Monday, March 08, 2010

BT (British Telecom) Is Seriously Losing it...

Warning: This post is a rant. It describes my recent experience in trying to get the new BT Infinity service, based on fiberoptic cable. As it turns out, there are a few issues with this ...

A few weeks ago I got a friendly phone call from British Telecom (BT), leaving a voice mail on my answering machine, saying that they now have fiber-optic cable in my neighborhood, and that they offer me an upgrade, as one of the first customers. Well, great idea! So I called them, and yes, this new BT Infinity was indeed available, and they referred me to the web site where I could find out more. I entered the phone number, and yes, the estimate of my speed would be about 20 Mb. So I followed the online instructions, everything quite easy and straight forward, and after a few minutes I got a confirmation email that the equipment would be sent soon and that an engineer appointment has been set up. Great - really good!
So in 1.March I stayed at home in the morning between 8:00-13:00, when the engineer would come and connect everything. I should have gotten suspicious when there was no package being delivered with the promised equipment, but then I thought the engineer might bring it. I checked online, and yes, the order was being tracked ok, and the appointment appeared to set up properly.

When nobody showed up that Monday morning, I called BT. And the nice lady with her strong Scottish accent tells me that there was a problem - the order never had "gotten through". What about the confirmation email? And the online tracking? Nope, somewhere in "the system" the order was not processed, and no actual work order had been issues. Well, since this is such a new service, I could understand some glitches. So we rescheduled for the next week.

This time everything appeared to be scheduled properly: Got a confirmation SMS, also received a very nice custom-printed announcement, on glossy paper, individualised for my address, looking very posh! And the new BT Homehub arrived in the mail too. Great, was looking forward to get upgraded. So on 8.March I again stayed home in the morning, waiting for the engineer who was supposed to come between 8:00 - 13:00 (pretty long time window, but I can understand that sometimes the planning and scheduling cannot be done in smaller windows, due to possible delays and unexpected problems). When at 13:15 still nobody had shown up, I called BT; they tried to ping the engineer, but while I was on hold he actually called on the other phone line - he would be there in 20 minutes. Ok, I am a patient person.

He comes, sets up the equipment. There needs to be a new splitter installed, to separate phone from data lines. The data line goes into a white box which is probably the DSL modem. Then there is still the new BT Homehub, which now simply acts as a hub interface for the ethernet network, the WiFi, and the BT Broadband Talk. Works all fine, but the engineer's measurement only indicate a data rate of about 4-5 Mb. It turns out that the fiber-optic connection is only going up to the last connection box, from where the data signal then is transmitted over the conventional phone cabling.

This speed is of course lower than advertised, but is about 8x more than the line supported before. So I am happy to leave it at this lower speed. The engineer drives away to check something at the exchange or the last connection box, maybe the speed could go up. He thinks that this low speed is due to the distance of my endpoint to the connection box, and he says that probably nothing can be done.

Ok, so far, so good - at least this is a much faster connection than before. And if the story ended here, I would have never posted it, despite the few little kinks in the process.

But wait, this is not the end of the story: after an hour, the engineer comes back, dismantles the whole setup, and puts back on the old previous connection which is at about 500 kB. What? "For legal reason, BT cannot give customers an access to fiberoptic cable at a speed lower than 15 MB". Despite the fact that the line would support 4MB and was working ok without errors on the "fiberoptic connection", I was not allowed to get this speed.

So all the grieving and tolerating of those BT delivery failures - for nothing. Hence the headline of this post - I hope many people read it!


What BT needs to fix in their rotten internal procedures and policies:
  1. They need to make sure that the BT Infinity service is only offered to people who actually will receive the promised speed. This requires both to revise their telephone marketing and their online phone test tool for checking available speeds.
  2. BT further needs to revise their online booking system for the BT Infinity offer, to ensure that customers' orders actually are being processed.
  3. BT finally needs to revise their current "legal position" which robs the customers of the possibility to increase their broadband speeds by at least a modest amount. The policy of "all or nothing" is not customer-friendly at all.

Having said this, I will concede that all the people I have spoken to at BT appeared friendly and competent - so I have not given them a hard time at all but remained friendly and patient in my interaction with them. I chose not to complain to them by a phone call to their customer service - this would only hit the wrong person, the poor chap whose ears probably fall off from all those customer complaints. Instead I want to bring this disaster to the public, and I hope that it helps to change something at BT - this company simply does not appear to be able to fulfil its vision of providing adequate IT services to Britain.


Reinhold Behringer said...

On Monday evening I send this post to the BT complaint line on the web. on Tuesday afternoon I receive a voicemail that a new appointment has been set up. When I call back, the person there does not see my complaint in their databasse. The new appointment must have been made prior to considering my complaint: BT has obviously realised that they made a mistake.

On Wednesday I get another voicemail from a BT employee, this time related to my complaint. He refers to an email that they sent as a reply, and when I check they simply confirm that the new appointment has been set up, and that hereby my complaint is dealt with.

So I will - for a third time - stay at home and will wait for the engineer to set up the connection.

Reinhold Behringer said...

Continuation of the Saga: after having stayed at home twice for each half a day, and still not having the Infinity 2 service installed, I had gotten a new appointment for an engineer to visit me and install the equipment. So I stayed once again at home from 8:00-13:00. I had gotten a phone call in the week before, which informed me about this new appointment. So when I was waiting for the engineer, I called the "order department" at BT, to confirm that someone would really come. They ensured me that the appointment is in the system, and the transferred me to BT Infinity. There I was waiting for 20 minutes on hold, before I lost patience and hung up. No engineer showed up. When I called BT customer service again, I got the answer that there was "a glitch in the system", and my order had not resulted in scheduling an engineer. So another visit is now scheduled.

So far I have lost 3 mornings. As a professional with a highly demanding work which I cannot just leave at any time I want, I value each of these mornings at £ 250, and I intend to present an invoice to BT for the total amount of £ 750 as a compensation payment.

BT Complaints said...

You are not alone trust me!

It's complaints like this that made me set up a BT complaints website for complaints to be shared and I have literally received hundreds of complaints about their services...or lack of!

Here is BT Complaints website which I will feature your complaint on:

All complaints will be put into a report and sent for investigation by Offcom, Watchdog and sent to BT.

Reinhold Behringer said...

Thank you, Cam, for posting a comment to my blog!
Great work that you have done, setting up your site and collecting the info regarding complaints about BT.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean losing it?

Reinhold Behringer said...

ahem... yes, I meant "losing".
English is a difficult language...!