BT – Beyond a Joke!

Stop apologising and thanking me for being patient!!!!

BT Customer Service is beyond a joke, from unsympathetic customer service advisors to their low quality broadband and on-demand TV service.  I’m not a moaner by nature and I don’t whine and complain for the sake of it. I think the British have this stigma where complaining is seen as a taboo subject – don’t make a fuss or cause a scene in case someone is watching.

I don’t follow that philosophy, if I need to complain I make it very clear what my problem is and make sure the right people know about it. For over a year we’ve had problems with our BT Broadband & BT Vision (Freeview & on demand tv) service. The last few weeks have pushed my patience to the limit and things came to a head today where I finally made an official complaint to BT.

Before I get into my rant I want to state that I understand that nothing is ever perfect and customers should not expect 100% perfection 100% of the time, but what we should expect is good customer service and a reliable consistent product which we pay for.

BTW this is a particularly long rant so if you want to read on, make sure you are comfortable and have an adequate supply of food and water!

The Previous 12 Months

Yes, it's as dull as it looks.

We’ve been BT customers for years and never had a problem until about a year ago when we signed up for BT Vision, a Freeview TV box with hard drive recorder and On Demand service via the broadband connection. Kinda like TiVo but not as cute. BT Vision needs 2MB connection in order to deliver programs from their online library. Below that speed the program stops and starts a lot or doesn’t work at all.

This is exactly what happened. Our BT Broadband is an 8MB connection so there shouldn’t be any problems, right? There were and still are. Our internet speed ranges from 7MB to 0.5MB at random times. I understand contention ratios and how speeds may be slower in the evening when more people are using the internet but it shouldn’t reduce our service to a series of random speeds for no apparent reason.

After dozens of phone calls to BT over the course of the last 12 months we had a visit from an engineer. He checked our equipment in the home – router, phone socket, BT Vision box, how it was set up etc etc. There was nothing wrong with any of it. He suggested we contact the BT Broadband Help Desk and ask for an engineer to visit the loca exchange.

We did as suggested. An engineer went out and fiddled with the wires and wotnot in the exchange and we received a telephone call from BT saying that a problem had been identified and was no fixed. And it was, for a few days. Then the broadband service returned to its usual inconsistent ways, cutting out, dropping signal, low speeds etc. So I put in another call to ask what was wrong. A second engineer was sent out and the same thing happened again.

Contacting BT


It doesn’t matter what phone number you dial to contact BT you will always go through to the same place with the same menu options? Try it for yourself for fun

0800 111 800 150 / 151 – Fault & Tech Help for Phoneline – Taken from BT bill.

0800 111 4567 – Fault & Tech Help for Broadband – Taken from BT bill.

0800 800 900 – Sales & Billing – Taken from BT bill.

0800 800 150 – Is Everything OK? Contact us. Taken from BT bill.

0800 111 4567 – See screen shots below.

How to complain to BT.
See the phone number? LOL!

By this time I was growing increasingly tired of calling BT and going through the same thing over and over again. The customer service advisor works through their prompts, asking me to “turn it on and off again” because that’s the best solution for any problem. I know how customer call centres work because I used to work in one. BT CSA’s treat everyone the same because not all customers know about technology and how the internet works, so when I point out I know how it all works and please don’t ask me to do the same procedure, again, they appear to run out of things to say.

BT Call Centres

BT have their call centres in India. Makes sense. If you can pay someone in India less than someone in the UK, that’s a good way to increase your profits. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with, and this is NOT a racist comment whatsoever, is that I find it hard to understand what they are saying due to their accent. It’s a linguistic problem. Some are better than others but at times I have had to hang up because the person on the other end of the phone is seriously difficult to understand.

That’s a side issue and not really that important or relevant to my complaint, though it doesn’t help matters when you don’t understand what the CSA is saying and you have to ask them repeat themselves over and over.

Friday 11th March 2011.

Broadband stopped working at 12.45pm. I reset the router, did a power cycle, reset router again. No joy. So I called the Customer Unsupport Couldn’t Care Less Line and the following conversation took place. I thought it would more interesting for you to read this using visual stimuli rather than forcing you to wade through endless lines of text!

