To BT or not to BT. 27 April 2012 that is the question

Just when our General Manager, Hannah Schmitz, thought the service from this national institution could get no worse, guess what - it did!

I’m sure everyone has had their fair share of problems with BT in the past; from incorrect bills to lines not working and call centres miles away. It’s almost funny telling anecdotes of the experiences you’ve had in an ‘Oh, aren’t BT really bad’ kind of way. I am now writing this blog because it has gone past the point of being funny and I am really, really annoyed.

My torment began one rainy day last November when our phones started getting the odd crackle. The crackle turned into a horrible hissing sound making it impossible to hear anything the person on the other end of the phone was saying. I called BT and they reluctantly sent out an engineer but when he arrived he couldn’t find a problem.

After he left, the noise on the line was still there. So I called BT again and they raised faults for all 12 of our lines. Another engineer came out and still couldn’t find a problem. The crackle appeared on different lines at different times so it was hard to track and there seemed to be no logical reason why it would appear. The next engineer who came also couldn’t find a problem, so he tried to contact someone more experienced who also came along to have a look. They replaced various different parts at the exchange and yet the noise persisted. A couple of days later another more senior engineer came out and claimed that it was a faulty phone system. (I tried to tell him we didn’t have a system and all the lines came in directly from outside but he wouldn’t listen). By this time I had been passed on to a customer service officer and I had her direct number (something that NEVER happens!) as the problem had been going on for so long (nearly 2 months by now). Another handful of engineers came and went with no success. The last engineer claimed that the noise we were hearing was actually our air conditioning unit and it wasn’t on the phone lines. Erm....WHAT?! The fact that this air conditioning unit had never worked, and all the phones were problematic, not just the phone on the desk under the unit makes this claim completely impossible. And I think we are clever enough to know what we can hear on a phone and what a normal office noise is! I couldn’t believe how patronising they were to me. Needless to say that was the end of their help.

Thankfully for us we ended up moving offices in February which meant saying goodbye to the horrible noisy phones for good. Little did I know that this would just be the start of our BT problems.

Our new offices were a blank canvas and we were able to fit the phone and IT systems from scratch. I had wanted to find a new provider and not stay with BT, but their service cancellation charges were astronomical and unfortunately it made much more sense economically to stay with them.

So, we went ahead and ordered our shiny new phone system and two broadband services. We had confirmation that the orders would be in place by mid-February, just in time for our move at the end of the month. As we were setting up our IT systems, we realised that one of the broadband lines wasn’t working. We contacted BT who said it would be fixed immediately. Another day passed, and another, and each day BT promised it would be fixed the following day. Ten days later when we moved in there was still no internet connection. It was finally fixed and we were able to get on with our work.

I thought this would be the last of our problems. We then got our first set of bills through – which had helpfully been sent to the wrong address. When I called BT to change the address it was such a huge palaver. The guy I spoke to in a call centre miles away from the UK couldn’t understand most of what I was saying. You’d think that they would have a list of all the accounts that belong to The Corner Shop and be able to update details all in one go. Well you’d be wrong. I had to go through all the account numbers one by one, answering the same security questions each time. I was on the phone for well over an hour. And when the next bill came in, it was still incorrect.

I started scrutinising the bills as they came in, and noticed that we had been charged a cancellation fee for our phone lines and broadband in the old office. If I hadn’t picked up on that we could have easily given them £2000 for nothing.
I also noticed that we had been charged for three broadband accounts in the new offices instead of two – so I called BT again. The first person I spoke to said that the broadband account I was querying was on a residential line so they didn’t have the details and passed me onto the residential team. The residential team said they couldn’t bring up all the details as it was a business account so passed me back to the business team. I was getting pretty irate by this time so they passed me to someone actually based in the UK. I told her the problem all over again and she finally passed me onto someone who was able to get all our details in front of her. She said she would be able to cancel the broadband line we were mistakenly charged for. I triple checked that she had the right account number and she was going to cancel the correct broadband service as I’ve heard horror stories about them cutting off the wrong lines and causing chaos.
This morning I came into the office and the internet wasn’t working. We spent a good couple of hours on the phone to the BT broadband support line who kept fobbing us off. I’m no IT expert, but I know enough to realise when they are talking rubbish and just giving me pathetic excuses, like we aren’t using the right modem or that it’s a problem with our server. After a couple of hours they decided that our log-in details for the router were incorrect. We changed them, and it still didn’t work. Eventually, after four hours, they discovered that our broadband had been cancelled by mistake. You’d think that they could just switch it back on, but because they have cancelled it from the exchange, it is gone for good. Even if they ‘escalate’ the problem and rush it through it will be another four days at least until we are back online. Great.

I cannot even begin to imagine how many hours I have wasted on the phone to BT. On average I spend 45minutes on the phone, either on hold or speaking to someone who does not have a clue what I am talking about. I wonder how much I could charge BT for my time, the calls I have made to them, lost business from people not being able to hear us on the phone and lack of internet, not to mention the cost of having to get our IT support guy to come in every time there is an IT problem...

Hannah Schmitz

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