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British Telecom Sucks – or how not to do customer service


Updated here

British Telecom is a good example of a company which has such a lousy reputation for the way it treats its customers that people set up websites to moan to the world about the awfulness. Despite the company trying to shut down dissent (see the furore caused a few years ago with the company stifling sites like still manage to get the word out, although judging from a recent post, the telco does absolutely nothing about complaints whatsoever even when lodged en masse.

My interest has been piqued by the fact that we are currently on the smelly end of the stick with regard to some rubbish service. Our landline has been out of commission since 2nd March (i.e. 2 weeks) and despite numerous calls to the BT outsourced helplines in India, complaints lodged via online forms and even a terse exchange of emails with one of its marketing flacks, the company resolutely refuses to fix the problem.

The BT Catch 22. You say your telephone line is broken, sir? Well, we’ll have to test it. Oh dear, we can’t test it because you are running broadband on it. Sorry. Click.

British Telecom supporters claim customers now have a choice in who to use, that it’s no longer a monopoly situation, but that’s not quite true. The fact is, if you have the temerity to ditch BT and sign up for a different supplier of the last mile, you leave yourself wide open to both companies claiming that the other is at fault if something goes wrong. At least if you stay with BT, the buck stops…well somewhere south of Bangalore.

It would be absolutely hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic. The BT flack offered to fix my problem ‘with the minimum of fuss’ when I explained why I thought his company sucketh, but when I wrote back suggesting that giving journalists specialist treatment in order to get them to come along to press launches wasn’t really solving the company’s overall customer relations problem, it all went very quiet.

It’s this kind of dumb 18th century customer treatment that makes dinosaurs like this die long, protracted, painful deaths. And good riddance.


  • Full disclosure – I have worked for 17 years in the telecom industry…

    People need to look at the other side of this equation. The telecoms have been squeezed to the point of getting blood out of turnip. Remember the days when Sprint advertised the best sound quality with a commercial of hearing a needle dropping? No one cares about that. No way people will pay 35 cents per minute long distance for an ultra clear connection and immediate, personal service.

    The consumer market went for the lowest cost carrier. Can anyone expect 5 star restaurant service when paying fast food prices?

    This is not a joke. When I helped run a business customer care organization, I was told by headquarters to plan running the centers with call reps, techs, equipment, etc. while getting zero cents per minute for funding. How do you make payroll with no funds? Or even turn on the lights?

    The same thing happened with the airline industry. Everyone wants first class service at sub $99 round trip fares. The math just doesn't add up when everyone makes choices purely on the lowest cost.

    The market has spoken very, very clearly the past two decades. Lowest cost wins. And I doubt there will ever be an Apple equivalent for either the telecoms or airlines.

    • Todd, I hear exactly what you're saying and you're totally correct. The fact is we force this kind of stuff on the corporate with demands for better value. But surely there comes a point where it doesn't make sense any more? Look at my update for an example of customer care gone crazy.

      My opinion for what it's worth, is we need to adjust current thinking so that large organisations are tasked with meeting the goals and needs of ALL their stakeholders, not just shareholders. If we can build that into their governance documents we can start to see corporate leaders take steps to provide better service without risk of being sued or jailed for negligence as officers. Right now they HAVE to maximise profits, in the future maybe they should be tasked with maximizing social benevolence?

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