The BT Complaint

Season 1 – Episode 1

Complaining to BT
BT Complaint 1

I waited for the supervisor to check out what was wrong. I figured if the engineer had not sorted the problem out then there could be a problem with their servers, perhaps not routing our broadband signal correctly or…well, there could be any number of problems I wasn’t prepared to go into at the time. You can see how I asked for the Complaints Department more than once and got no answer.


BT has NO direct phone line to their Complaints Department?

You can email, send a letter or post on forums but you can not call them directly.

The BT Complaint

Season 1 – Episode 2

Even BT Supervisors read from scripts.

Did it solve the problem? Well, yes and no. The broadband did come back on like they said. I checked online at on their fault checker service and found only 2 faults. One in Wales and another near Scotland. Nothing in my area whatsoever. Someone was doing some lying. That afternoon I went to and ran a few tests. You can only do 1 per hour. I did 3 with very different results.

I decided to check through BT’s complaints procedure. You can find their Customer Complaints Code here. The funny thing is that even when you look at their PDF files some of the links actually led you back to the same page!

I’d had enough. The customer service, whilst polite and consistent, was insincere and lacked any real resolution to my problem. We’ve been thinking about switching to another provider, Virgin or Sky, but have resisted because if there is a technical problem with any hardware external to the home, then since it belongs to BT it makes sense they investigate and fix it.

Saturday 12th March 2011. Time to complain.

I was prepared to make an official complaint to BT and if that didn’t resolve the problem I would then take my issue up with the Telecommunications Ombudsman at So I took a deep breath and dialled the number, I picked one at random, it didn’t matter which as I would eventually end up speaking to someone in India. As a precaution I put the phone on speaker and used my mobile phone to record the conversation. I’ve a feeling I should have advised them I was recording the conversation but hey, what you gonna do? I’ve done my best to transcribe the call. I don’t have energy to create another mildly amusing comic story board so here it is in plain text.

I missed the first bit of the conversation so I’ll fill you in. I spoke to a customer support guy and simply stated I wanted to speak to the complaints department. I asked the guy for his staff ID number and name for future reference. He advised me that:

There is no  direct complaints number for BT customers to use. They must come through to the call centre and we can direct your call to them. I’ll speak to my supervisor who will hand you to the Complaints Department. I’ll put you on hold for 2 minutes.”

I was on hold for 8 minutes.

The Supervisor asked for my reasons for the complaint. I said I’d rather discuss it with the Complaints Department. He was rather pushy and asked me twice more for my reasons. I told him I wanted to complain about BT Broadband, BT Vision and the lack of Customer Support. He told me:

“Thank you sir, I’ll speak with the Complaints Department and then put you through. Give me 2 minutes.”

I was on hold for 17 minutes! The first thing I asked was why I was on hold for 17 minutes when it should have taken no more than 30 seconds for the Supervisor to relay my information to the Complaints Department. I let it go though. I’ve listened to all of  my audio files recorded by my mobile phone and copied out the exact words. It’s taken rather a long time!

Me: Could I have your staff ID number and name please so I can refer to it later should I need to.

Complaints Dept (CD): I can give you my name. [Name given. Reference number of the complaint also given.]

Me: Thanks. And this is the Complaints Department I’m speaking to now?

CD: Yes sir.

Me: Okay. The complaint I want to make is the quality of BT Broadband, BT Vision and the also the lack of quality of the BT customer service department as a whole. We’ve had enough problems. We’re paying for a service we’re not getting. We’ve had an engineer visit the house and an engineer visit the exchange at least twice to rectify a problem.

CD: Okay sir.

ME: Yesterday our broadband stopped working so I phoned up to enquire if there was a fault in the area. He ran a line test as usual and confirmed there was no fault in the area. He asked me to reset the router which we do on a regular basis anyway. I was on the phone for a very long time. Eventually I asked for the number for the complaints department or to be put through the complaints department. That didn’t happen.

CD: Okay sir.

Me: After a very long and pointless conversation he put me through to a supervisor who suggested there was on ongoing problem because we had logged a number of calls about our service. He suggested there might be a problem with the server, not sure what that means but okay. He said he would run line tests and call me back in 30 minutes. 2 hours later somebody called me back, it wasn’t the same person. He said there was a fault in the area and it should be fixed in 4 hours. I checked on the fault checker website at later on and found only 2 faults, one in Wales and another near Scotland. So the way I see it as a customer is that I’ve been lied to 3 times in one phone call.

