BT Customer Service Epic Fail

I am posting this here as it may be a useful illustration of how overly optimising processes can lead to incredibly poor customer service. Or maybe I am just ranting. In any case, this is a copy of a letter of complaint to BT, who has managed to completely mess up something as routine as moving home and taking my existing BT services with me. I am currently living without Internet in my house, which for a geek household is a bit of a challenge. First-world problems FTW.

I have been a staunch advocate of BT for many years and recommend them to anyone. I even pay them over £15k a year in my company to supply a leased line. But after this incredible nightmare I shall not be doing that again and as soon as I have some Internet connected I shall move away from BT for good. So sad. It would have been so easy if just one person had shown some ownership.

Update; BT's response to the complaint letter;
We’ll do our best to get back to you within 10 days. But when we’re busy, it can take up to 15 days.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have just had an incredibly unsatisfying customer experience trying to do something as routine as moving home and keeping my BT services. In short, I placed an order to move, it was cancelled for no reason that anyone has been able to give me, I wasn't contacted about this and spent, literally, hours on the phone in order to be told that someone will contact me to at some point when it suits you in order to maybe fix it someday.
Through many more phone calls I have finally managed to get you to promise to deliver the wrong thing ten days after you originally promised. Just wonderful. And it looks like you are cancelling all or part of my BT Vision package just to add to the fun. And I am getting emails to say my account has been cancelled and asking me to return equipment.

I would really rather like someone at BT who has heard the words "customer service" to take hold of this and get the right thing delivered urgently. But as far as I can gather from having spoken to ten different people, that is simply not allowed by BT policy.

On August the 4th I placed an order for moving my internet services from one address to another. It was a pleasant enough experience to place the order and the lady on the phone was helpful in choosing the right options. Let's not spend too much time contemplating how ridiculous it is that it takes several working days to schedule what is just a change in a computer system and that it can't be scheduled to happen on a weekend (the new property already had a working phoneline) - let's just put that down to inertia.

I received a text message confirming the order and the engineer appointment for the following Tuesday between 1pm and 6pm. I even got another text a day or two later telling me that you were sending me a router which just goes to show you were certainly capable of contacting me when you wanted. I also received the actual equipment from you so all was good.

Tuesday 11 August
On the day of the switch I had already been in the new house for four days without internet so was obviously keen on getting this sorted. I waited anxiously to hear the news and I made sure someone was in the house at all time in the unlikely event that the engineer actually had to visit, rather than just type the change into a computer. But - nothing.

I eventually went online on my phone to track the order .
Lo and behold - the tracking page said there was a problem with the order and to "please contact you". Odd, as I hadn’t heard anything from you.

I eventually managed to find the phone number to call you on and I only had to wait for  a minute or two before I got to talk to a nice chap who told me that my "order had been rejected" and that I needed to talk to someone else. He then put me in their call queue.

35 minutes of hold music later….

I got through to a nice lady who also explained that my order had been rejected for no discernible reason that she could see. She explained to me that the way to resolve this situation was to get someone called "the offline team" to call me back tomorrow between 8am and 8pm to arrange for a new appointment.

To summarise, at this point BT is saying to me; Yes, we messed up. Yes, we cancelled your appointment to move your internet services. No, we didn't tell you about this. Yes, we recognise you have no internet or phone service. Our super high priority response to this is to get someone to call you sometime in the next 16 to 24 hours to maybe arrange to fix our mess at some point in the indeterminate future.
I could - maybe - have understood this if this had been on the weekend or late at night - but this was at 4 o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon. I do not see any possible reason why I couldn't just have been connected through to this team straight away to resolve this there and then. It really does defy all sense of logic.

Needless to say, I found this completely unacceptable and insisted on the call being escalated to a manager.

10 minutes of hold music later…

I am told the manager is busy and will call me back within an hour.

30 minutes later…

I receive the callback from the manager. He explains that same thing again, about how the order has been rejected in the system for no reason he can see. He then explains we need to place a new order and then, once that order has been placed, they can expedite it. That seems rather odd to me, but I need this sorted so decide to play along. What is even odder is that, rather than him sorting this out, he then puts me through to yet another team for me to place a new order myself.

2 minutes of hold music later…

I get through to another nice lady and explains the situation yet again. She is rather confused by this because she actually works in the team that takes order from new clients, not the home mover team. To her credit she actually decides to own the problem as far as she can and she calls the home mover team while I stay on the line.

10 minutes of hold music later…

I am told that I shouldn't have been told to put through a new order and that the second team I spoke to should have sorted it. Again, this lady calls that team while I stay on the line.

20 minutes of hold music later…

The lady comes back and tells me that someone from the offline team will call me back tomorrow between 8am and 8pm.

At this point I had completely lost the will to live and gave up. Congratulations, you won the war of attrition.

Wednesday 12 August
20 hours later…

Still no word from the mythical offline team. I decided to call again to chase.

20 minutes of hold music later…

I spoke to the order management team, who decided, again, to forward me to a sales team to place a new order. I had the by now familiar conversation with the sales team about how the order management team should be handling it and shouldn't forward me to the sales team. I begged for help, but unfortunately no-one in BT is allowed to speak to the mythical offline team, though the chap on the phone did eventually agree to send an email to the offline team.

One hour later…

Still no word from the offline team. I contacted BT via Twitter and the online help form. I also called the order management team again and asked them to chase the offline team for me. Then I got cut off.

