Broadband Britain: Helpdesk Victim?

MyCustomer.com
14

"Hello you're through to the unhelpful desk. How can I annoy you today?"

It might excusably have slipped your attention but we're apparently in the grip of a technological revolution. Mr Blair has told us that we in the UK are going to be at the heart of the European digital economy and that Broadband Britain will be a fine and mighty place in which to surf.

Which is all fine and dandy except that with New Labour predictability the fine words don't extend much beyond the next soundbite and Broadband Britain is as much in evidence as a working NHS, improved transport, efficient education, the repeal of Clause 28 and on and on and on. (Fear not Blairites, we'll have a pop at the Tories later on...)

The most recent shocking statistics on the true state of Broadband Britain reveal that although 60 per cent of us live within the reach of a broadband enabled telephone exchange, just over one per cent of us have decided to invest in hitting the fast lane of what once so quaintly was referred to in hushed tones as the information superhighway. Here in the UK, we're happy pottering along in the slow lane it seems.

For those of us who have taken the plunge though, what's it like? Well, as one who was wired up last year, I can tell you it's pretty fab when it works. When it doesn't work, it's pretty awful, largely because the support infrastructure is so dire. The results of a Motive Communications survey this week confirms that this is not just my problem. Appalling levels of customer service are inhibiting what little progress there is towards us becoming a digital economy.

One of the problems I face most regularly is when my "24x7, always on" connection decides it's actually going to be "mostly off". Upon calling the help desk, you immediately enter into a terrifying world of intertwined divisions within BT that make picking your way through a maze seem like a doddle. It's a legacy of the Thatcher administration - see, political balance! - which turned BT from a state monopoly into a private one in all but name. This means BT owns the overwhelming majority of the underlying network infrastructure in the UK.

Oftel has made the company open up that network to the ISPs who actually provide the broadband service you access, but those ISPs largely still have to deal with BT's Wholesale arm. BT's Wholesale operation holds the people who actually provide your physical connection to broadband, but BT also has its own ISP arm in BTOpenworld, who compete with AOL and Freeserve et al.

The problem that therefore ensues is that if, like me, you call the BT Openworld helpdesk and it becomes apparent that the problem is with the actual line, then the person on the helpdesk goes into a bureaucratic tail-spin. Because BT cannot be seen to be favouring Openworld over other ISPs, different divisions of the same company are not allowed to contact one another except by specific procedures which translates to slowly. (By the way, anyone else think it's ironic that BT Openworld as an internet service does not allow online customer complaints? You have to write to them via snail mail.).

So you get the typical scenario of HelpDesk Person telling you as customer that he/she can't help you. "I'm part of BT Head In The Sand. I need to write to BT Head In The Clouds and they'll get back to you directly. How long will that take? Oh, about two weeks, sir. Yes, I know it's the high speed internet age, but it will take that long. Well, we can't talk to them you see, we have to email them and wait until they get back in touch with us.

'Call them direct sir? No, I'm sorry I can't give you the telephone number of BT Head In The Clouds, I'm not permitted to do that. No sir, I'm sorry, I can't pass on that information. Actually we don't know what the number of BT Head In The Clouds is. Yes I know we're all part of the same company, but I'm not allowed to know that information, sir." It's like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

Mind you, when my BT broadband connection was first installed it failed almost every day for almost a month. Not that you'd have known that from my customer record which mysteriously failed to note that I had called at all on most of the occasions. Curious....

Of course it's not just BT. Let's not even get started on NTL or NT-Hell as several people I know habitually refer to it. One colleague of mine turns a curious shade of crimson whenever NTL is mentioned, which really can't be good for blood pressure.

But then so many technology helpdesks seem to look for the first chance to tell you they can't help. I recently installed OS/X on my iMac, but ran into problems connecting it to my modem. Calling up the Apple help desk for which I pay for three years extended support to ask a simple question about how to add a modem to the Finder, I'm dismissed at once because I have a broadband modem linked to my computer rather than using the internal Apple one.

I manage to splutter out that my question is about OS/X. not the modem, but no, the 'get out of answering' card has been played and I'm left to figure it out myself. As I do so, it occurs to me that I've never yet called the Apple helpdesk and had anyone answer a question. So money well spent on that extended support in this case...