CD: Okay sir.

Me: That is really, really poor customer service. Our broadband is supposed to be 8 meg, I’m not expecting 8 meg, I’m expecting a consistent service. Doesn’t matter what speed that is so long as it is consistent. We call up because our service is below 0.5meg which won’t run BT Vision. So we’ve had enough now, we want this fixed. We’re going to ask for compensation for paying for a service we haven’t received. Or if it’s not fixed we will cancel and go with Virgin or Sky or any other provider.

CD: Okay sir. I’m really sorry sir about all these problems you have been getting. [something I couldn’t make out] and I’m checking into the previous cases as well sir. There were instances where engineers were sent out and your broadband was fixed but I’ll see what actual speed you should be getting.

Me: [interrupting] Sorry, but I know already know that, sorry to cut you off but the speed we’re supposed to be getting is 8 meg. I’ve been told what speeds we can get, I’ve done speed tests on BT speed test website and other speed check websites. Our speed is 8.1 something, but that doesn’t actually mean that is what we get.

CD: I understand that but what I’m doing at the moment is checking what every ISP provider should check before doing anything else. So you let me check what speed you are getting.

Me: Okay.

[Silence whilst she checks]

CD: And how many engineers have been out to check this problem?

[Shouldn’t she know that? Shouldn’t she be able to see that on the account details?]

Me: We had one visit the house to check out equipment. That was all fine. Then we had another visit the exchange, and I think a 2nd came out too, but I can’t remember that exactly. We had a callback to say the problem was fixed, broadband was okay for a few days after but then…it wasn’t.

CD: Okay. What is the speed you are getting at the moment. Have you checked that?

Me: Not today. No. I checked last night, several times, using various online speed testers. Speeds vary between 3-4 meg, often dropping to 0.5 meg.

CD: Okay. Are you aware that your line is going to be upgraded soon?

Me: Yes. It’s not very soon. 29th June I saw on the BT website.

[It really does say that on the BT website. I entered our telephone number and got this pop up.]

Screenshot from BT Infinity website for our home phone number.

CD: No. It’s 31st March 2011.

Me: Upgraded meaning what?

CD: Upgrading meaning it’s going to ADSL2. That means your line speed will be 12 megs and your download speed will be 11. Between 11 and 13. And your upstream will be 15 meg. Are you aware of that?

Me: No obviously, but how can you have an upseed of 15 meg? That doesn’t make any sense.

CD: It does sir. Because the upstream you get at the moment is 448.

[That’s 448 kbps – less that 0.5meg.]

CD: Your line is changing to fibre optics. That’s an infinity broadband connection.

Me: But the exchange in our village, according to the BT website, isn’t due to be upgraded to fibre until 29th June 2011. Since there’s been nothing in the press and I haven’t seen anything on the BT website that says any other date. So I’m not sure I want to believe what you are saying just because I’m making a complaint. Why hasn’t anyone told me that before? Until I make a complaint? Do you understand what I’m saying?

CD: I understand what you are saying but I’m looking into [something I didn’t understand] the line will be max [something about a pc] and it will be a 21st century line. In which your download sync rate should be 11-13 meg. Your upstream will be 15 meg. Your line will be between 6-12 meg.

Me: That’s really interesting. It’s nice that the line is being upgraded and we’ll have faster speeds. But it doesn’t solve the problem that our service is poor. Does it?

[Silence for about 20 seconds]

CD: See right now your download speed is giving 8.2 megs at the moment.

[I got the feeling she didn’t understand what I trying to get at. Speed isn’t the same as consistent quality.]

Me: No. I’m not making myself clear am I? It doesn’t matter whether we get 8 meg, 20 meg or 100 meg speed, that isn’t important. What is important is that we don’t get a consistent speed.

[More silence.]

CD: What you’re saying is –

Me: It’s not 8 meg. If you upgrade our line to 20 meg, for example, it doesn’t mean we’re going to get that. The same as at the moment we can get 8 meg but sometimes it is barely 0.5 meg. My point is that there is a problem with the hardware between our house and the exchange. The connection drops or it’s not there at all. We do not get a consistent speed. I don’t care that it is upgraded or not, the fact remains the service is poor.

