The popular UK telephone and broadband company towed me along for months during my contract renewal, but then when I looked at my bill this week I saw that they broke their promises. Along the way, they broke their promises to the people in the town in which I live, too.
Separately, a CEO sent me two three boxes of crisps this week. More on that later.
KNOCK KNOCK JOKE
Years ago, I was one of the volunteers who went knocking on all the doors in Whitchurch, Hampshire (and then some) in order to try and win the “BT Race to Infinity“.
To win, the town had to come top of the leader-board in the entire country with the number of households who voted for an upgrade of the telephone exchange to support fibre optic broadband.
The Town Council, and other politicians including our MP, Sir George Young, all gave us support and encouragement along the way.
In January 2011, the winners were announced: the town won, and won big time! An incredible 104% of the households with phone lines indicated their support! Yes, 104% — clearly BT didn’t know how many phone lines there were coming off of its exchange!
HURRY UP AND WAIT
Then the wait began. Eventually, a “faster broadband” was delivered to some households by BT/OpenReach. Aside: to this date, 3 and a half years later, there are still some households that cannot order faster broadband – you can read some of the gory details on the town’s website HERE.
As soon as the faster broadband service was available in my area, I eagerly signed up. That’s when my personal issues with BT began.
I first wrote about the installation issues that I had in an article published on the town’s website in May 2012 — see Faster Internet campaigner slowly gets sped up.
In the end, I accepted BT’s offer of an 18 month contract at a reduced rate to make up for the fact that “faster” didn’t deliver “faster” speeds (“up to 40Mb/s” is what BT told us to campaign on in 2010 — the best I got was 12 or so megabits per second).
HAVING A BIT OF A WOBBLE
Fast forward 18 months and my faster broadband contract with BT is up.
I rang BT up on January 13th, 2014, two days before the end of my contract, in order to find out about renewing and to see if there is any chance that my broadband speeds could be improved.
That’s when this current lot of problems began.
The woman at BT could not get into my account. She told me that I would have to go through the “exceptions” department. The exceptions department also had problems: I was told that his “computer is having a bit of a wobble”.
After 5 minutes on hold, the exceptions department tells me there is a fault as his system says he cannot offer me Infinity (faster broadband) but he sees clearly on his computer that I currently have Infinity under contract.
I asked him what speed I should expect to get. He tells me 80 megabits per second! He asks what I get so I told him: 12 megabits per second. I could hear his jaw drop. Once recovered he tells me that I should get a discount because of the low speed.
As his wobbly computer still isn’t working he tells me to ring back again later to the exceptions department.
THE BBC COMES TO TOWN
By coincidence, around this same time there turned out to be a lot of people in Whitchurch and the surrounding villages who were becoming quite upset with BT and OpenReach, its faster broadband installers.
The anger got to such a level that the BBC took an interest and came to town to report on the goings on: BBC VISITS WHITCHURCH.
BT and OpenReach arranged through me a public meeting in town to discuss the slow roll-out and, as it turned out, to make more promises about when faster broadband would be delivered. See BT VISIT WHITCHURCH.
At that meeting, it was stated that they were surprised by the high level of take-up of faster broadband in by the “Race to Infinity” winning towns. Seriously?
It seems the directors at BT must have already forgotten that volunteers had gone door-to-door in what amounted to the biggest free PR exercise ever mounted in the UK. Everyone in town – and we mean everyone and then some – knew what faster broadband was and that BT promised to make it available to them before other rural towns.
But maybe the directors all lived in towns and cities where having faster internet connections was the norm? Just a few months earlier, BT had its knuckles rapped by MPs for failing to deliver on its promises to speed up the internet in rural areas – of which the winners of the “Race to Infinity” were supposed to be first to benefit.
Also at that meeting in town, the OpenReach installers told us that because faster broadband was so popular here, that one of the telephone cabinets that contained the connections for the faster broadband was filled to capacity.
FILLED TO CAPACITY
Ah! That is why the “exceptions” department’s computer went “wobbly”: the OpenReach installers had marked the cabinet, which by coincidence was the one my home telephone & internet was connected to, as being full to capacity. Obviously, some glitch meant that BT could not even renew existing customers’ contracts that were hooked up to it.
