BT's CRM "ux-spurt"

MyCustomer.com
Share this content

I don't know why it continues to surprise me. I really ought to be used to it by now. At least that's what the nice, if totally ineffectual lady at Oftel told me when I phoned her to inquire about how to complain. She didn't seem to think there was much point in pursuing my complaint. It won't change anything, she sighed.

So BT OpenWorld can rest assured that its mantle as the single most useless and unhelpful customer service operation remains unchallenged despite valiant efforts by NTL to challenge its title. But it's encouraging to note that the company is not resting on its laurels, but continually seeking out new forms of indifference to hack off its customers.

This week was a corkingly good effort I felt. I had an email problem which I knew from previous experience was because for some reason BT Openworld wasn't clearing my account on its server. This has happened twice before and can be corrected in five minutes at their end. Should they choose to. Which in this case they emphatically did not. Then again, on the previous occasions I was assured this problem would never occur again.

It didn't help that I was put through first to a call centre agent whose accent was so thick that I couldn't understand most of what he was mumbling. But once I managed to translate his sullen tones into something resembling the English language, it became apparent that although I was able to tell him exactly what the problem was and referred him to the notes on my file which would confirm this had happened before, this was not going to be simple.

So I get slapped on hold while he wander off to find an 'ux-spurt' - which seems to be BT in-house terminology for someone who knows what they're talking about, a rare species in OpenWorld circles I fear as it took 13 minutes before our hapless hero returned to the phone. Whereupon he told me this would have to booked as a call-back which would occur in 48 hours. Two days to sort out a problem which can fixed on the spot and was on previous occasions! That's moving at internet speed.

I tried once again to point out what the problem was and that the details could be found on my account record. This was no use, so I asked for a supervisor to come on the line. He refused to put me through and told me if I had a complaint I had to write and send a complaint via snail mail. I asked again for a supervisor only to be told that if I was that bothered why didn't I send an email? Which given that the only reason I was talking to this public face of BT was because my email was screwed up at their end was really the last straw. But I couldn't do anything about it, because by this time he'd put the phone down.

BT has made enormous strides in the spread of broadband adoption and the company's wholesale arm is to be commended for this. There's been a Pauline conversion on the road to broadband Damascus since the new CEO took over. But all of that will count for nothing so long as the company employs unpleasant, ill-mannered and frankly ignorant call centre staff who should never be allowed out to play in any form of customer facing role.

I'm about to move house and will have to reinstall my broadband connection. I would have used BT. Now I'll be passing on my business to Freeserve. So well done to Cliff in the call centre - notch up another lost customer to BT OpenWorld. You really did take BT's CRM to a whole new low, mate. With the likes of you around, NTL can kiss that worst customer service trophy goodbye for a long time yet.

Stuart Lauchlan

Replies

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
20th Sep 2002 15:26

It is nice to know that I am part of a community that shares in this type of response from BT.

I have had several similar experiences and on one occassion having written to customer services I actually received a reply with an apology. However, as I read on through the letter they also added that they doubted my comments as they had no record whatever of my having contacted them! Somehow the apology no longer appeared sincere.

Thanks (0)
avatar
23rd Sep 2002 19:07

I completely agree with Stuart's and the other posters' observations, and would rather save the space and time of sharing very similar experiences.

It is, however, too easy to 'punish' the culprit(s) by depriving them of our custom. Well justified, yet less than brilliant move: this will not cause their imminent bancruptcy, they just won't notice!. You (we) will remain a drop in their quite expected (forecast and budgeted for) 'churn' figures. Handling such churn, CRM gurus have taught them, has nothing to do with improving customer experience. They have the 'right' acquisition and win-back strategies in place ;o) And, Stuart, if you were tagged as 'platinum' (or premium or whatever their value scoring system says) by now they should be spamming you with e-mails and dinner-time calls and half-price offers to 'prevent the churn'...