This state of affairs has got to stop. The pathetic progress towards Broadband Britain can be blamed on many guilty parties, but we can at least put a stop to customer service desks adding to the problem. I personally find playing the "I'm a journalist, put me through to your press office" quite effective, but that's not really an option open to many of you. But you can insist on talking to the most senior person, especially if that person's busy and has to drop what he or she is doing to attend to you. And if you don't get what you want, just keep going further up the totem pole. If anyone refuses to put you through to their superior, get their name and report them. Remember these people are being paid to sort out your problems, not to fob you off with excuses.

We're too ready in the UK to put up with having the buck passed. In the US, they're far happier to make a fuss. Let's start a campaign here and now. All CRM Forum subscribers should pledge that when faced with unhelpful help desks to create the maximum amount of fuss until you get some kind of satisfactory resolution that suits you, not just a blandishment that gets the vendor off the hook.

In the meantime, have you had a bad experience with a technology vendor's help/support desk? Let us know who it was and what the nature of the problem was. It's time to name and shame.

Motive’s study into broadband customer service can be found here:

Poor UK customer service holds back Broadband Britain

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avatar
22nd Mar 2002 14:16

Well there is software such as RSF-1 that will protect the ISP's services. They seem resistant to the interference of third parties but "forgive them for they know not what they do"!!!!

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 11:02

I found the BT helpdesk quite unhelpful. Totally unable to tell me when my (very urban) area would be able to support Broadband. I want to be in the fast lane - I'm prepared to pay.
...but no one can provide!

Stuart Lamb
CRM Development Manager
Norwich Union

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 16:20

Not a broadband problem - I'm in Belgium and if you think service in the UK is bad .. - but a problem with Dell. See:
http://users.skynet.be/yetanothersalsasite/Dell_Letter.html

for more info .. well, except that the site is down at the moment because of - you guessed it - problems at my ADSL provider.

Regards

Pat

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 16:27

Stuart,

it's BT!!

On Monday March 18 I reported a fault on my line, all done on the key pad. I then received a sms thanking me for this. On my return home that evening a card had been put thro' letter box timed @ 4.30 saying that if I contacted then BEFORE 4pm that day the engineer would return!

I rang again and was given an appt for the Weds pm. When I rang to check the automated system to see the progress I was informed that they had missed my appt for the following day (are they psychic?), so I called an operator ( called Annette) and asked how this had happened and could I have confirmation that the engineer would in fact attend, she was very abrupt and said I should be capable of understanding this message and she would get an appt for the following week. However I had arranged to be at home to meet the engineer on the Wed pm so repeated that I would like this appt kept and could she hurry up and ensure that it was confirmed, she then told my I was being abusive. All of these conversations were on my mobile and costing me money, unfortunately I moved into a bad reception area and lost the call when I got the reception back she rang and told me that I had hung up on her and that it was totally
unacceptable, then she did hang up on me. I called back but in the way of the call centre was routed to different place and a helpful guy called Richard who ensured that I got my appt.

Now all I need is recompense from BT for all the calls made to them from my mobile ( 45 minutes of peak time)

Yours
Anna Hunt
IBA

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 17:29

Hello Stuart,

Apart from some helpdesks being unhelpful, some are simply incompetent. I rang BT Internet helpdesk a few days ago and the gentleman told me the reason I can keep getting number engaged is because I am a high internet user and my account is managed. How could the system even know that it was me, when all I got was engaged tone on dial up. Dialling from the mobile phone, I got the same results. I rang the helpdesk again, and someone else told me its congestion because BT was working to improve the situation. A few weeks later nothing has changed, and the congestion is creeping to later and later hours of the night.

Furthermore there is abuse of power as well. I send BT an email and they said if I was unhappy I could close my account and they will refund balance of my subscription. I replied saying that closing the account was not an option, and I expected the problem to be resolved.

As for broadband, unlike British Rail "We are getting there", here its "We are coming to your area soon"! My ever so right Prof once said "soon" means nothing.

Harjit.
____________________________________________
Dr Harjit Singh
HS Consulting

Thanks (0)
avatar
By djb554
22nd Mar 2002 14:36

I live in the US in Boston, and many of the issues are very familiar. The help desk at AT&T Broadband (cable services operator) rushes you off the line as quickly as possible (result, I still haven't been able to set up my mail client). However, the connection is fast, stable and really is always on.

In contrast, the DSL service from Verizon (local phone company) would stop working for long periods (up to two hours) for no apparent reason, but the help desk went to great lengths to be as helpful as possible.