By now I had raised enough of a fuss with the directors that my contract renewal request was given over to an “Executive Level Complaints” person in the “Chairman and Chief Executive’s Service Team” at BT Retail.
The person there eventually found out about the cabinet issue from OpenReach, which I had already told them about based on the public meeting in Whitchurch on 5th February, and let me know, in the end, that my line could not be made to go any faster nor could my line be swapped to a different cabinet.
That price is close to a “normal” broadband package price. Close but still slightly more. Mind, even normal broadband is supposedly 16 megabits per second!
(thinks: next time I have an issue I will swap out of Infinity and see if the normal broadband is actually better)
THE PROMISE BROKEN
My quarterly bill came on 23rd April. It contained…Not a single bit of compensation that was promised to me!
Instead, the BT bill indicated that I was being charge the full whack of £27.67 per month for “Infinity 2” which promises “up to 76Mbps” — don’t I wish!
Quite where the extra 67p came from is a mystery — their advert for Infinity 2 says it is £27. Multiply 67p out by millions of customers and BT is making a tidy sum!
Needless to say, I was not pleased at this situation. Immediately, I got in contact with the person in the Chairman’s Office who had been dealing with my case. But I didn’t stop there.
I also use the wonderful service at CEO EMAIL to find out the email address of the CEO of BT and wrote to him directly. I let him know that I had been effectively lied to by the person in the Chairman’s Office.
His secretary told me that he was in a series of meetings with limited access to email, and instead someone in his “senior service team” – not chairman’s office?!? – would get in touch.
Hmpf. I replied to say that I could wait until he was out of his meetings for his reply. I didn’t mind.
INVALUABLE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
I never got a reply from the CEO.
However, I did get one from the “Director of Customer Resolution” which stated in part,
I’ve reviewed your case with [name of person in “Chairman’s Office”], your case handler.
Hang on a tick, how many names does BT have for this department that handles customer issues? There’s customer support, exceptions handling, chairman’s office and now customer resolution. Or maybe, there are many, many departments handling customer complaints?
Anyway the Director continued,
“I’m sorry we’ve disappointed you with the speeds after you’ve been such an advocate of our fibre product.
The issue was that the cabinet was full at the time and not accepting orders, which prevented us using our normal process to regrade you and we had to divert to a manual process which caused subsequent issues with your discount.”
No shit Sherlock.
Well, at least no one else will ever, never ever, ever, never, ever, not in a million years, ever, ever have the same problem as me:
“it’s been an invaluable learning for us and we are now correcting this process to prevent it happening to other customers.”
Lovely; Glad I could help the rest of BT’s customers – You all can buy me a beer. I don’t need crisps though (Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten, I’m coming up to that bit of my story).
The Director followed-up with the Chairman’s Office and I have been promised (!!) that the previously promised discount (ie billing at same rate as normal Broadband) will be done; and backdated to January. I also received caller ID for a year free as I had complained that I wasn’t too pleased about the rest of my bill either.
However, the message ended with something that will irk anyone who lives outside of London, where BT has its headquarters:
I sincerely apologise for letting you down but please let us restore your faith in fibre and our service, and thanks again for all yours and Whitchurch’s efforts to bring Infinity to your village.
My “village” has near on 6000 people in it. Sure, it isn’t nearly as big as London but it ain’t no village. People in London should get out more!
MUNCH ON THIS
Now, what about that couple those three boxes of crisps that I said I received this week?
Well, they came from the CEO of Tayto in Northern Ireland as an apology for his customer service department not following up on my complaint that they under-filled a crisp packet that I had bought down at my local pub, The White Hart.
Turns out they had a temporary production fault and were very sorry that I didn’t have a perfect experience.
Now that is how to run a company: a CEO that interacts directly and promptly with customers that have legitimate complaints that aren’t resolved in a timely manner by their customer relations department!
Buy Real Crisps. They’re tasty good; and if you’re not satisfied, the CEO is keen to put things right and thank you personally and properly.
But don’t trust a thing BT promises you. Ever.
I intend to take the boxes of crisps to my kids’ final rugby training session, a “fun day” with parents joining in too. No doubt I’ll be the most popular dad there…if I survive the tackles by my two sons and their teammates.
Update: The kids at the Overton rugby club devoured the Real Crisps! Us parents lost the tug-of-war match though!