Or they may not: knowing too well that you've nowhere else to go! Not that they are (any longer) a monopoly. The 'own goal' of slamming their door behind you will teach you the lesson that all the others are none the better :o(

It also strikes me that most of the concern I read about has to do with the technical performance of their 'bored band' service. Just a quick look at the Oftel site http://www.oftel.org.uk, which publishes excellent statistics, reveals that of the Top10 complaints from telcos only 2 (two!, and only at no.8 & 9) are of a technical nature - all the rest being about plain old customer service!:

1 Telephone company ignoring my complaint
2 Failure/time taken to repair a fault
3 Difficulty contacting my telephone company
4 Compensation issues
5 My telephone conmpany does not answer my letters
6 My telephone company does not keep me informed of developments in my dispute
7 My telephone company is charging me for a service I have cancelled
8 I have experienced a total loss of service
9 I have expereinced problems with my apparatus/systems
10 I have had problems getting a refund from my telephone company


So, here's some FFT (food-for-thaught) for all CRM strategists and practitioners, readers and writers on this forum: in an environment where nobody's service stands out and 'churn' is managed by bribing competitors' customers to switch (or your own not to) - where is the WIIFM ('what's in it for me') incentive for an operator to seek superior customer experience? What is the compelling reason to change KPIs and executive remuneration towards that end? Why should shareholders be bothered to insist on it?

It is, after all, the objective of this and similar forums to enlighten and guide, more than to vent our dissatisfaction with shoddy performance.

Vladimir Dimitroff
mailto:[email protected]
http://www.round.co.uk

Thanks (0)
avatar
21st Sep 2002 19:00

I too have had the same experience - my one an inabaility to accept or send large mails (if you think 250K is large)- The start of the experience is much the same as Stuart's. But the end was quite amazing. Although they did not solve the problem on line with me thay did spend some 2 hours of an experts time going through everything from unistalling Outlook to testing firewalls and virus checkers. This was after the had promised twice that someone would contact me and gave me specific times - which of course they did not keep to!

The experience overall was terrible but there were individuals trying their best to help! Yes some were trying to go that extra mile.

One of the really strange things about telecommunications and PC's is that the so called expert support are not really experts at all!

Otherwise why would they (an this should offend some of you hard working guys) stay mending things other people seem to break. I have worked for two large hardware vendors in my time and the conversations I have had with the specialists who put things right have left me shaken if not stirred!

The normal response to a problem is: we try what worked before then we "play it by ear" - that should make all of you feel safe and warm from now on whenever you have a techie problem you cannot solve yourself!

My problem with BT somehow as once before resolved itself as if by magic? I wonder if someone somewhere pressed a button just like Stuart wanted to have happen - eventually..... !!!

Thanks (0)
avatar
21st Sep 2002 17:54

I felt for you, Stuart, as your painful tale unfolded.

Sadly, your experience is all too common, not just with BT Openworld, but across thousands of organisations who really ought to be doing better.

I am one of a team currently writing a major report on the End-to-End User Experience of Internet Sites and Services in the UK.

In particular, and in relation to your experience, we can now prove that there is a massive ROI from improving the end-to-end user experience, far greater than any potential benefits through cost-cutting or higher staff productivity.

Interestingly, your bad experience with post-sales service was sufficient to prompt you to switch suppliers. This echoes the findings of our research. But things don't have to be this way. Leading-edge firms are delivering excellent sites and services, and the gap between best and worst continues to widen.

However, I do think you may have been a little harsh on Cliff. It's really not his fault.

If he were by nature a surly person, with an unintelligible accent, he ought not to have been recruited in the first place. If he's poorly trained, or demotivated, that's not his fault either.

Besides, he shouldn't have had to take your call in the first place. The original technical problem ought to have been eliminated at source. Your call was simply "failure demand", a sub-set of what I would term "unwanted demand". Openworld should have a strategy to reduce unwanted demand, and a properly-planned-and-resourced initiative to make it happen.

In other words, the blame lies fairly and squarely with management – both in the contact centre and above. Only when managers focus on what they ought to be doing, fixing the system in which unfortunate staff like Cliff have to work, will fundamental improvement blossom.

