BT Vision will fail

Harsh? I don’t think so. Forget everything else, if a provider can’t do better than a voice loop telling you a lie about when the broadband service will be restored, it has no business pretending to be a TV service provider.

There are, of course, plenty of question marks over a strategy that sees a company boasting about one million free sign-ups. And there are plenty of bodies on the field of play of previous soccer ‘mad’ suckers who all thought “this time it will be different”. But leave all that aside.

What is the point of spending £1 billion+ on what they already seem to be spinning as a customer loyalty play – rather than a proper intervention in the media market (lost their nerve already?), when customer service is bad enough to be the equivalent of beating loyal customers away with a stick.

And, yes, you guessed, I do speak from personal experience. When BT last upgraded my broadband, the engineer fitted an outdated connection cover that failed within a day. This was cheerfully pointed by the next engineer who eventually arrived two days later, and that was only after the kind of thermonuclear demands for better service that are exhausting for both me and the poor guys stuck, powerless, in an information-free zone somewhere in India.

Today my broadband failed at 09.30. Just stopped. I called up and was led through a human-free check-list and warned not to try and speak to anyone before completing all the power-off, re-boot stuff I’d already done. The last thing on the list is to call a number to see if there is a problem in the area. There wasn’t, it said. They then invite you to call the number that, if you have done it before, you know leads to a call centre in India. I have called it before and still have flashbacks of the aching silences between myself and my interlocutor as we wordlessly digest that his employer has left him utterly unable to help me.

So I don’t call, I’d rather just leave it half an hour and see what happens. Nothing happens. So I go through the whole checklist again but this time the recorded message says there is a problem in my area and it will be fixed in two hours time. At midday I try reconnecting. Nada. I go straight to the service update line and, guess what, it says they know there is a problem and it will be fixed in two hours time. That’s just insulting.

I ring the help line and am told, of course, ‘we are very busy’, why don’t I try all these other useless things I’ve already done. No, I’ll hold. OK, your call will be answered in five to ten minutes. Better not to tell me that if it isn’t true. Fourteen minutes later, Darshan picks up and after some security questions, (why would I care if someone else was going through the hell of fixing my broadband for me?), goes off for several minutes to find out what’s going on. Comes back, tells me there is a problem, the engineers are working on it and it could be 24 hours before it is fixed.

I remain polite, if a little cold, in my attitude. A. That’s appalling. B. Why has your company ruined my working day by lying about it being fixed in two hours – I could have gone and found some broadband elsewhere? Darshan sympathises and says they cannot get an exact estimate – they are technical help, this is network. No, there’s no way I can talk to network. And the 24 hours is a maximum. Does that mean the 24 hours is a worst case guess they have to tell me because they don’t know? Yes. I ask him to get a manager. Then I get cut off.

To be fair he calls back and a few minutes later he produces a manager. I repeat the Darshan conversation, he says he will see what he can find out. Five minutes later he returns and says broadband will be back on at 2pm, by now it’s 1.45pm. He apologises and tends to agree that this isn’t a great display of customer service and yes, he can imagine what it would feel like if this happened during a much prized piece of television. At 1.48pm the broadband returns.

What is the point of spending hundreds of millions on content when a few tens of millions spent on decent customer service would perhaps be as effective in engendering loyalty. Certainly, the content money is wasted if delivery support is that dire. BT Vision has consistently topped the pay-TV service provider complaints league with six times as many complaints as the average. Doesn’t anyone care? Are the poor cousins of customer service so far down the food chain at BT that they have as much chance of grabbing the attention of the C Suites on their way to more top sporting hospitality as a subscriber has of reaching a human being who can help them in customer services?

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