Sunday, June 22, 2008

The disaster that is BT’s customer support

I have always been pro-BT. I have never had any problems with my broadband connection and although I occasionally have issues with my WiFi services (OpenZone) these are always quickly resolved. Who could ask for more?

Several of my chums have had problems and have been forced into the grips of BT’s “Customer Care”. I think both have now recovered, but they keep recalling: “I thought I was losing the will to live” and “I am now much better for taking the Prozac”. I had always assumed that they exaggerated and were partly to blame. How wrong I was. How wrong I was.

As I started my quest to sort out the problem it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a long and depressing task. I had to get something positive from the experience so decided to analyse BT’s performance from a marketing / customer care perspective. In particular, what BT must do to improve things for its older customers?

For readers who want to know the nature of the problem, see the description at the end of this blog post – the problem is not the issue, but rather BT’s amazingly inept way of trying to solve it.

Don’t worry I am not going to give a blow by blow account – just the relevant stuff.

Once I realised I had a problem I did the usual thing - researched it using BT's web site and Google and sent an e-mail detailing the issue to the BT Broadband Technical Support team. Things were looking good. I received a rapid automatic response, logging the problem and providing links that might help resolve the problem. So far so good.

Less than 50 mins latter I get a ‘personalised’ response.
I am sorry to know that you are not getting the kind of connectivity that you expect from the broadband. I totally understand how important it is for you to have a stable and speedier broadband connection. I will assist you to the best of my ability to resolve your issue.
I would like to inform you that, I am sorry to know that you are not getting the kind of connectivity that you expect from the broadband. I totally understand how important it is for our customers to have a stable and speedier broadband connection.
These duplicated sentences are then followed by the 101 guide to troubleshooting a broadband connection.
No mention of the very specific questions I had asked. Not very impressed.

I reply saying that I have done all of these basic steps and will they please answer my specific question.

My e-mail is returned saying that BT does not accept e-mails with attachments. But all I done was to reply to their e-mail! The idiots were sending e-mails in html format that appeared to contain an attached that was then rejected when the customer responded.

Two more e-mail exchanges – no attempt to answer my question. And then the phone rings and a gentleman from India says he is phoning to help solve my problem. Well that is what I thought he said. After a 5 mins of a call, during which I must have asked they poor guy to repeat the last sentence at least 10 times it was clear we were getting nowhere.

We have 2-3 more calls and 4-5 more e-mails. All that is happening is the guy is going through a simple fault checklist, all of which I have already done. Enough is enough. I ask to speak to one of their technical people. After spending lots of time on hold we agree a time when the technical expert will call.

True to their word the call comes. A highly educated Indian lady then goes through the same 101 guide again and refuses point blank to answer my questions. From the discussion it is clear that she really doesn’t understand what I am talking about. After 15 mins of frustrating dialogue I suggest we call it a day. She then sweetly says: “is there any other problem I can help you with today”. End of call. Stiff Scotch - no water. Blood pressure gauge shows that all is not well. Decide to stop.

So what did BT do wrong – other the obvious of annoying me so much that I spent the time creating this post:

1. The process ignored the customer and only permitted them to respond to the pre-determined questions that were flashing on the screen in front of the call centre operative.

2. The process was amateurish. The quality of the text in the e-mails lacked any sense of understanding of the customer’s position and was often misleading/ambiguous. E-mails were generated in a format that was then rejected when the customer responded.

3. Lack of training of the operatives in how to speak on the phone to people who might have hearing issues – I would guess 50% of customers would experience problems hearing what was being said.

4. The text in the ‘help’ is laden with jargon and is ambigous

5. I would guess that the operatives were given little training in understanding BT’s product, which explains their total reliance on the pr-prepared scripts.

6. There was no process for escalating the call, when it was clear that the operative could not provide a satisfactory answer.

7. Perhaps it was just me, but I sensed the whole process was geared to find a possible problem that could be blamed on the customer. In my case, after the long talk with the technical expert her best advice was that I go and purchased a new cable.

How is possible for BT to create such a nightmare of a customer care operation? Well my suspicion is that in a booming market, that is not renowned for providing its customers with good care, BT has minimised the cost of the process and calculates that it is more profitable to lose customers than to increase the cost of care. What that says about BT and the value it places upon the value of its brand I leave for you to judge.

Technical note.
The problem I have (still not resolved) is that the IP profile for my broadband account has been reduced to 135 kbps – it should be between 4- 5 Mb. The result is my transmission speed is greatly reduced. I suspect that this was due to a major fault on the line but the same low IP profile remains in place even after the fault has been resolved. Hence when the line is tested it shows it to be working OK.

Would anybody from BT like to comment upon this mess? Dick Stroud

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