As a consultant, I could show Openworld how to fix their contact centre problems in under 6 months, and deliver guaranteed net savings in cost. But, judging from your experience, Stuart, I doubt if they would be interested.

Thanks (0)
avatar
21st Sep 2002 19:00

I too have had the same experience - my one an inabaility to accept or send large mails (if you think 250K is large)- The start of the experience is much the same as Stuart's. But the end was quite amazing. Although they did not solve the problem on line with me thay did spend some 2 hours of an experts time going through everything from unistalling Outlook to testing firewalls and virus checkers. This was after the had promised twice that someone would contact me and gave me specific times - which of course they did not keep to!

The experience overall was terrible but there were individuals trying their best to help! Yes some were trying to go that extra mile.

One of the really strange things about telecommunications and PC's is that the so called expert support are not really experts at all!

Otherwise why would they (an this should offend some of you hard working guys) stay mending things other people seem to break. I have worked for two large hardware vendors in my time and the conversations I have had with the specialists who put things right have left me shaken if not stirred!

The normal response to a problem is: we try what worked before then we "play it by ear" - that should make all of you feel safe and warm from now on whenever you have a techie problem you cannot solve yourself!

My problem with BT somehow as once before resolved itself as if by magic? I wonder if someone somewhere pressed a button just like Stuart wanted to have happen - eventually..... !!!

Thanks (0)
avatar
23rd Sep 2002 19:07

I completely agree with Stuart's and the other posters' observations, and would rather save the space and time of sharing very similar experiences.

It is, however, too easy to 'punish' the culprit(s) by depriving them of our custom. Well justified, yet less than brilliant move: this will not cause their imminent bancruptcy, they just won't notice!. You (we) will remain a drop in their quite expected (forecast and budgeted for) 'churn' figures. Handling such churn, CRM gurus have taught them, has nothing to do with improving customer experience. They have the 'right' acquisition and win-back strategies in place ;o) And, Stuart, if you were tagged as 'platinum' (or premium or whatever their value scoring system says) by now they should be spamming you with e-mails and dinner-time calls and half-price offers to 'prevent the churn'...

Or they may not: knowing too well that you've nowhere else to go! Not that they are (any longer) a monopoly. The 'own goal' of slamming their door behind you will teach you the lesson that all the others are none the better :o(

It also strikes me that most of the concern I read about has to do with the technical performance of their 'bored band' service. Just a quick look at the Oftel site http://www.oftel.org.uk, which publishes excellent statistics, reveals that of the Top10 complaints from telcos only 2 (two!, and only at no.8 & 9) are of a technical nature - all the rest being about plain old customer service!:

1 Telephone company ignoring my complaint
2 Failure/time taken to repair a fault
3 Difficulty contacting my telephone company
4 Compensation issues
5 My telephone conmpany does not answer my letters
6 My telephone company does not keep me informed of developments in my dispute
7 My telephone company is charging me for a service I have cancelled
8 I have experienced a total loss of service
9 I have expereinced problems with my apparatus/systems
10 I have had problems getting a refund from my telephone company


So, here's some FFT (food-for-thaught) for all CRM strategists and practitioners, readers and writers on this forum: in an environment where nobody's service stands out and 'churn' is managed by bribing competitors' customers to switch (or your own not to) - where is the WIIFM ('what's in it for me') incentive for an operator to seek superior customer experience? What is the compelling reason to change KPIs and executive remuneration towards that end? Why should shareholders be bothered to insist on it?

It is, after all, the objective of this and similar forums to enlighten and guide, more than to vent our dissatisfaction with shoddy performance.

Vladimir Dimitroff
mailto:[email protected]
http://www.round.co.uk

Thanks (0)
avatar
20th Sep 2002 15:26

It is nice to know that I am part of a community that shares in this type of response from BT.

I have had several similar experiences and on one occassion having written to customer services I actually received a reply with an apology. However, as I read on through the letter they also added that they doubted my comments as they had no record whatever of my having contacted them! Somehow the apology no longer appeared sincere.

Thanks (0)