CD: So if I send an OpenReach engineer out who can check the junction box out and the exchange, will that be okay with you? He will require access to your home to check your box and equipment and see whether it is stable or not.

Me: It will be a start. However I do not expect to be charged for this.

[BT have a policy where they charge customers for an engineers visit if no fault can be found or if the customer is to blame for the problem. It can range between £50 and £200.]

[Silence for about 30 seconds.]

CD: You will not be charged for this.

Me: Okay. I should point out that an engineer has already been to our house and the exchange. The problem still exists.

CD: I understand that. But I’m sending you an OpenReach engineer.

Me: What’s the difference?

CD: This engineer is specialised to find faults with the telephone line and the broadband.

Me: So the other engineers who came out to “fix” the problem with the fault weren’t actually fixing the fault?


Me: If they weren’t fault engineers fixing the fault which I was told had been found, then what were they doing? This is another lie then?



The CD changed the subject and we talked about when an engineer would come out and find the fault. We settled on next Wednesday, 16th March 2011. The engineer will come between 8am and 1pm. The CD would call me back between 1pm and 2pm to check the problem had been fixed.

All I can do is wait and see. The CD did mention that when she called back she would discuss possible refund on the cost of our broadband, for how long she didn’t say, not that it matters. A refund on faulty service isn’t that important so long as the service of the product is improved.

At no point was I rude or abusive. I remained calm but firm. I don’t see the point in swearing or being antagonistic. And in return the CD dealt with my complaint in a professional manner. Okay, they follow a script on their screens and go through the same waffle each time but they are courteous 99% of the time. I guess one of my issues is the way no one person in BT will hold their hand up and say “Okay, we screwed up. I know what’s wrong. I can fix this. I’ll make it my priority. It won’t happen again.” No. What they usually do is pretend the conversation never happened, don’t record the previous conversation for reference and treat you like you’re a moron.

When I worked in a customer call centre (a government department) we had it drilled into us that the customer is the most important thing, that you were expected to go above and beyond to make sure they got the service and product they deserved. My colleagues and Iworked hard to give our customers excellent customer service. It annoys me that if I can do that then why shouldn’t others be capable of it to?

Telling me about a new special deal or an upgrade whilst I’m making a complaint is also very poor customer service. Do they really think that just because they tell me I can get a new shiny toy to play with soon that I’m going to roll over and ask them to rub my belly? All arguments forgotten, let’s be best pals? Huh. No way. That kind of tactic is disgusting.

I was tempted to upload the actual voice recordings but it’s a lot of hassle. I’m not sure if anyone reading this has had the energy or enthusiasm to reach this far down the page. If you did then bravo to you!

To end this incredibly long and justified rant I’ll leave you with a few links to other WordPress Bloggers who have had similar experiences. If you are a BT customer who had suffered poor customer service then you have my sympathies.

</end rant…phew>

4 thoughts on “BT – Beyond a Joke!

  1. Wow, and I thought customer service was horrible in the US. My sympathies. Whew, just reading your saga has made my blood boil in sympathy!

    All I can say is this: BT should be very happy they do not deal with any American customers. Not only would they have gotten an earful of nasty words but no one would have been as patient and tolerated not only the complete lack of assistance but for the length of time it has taken to resolve. Not only would they have lost a customer but most likely they would have to deal with the angry rants across whatever social media lines were available until they lost several other customers as well!

    Good luck, hope it is resolved soon.

  2. Thanks Indigo! Right now I’m “patiently” waiting for the engineer to show up. I didn’t want to make any assumptions about how Americans don’t take any sh*t since the only reference to their willfull attitudes in these situations are based on the media and word of mouth stories.

    I like to think I’m part way between the non-complaining English and the straight to the point, don’t mess me about American style, though these days I’m leaning more toward the American style!

  3. I worked in a customer service call center for a large cellular phone company many years ago. There was a lot of turn over not because the company was terrible to employees but because it was tough dealing with so many angry customers on a regular basis.

    Americans can sometimes have too short a fuse and jump right into the “lets fight this out” way of dealing with a problem, however, it sounds like the English can be the other extreme and tolerate more then they should!

    Perhaps we can put the two styles in a blender and come up with a nice balance 😉

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