How can BT have spent so much on CRM, but still has no single customer view?

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan January 10, 2016
At the end of last year, I criticised BT's role in creating Digital Britain. This week the company brought the fight right to my doorstep - and it's not a pretty picture.

money down the drain
On 30 December last year, I had a bit of a rant about BT CEO Gavin Patterson’s declaration that 2016 would be the year Great Britain decided its digital destiny.

In that article - A request to BT CEO Gavin Patterson – fix my (and Britain’s) broadband  - I complained that the powerful vision Patterson expounded is not supported by BT’s delivery of a digital future on the frontline.

Little did I know that 24 hours later, a chain of events would kick in that would prove my point and expose a lamentable failure to secure a single view of the customer despite decades of investment in CRM systems.

It was on 31 December that an engineer from BT Openreach visited our block of flats to repair a problem that one of the residents was having with their broadband. The engineer went into the communal junction box, fiddled with whatever needed to be fiddled with and went on his way, the problem with the particular fault addressed. Happy New Year!

But in the act of fixing Flat A’s problem, the engineer managed to disconnect the wiring for Flat B, which woke up to 2016 with an internet speed that was sub-dial up.

A second BT OpenReach engineer was summoned, who came last Thursday. He went into the communal junction box, discovered that the damage had indeed been done by the previous engineer’s repair work, made a fix and went on his way.

I was oblivious to all of this and left my apartment at lunchtime with my own internet connection working at its normal speed. When I returned that evening, I was registering 0.4mb download and 0.1mb upload. We first noticed the problem when trying to download one track from an album on iTunes, only to be told that would take 42 minutes to do so! The SmartTV, iPlayer, Netflix etc were all rendered unusable.

Unleash the gates of CRM hell

Come Friday morning I tried to report the problem to BT. That’s easier said than done. Everything, and I mean everything, is done to prevent you from talking to a human being. At every step, an automated system of some kind kicks in to get between you and being able to explain your problem to someone who might be able to deal with it.

I won’t bore you with the entire dreary process, but after 2 hours and 10 minutes, I finally found myself on a phone line to customer services, only to be warned by a stern voice that if I book a call-out for an engineer and he/she isn’t able to find a problem or finds that the problem is in any way, shape or form something that BT can say is nothing to do with them, then I’ll be charged a hefty call out fee.

The underlying message? You feelin’ lucky, punk?

I pressed on. The next barrier was a message saying that it could take hours for someone to answer my call. Did I want to hang on or could BT call me back within one hour? Clearly I wasn’t keen on hanging on the line for up to an hour, listening to the same automated messages round and round, so at 11.20am I opted for the one hour call back.

  • 12.20 - no call back.
  • 13.20 - no call back.
  • 14.20 - no call back.
  • 15.20 - no call back.

Having tried variously across those hours to trigger some action by contacting the laughably-named @btcare on Twitter, I lost patience and emailed CEO Patterson directly.

I received a response very quickly, promising that someone from the CEO’s Office had picked this up and would be in touch on Monday morning. And I was told not to talk to any other parts of BT about my problem now, as:

this may cause some confusion.

Alarm bells should have rung here.

Resigned to having no broadband for the weekend and spending a lot of time in Starbucks in the days to come, I went to bed on Friday night, only to be awakened first thing Saturday morning by a BT OpenReach engineer at the door.

  • I hadn't been told he would be coming. (BT should text an appointment date/time in advance to make sure you're in.)
  • He had been given no information as to why he was there.
  • He had no record or access to any records that two of his colleagues had visited the building in the past 10 days.
  • He know absolutely nothing about the CEO's Office having taken ownership of the problem.

Deeeeeeeep breath!

Fixed, but...

On a positive note, the engineer was one of the good guys and, once I’d explained everything to him, checked out the junction box and found - yes, you guessed it - that the second engineer had pulled out our connection while fixing the connection that had been pulled out by the first engineer back on 31st December. There’s a pattern here, you might notice.

Anyway, the engineer fixed the problem and I’m back to our normal speeds - which are completely unacceptable for a city center residential and commercial district in 2016, but at least they allow me to work.

But the whole thing raises yet more questions about how BT operates. How much money has BT spent on various CRM systems from vendors over the decades and it still isn’t able to have to single view of the customer? Left hand and right hand have no idea what the other is doing. Engineers go out on field service jobs with no access to records about problems at the address, problems that have occured within a few days of one another.

Is it a tech problem? I suspect it's more likely it's the problem of an organization that's fractured and siloed in its operational capabilities and disinterested in the best interests of its customers.

My fear now is that I’ll have a repeat of a scenario from a few years ago when a BT problem was finally fixed after two weeks of argument and chasing, only to find three engineers turning up on my doorstep over the next three days, all lining up to fix an already-fixed issue. On that occasion, they tried to land me with ‘wasting our time’ charges, despite the problem being entirely of their own making. (I didn’t pay!)

My take

As I live in a listed building, we are dependent on BT for our broadband.

We’ve been trying to get the company to enable super-fast Infinity broadband for several years, but with no success. Having spoken to various Openreach engineers now, I’m assured by them on the ground that there’s no technical reason why BT couldn’t upgrade the local area if it chose to.

So for some reason, it seems not to want to upgrade the centre of Brighton, despite bombarding residents with marketing leaflets for Infinity urging us to get signed up. Left hand, right hand again. Or other opposing areas of the body.

The bit’s between my teeth now. I’ve asked the CEO’s Office for an explanation of (a) the lack of a single customer view and (b) the continued absence of a super-fast upgrade option.

This is a subject to which I will return. This particular set of problems impacts on me, but this sort of thing is happening all over the country.

And it's just not acceptable.

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