Thanks (0)
avatar
26th Mar 2002 14:08

I found after a month of comlaints to my Broadband supplier that BT had failed to carry out the correct setup procedure. Again like most people I spent copious amounts of time on the phone (a BT LINE!) trying to get the problem fixed.

Maybe this is just a ploy to generate more funds for BT by never having the problem solved "Right First Time", off setting their losses when Offtel announced their shoddy practices.

If the Government wishes to move technology forward they need to force monopolies like BT (and more importantly the management of these companies) into providing affordable services, with a positive customer ethic.

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 17:29

Hello Stuart,

Apart from some helpdesks being unhelpful, some are simply incompetent. I rang BT Internet helpdesk a few days ago and the gentleman told me the reason I can keep getting number engaged is because I am a high internet user and my account is managed. How could the system even know that it was me, when all I got was engaged tone on dial up. Dialling from the mobile phone, I got the same results. I rang the helpdesk again, and someone else told me its congestion because BT was working to improve the situation. A few weeks later nothing has changed, and the congestion is creeping to later and later hours of the night.

Furthermore there is abuse of power as well. I send BT an email and they said if I was unhappy I could close my account and they will refund balance of my subscription. I replied saying that closing the account was not an option, and I expected the problem to be resolved.

As for broadband, unlike British Rail "We are getting there", here its "We are coming to your area soon"! My ever so right Prof once said "soon" means nothing.

Harjit.
____________________________________________
Dr Harjit Singh
HS Consulting

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 16:27

Stuart,

it's BT!!

On Monday March 18 I reported a fault on my line, all done on the key pad. I then received a sms thanking me for this. On my return home that evening a card had been put thro' letter box timed @ 4.30 saying that if I contacted then BEFORE 4pm that day the engineer would return!

I rang again and was given an appt for the Weds pm. When I rang to check the automated system to see the progress I was informed that they had missed my appt for the following day (are they psychic?), so I called an operator ( called Annette) and asked how this had happened and could I have confirmation that the engineer would in fact attend, she was very abrupt and said I should be capable of understanding this message and she would get an appt for the following week. However I had arranged to be at home to meet the engineer on the Wed pm so repeated that I would like this appt kept and could she hurry up and ensure that it was confirmed, she then told my I was being abusive. All of these conversations were on my mobile and costing me money, unfortunately I moved into a bad reception area and lost the call when I got the reception back she rang and told me that I had hung up on her and that it was totally
unacceptable, then she did hang up on me. I called back but in the way of the call centre was routed to different place and a helpful guy called Richard who ensured that I got my appt.

Now all I need is recompense from BT for all the calls made to them from my mobile ( 45 minutes of peak time)

Yours
Anna Hunt
IBA

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 16:20

Not a broadband problem - I'm in Belgium and if you think service in the UK is bad .. - but a problem with Dell. See:
http://users.skynet.be/yetanothersalsasite/Dell_Letter.html

for more info .. well, except that the site is down at the moment because of - you guessed it - problems at my ADSL provider.

Regards

Pat

Thanks (0)
avatar
26th Mar 2002 14:08

I found after a month of comlaints to my Broadband supplier that BT had failed to carry out the correct setup procedure. Again like most people I spent copious amounts of time on the phone (a BT LINE!) trying to get the problem fixed.

Maybe this is just a ploy to generate more funds for BT by never having the problem solved "Right First Time", off setting their losses when Offtel announced their shoddy practices.

If the Government wishes to move technology forward they need to force monopolies like BT (and more importantly the management of these companies) into providing affordable services, with a positive customer ethic.

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 11:02

I found the BT helpdesk quite unhelpful. Totally unable to tell me when my (very urban) area would be able to support Broadband. I want to be in the fast lane - I'm prepared to pay.
...but no one can provide!

Stuart Lamb
CRM Development Manager
Norwich Union

Thanks (0)
avatar
22nd Mar 2002 14:16

Well there is software such as RSF-1 that will protect the ISP's services. They seem resistant to the interference of third parties but "forgive them for they know not what they do"!!!!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By djb554
22nd Mar 2002 14:36

I live in the US in Boston, and many of the issues are very familiar. The help desk at AT&T Broadband (cable services operator) rushes you off the line as quickly as possible (result, I still haven't been able to set up my mail client). However, the connection is fast, stable and really is always on.

In contrast, the DSL service from Verizon (local phone company) would stop working for long periods (up to two hours) for no apparent reason, but the help desk went to great lengths to be as helpful as possible.

Thanks (0)