One hour later…

I called the order management team again and asked them to chase the offline team again. By a huge stroke of luck, the person I spoke to this time had been trained in the mysterious super powers of The Offline Team and offered to actually fix the problem. It took him a whole five minutes. The mind boggles trying to imagine how much time could have been saved all round if only someone else had been able to do this five minute job much earlier. But, I'm sure the way it works now is much more efficient - after all, why take five minutes to do something when you can take hours? Keeps people in jobs and customers unhappy, must be a good thing.

I was warned that I would receive an email with the order details and a new date of 21 August, but that this date would be moved forward as soon as the order was expedited. I was also informed that the order email would have a £130 charge on it, which would be waived later as this wasn't actually a new order.

I did receive the email and noticed that it was actually for the wrong thing; When I placed my home mover order, I changed the broadband package and some of the extras. The new order that had been placed was for what I had previously, not the new package I had agreed. However, I really had lost the will to listen to hold music at this point - and also figured that if I changed anything I am sure you would mess it up again and it would be even longer before I could get internet.

Two hours later.

I receive a call to confirm the 21st as the activation date. I explain that this is wrong and that the order is being expedited. I am assured the 21st is the expedited date. I complain. I am told that the earliest BT's systems will allow anyone to talk to me about the expedited date is another two days hence. Call me naïve, but I would have expected you to have finished the whole thing before then.

To summariseYou are now planning on delivering the wrong thing ten days after you originally promised to deliver - and your rules prevent you from even talking to me about this for another two days. I can't even begin to describe how incredible this sounds to a normal human being.

Needless to say, I never did hear from The Offline Team. I wonder if they really exist.

Wait 48 hours

Friday 14 August

No call from BT. Chase on Twitter.

Wait one hour.

Still no call from BT. Chase on Twitter.

Wait 30 minutes

A call to confirm an appointment for the 18th (7 days after the original promise). Given up the will to live so accept this.
Also received a text message confirming "your BT Broadband services will be working on 18/8/2015 by midnight".

Monday 17 August
Receive an odd text message telling me that someone will call me tomorrow, Tuesday, to talk about expediting my order. I assume this call is the one I actually had on Friday. In any case, no-one from BT actually ever calls me so I guess that text message was a lie.

Tuesday 18 August

Received an email to confirm the appointment for the 21st.
Can't find a way to email support and really don't want to spend any more time listening to hold music so resort to Twitter again.
Eventually try the online chat and speak to Sean Corrigan who confirms that the broadband will be activated today, the 18th.

Wait till 7pm.

No word. Phone line is working but broadband is not. Spend 40 minutes waiting for an operator on the online chat (while the chat app happily reports to me that the average wait is 10-20 minutes). Then spend another 20 minutes explaining everything - again. I am then told that the broadband will be activated on Friday 21st. Brilliant. And I am then told that they would like to transfer me to the order management team (you know, the team who are very good at transferring me to a random sales team). I explain that three hours of their hold music is more than enough for one lifetime and ask that they get the order team to call me - which they agree to.

I'm now waiting for that call. The very best I am hoping for is that they can switch the broadband on on the 21st but I really expect they will just cancel that without telling me again.

Some observations about your systems
The whole experience of using your online systems shows a complete lack of focus on usability testing. I have highlighted a few examples that I came across here, but the problem is endemic. I would highly recommend that you start focusing on this and set up a team to test the end-user scenarios end-to-end, rather than just keep piling ad-hoc features on top of ad-hoc features.
  • The online home mover service doesn't seem to work; it refused to move beyond the page where you choose your address line and didn't give any error messages (I tried on two different occasions in two different browsers, just to make sure). There might have been a legitimate reason for it not being able to progress, but unless you actually tell the user then this is just a very frustrating experience.
  • On the "track my order page" when you tell the customer to contact you, the link to "contact us" doesn't lead to the correct information about how to contact you about a problematic order but instead sends you to the generic contact page. Once on the generic contact page you have to navigate all the "please don't actually contact us" stuff before finally getting to a phone number. Very frustrating, especially when you are already frustrated by the uninformative "there was a problem with your order" message - and it's so easy to fix by making this a link directly to the appropriate information.

Some observations about your processes
  • Actually contact people when you cancel/reject/delay/whatever their orders and/or appointments. It's called common courtesy.
  • When you know it's your fault, have a better process available to your staff than "someone will call you sometime tomorrow" to maybe figure out a time sometime in the future to maybe deal with it. I know it sounds radical, but maybe go straight to this mythical "offline team" when it’s the middle of the day instead of having to wait for some indeterminate time tomorrow. I think some organisations call this "owning the problem".
  • You may want to give your call centre staff a way to bypass the queues when they need to call each other - it seems quite ridiculous and expensive having your own people being on hold to another team for half an hour, while the customer is holding to you.
  • If you had a faster complaints process you might actually be able to rectify problems before they blow out of control. Just a thought.
What I am expecting from you
Sadly your extremely slow complaint process means you have robbed yourself of the chance to rectify the problem while it was still ongoing.
  • I am expecting you to reimburse any costs you have charged me for this property.
  • I expect reasonable compensation for the 6+ hours I have spent trying to talk to you and explaining the same things over and over.
  • I expect compensation for the rather large amount of mobile data I have been forced to use.