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.