
Some of you may remember that last year I had an awful experience trying to secure some fibre broadband from Virgin Media for a property I was renting in London at the time. The short version is that I ended up giving up after months of waiting and having to go with another provider.

So when I moved into a new flat a couple of weeks ago, again in London, I was dreading choosing and getting set up with broadband and TV. And right I was too, as once again the telecommunications providers have proven themselves to be completely inept in providing a high quality customer experience.

The main culprit this time being BT. That’s the same BT that just got let off the hook by regulator Ofcom, which failed to take the opportunity to break up the firm’s toxic cartel with Openreach. For that story, check out my colleague’s take on why that means bad news for consumers.

However, my story is about how a company like BT - which is the nation’s largest and longest standing provider of communications infrastructure - fails to provide a consistent service to its customers.

Warning signs

Having had the previous disaster with Virgin Media, I quickly wrote them off the list off my shortlist of potential TV and broadband providers. Which pretty much left me with Sky and BT to choose from.

I’ve been with Sky before and had a fairly good experience, but it turned out that BT’s fibre and TV offering was a good £15 a month cheaper. BT isn’t exactly an unknown brand name, so I decided that it would be an okay choice for the next year.

I should have known that this wasn’t going to be the best experience when I began the online process for my booking. Depending on the mood of BT’s website, I was inconsistently told that I was able to get fibre at my property. Eventually after some playing around with selecting different versions of the same address on their online form, I managed to get the booking made.

As part of my booking - and because I’m rather lazy - I decided to pay an extra £49 to have a BT engineer come out and install everything for me. I’ve done self installs in the past and no matter how closely you follow the instructions, you inevitably end up on the phone troubleshooting with a call centre based somewhere outside of the UK.

So I paid my £49 and booked in a slot for the following week.

To be fair to BT, over the next couple of days I did get some texts from them updating me on when my kit was going to be delivered and when I could expect the engineer. A good use of multi-channel. I also had an email confirming everything I’d paid for and what I could expect.

On the downside, my online tracking and my online login to my account has not once worked. So I was relying on BT texting or calling for updates.

Then things began to go horribly wrong…


Essentially, BT is made up of a number of divisions and it seems that none of them talk to each other. I’ve tried a number of channels of communication with the company to resolve my issues (of which I will explain shortly) and not a single person has been able to give me the same set of information. It seems that a 360 view of the customer is a pipe dream for the company.

Anyway, so a couple of days prior to my engineer visit, I received my broadband ‘hub’ and my BT TV kit. Good.

However, what’s not so good as that one afternoon I receive a voicemail from someone at BT that basically said (not verbatim): “We’ve managed to connect your broadband at the exchange, just letting you know we’ve cancelled your engineer visit, you won’t be needing it, you can set it up yourself”.

Or something along those lines.

So, I’ve paid £49 for an engineer visit and now I’m being told one isn’t necessary - ‘good luck and do it yourself!’

Fine. I decided to call BT, as I figured there must be some misunderstanding.

To say that the call with the customer service operator was a disaster, would be being too nice. Having been transferred to two different people, I eventually got to speak to someone that could answer my question.

Her response? “No, that £49 you paid for was an activation fee. You don’t need an engineer.”

My response? “No, you gave me an option online to pay an *additional* £49 for an engineer to come and install everything, on top of the activation fee.”

Her: “No sir, it’s an activation fee.”

Me: “Well, why did I have an appointment booked then with an engineer? Who has since cancelled…”

Her: “Fine, since you’ve complained we will put a note on your account and refund you the money.”

She then hung up and that was that. No apology. No explanation. No offer of a new engineer. Nothing.

It gets worse…

Given the appalling experience, I took to Twitter to air my complaints with BT’s social media team. They were quick to tell me that the £49 activation fee is different to the £49 paid for an engineer. Well, yes, I knew that.

I was then directed to an online live chat with somebody to solve the problem.

Well, that wasn’t a pleasant experience either. For starters I had to wait 15 minutes for the online agent to join.

Secondly, he or she also had trouble finding my details (order numbers didn’t seem to work). Then they couldn’t really tell me what I needed to know. The gist of it, from what I could make out, is that the engineer had been cancelled and that I would be doing a self install.

Would I be getting my £49 back? Their response was something along the lines of: “If that’s what we said we would do, I’m sure we will do it.” Again, that’s not verbatim, but something along those lines. Basically, they could not tell me whether I would or would not be getting my money back.

So, yesterday afternoon I spent a good two or three hours trying to (poorly, I may add) wire my TV aerial along the skirting board and connect up my television services. Which, quelle surprise, do not work. That could well be my poor engineering, but that’s exactly why I booked a professional.

And then to top things off, this morning I get a call from a company on behalf of BT - the company that manages the engineer visits - asking me when I’d like to rebook my engineer appointment (?!?!?!?!).

They had no idea that BT said the appointment wouldn’t be necessary. And now the engineer has been rebooked for NEXT Thursday - meaning we have to wait a week and two days. A full week and a half since we received our TV and broadband kit, may I add.

Will he turn up? Who knows. Will I get my money back? Who knows.

In fact, I doubt BT knows.

My take

A shocking example of a company that obviously has so many silos that aren’t speaking to each other that the customer, despite having handed over their money, is left in the dark and without the services that were promised.

Once again I am amazed at how poor the customer service from these telecoms providers can be.

If we want a digital economy, this has to change. I urge you to sign this petition, which calls on the regulator to do something about this shoddy service. A service that is backed by taxpayer money.