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Friday, 25 March 2011

How hard is it to get people to tick boxes? BT’s infinity of boastful incompetence – with a relevant comment from Jeff Bezos

When they lower me into my grave, will I still be waiting for BT broadband?

It looks a bit like that.

Over the last few weeks, the normally serene Carol in my office has been nigh on rendered insane by BT’s inability and disinclination to be helpful with her home number.

It then took us 5 weeks to switch lines from one office to another, during which all references by the radiant Chloe to the fact that they were supposed to be helpful and supply a service were either ignored or dismissed as the ravings of a simpleton.

And here in Bristol we have just received our second ”home hub” pack which we had to pay a deposit for. Maybe it's their credo that the customer is always wrong - or they think it is our fault the first was useless or perhaps we might run away with it.

Many people imagine (wrongly) that all you need to build a brand is a pretty logo and a snappy slogan that sums your offering up.

For BT “Run by cretins, staffed by morons” might work, but it would be unfair. We have encountered one very helpful and competent person, an engineer and there must be more hiding their faces in embarassment somewhere.

But then again, “Run by cretins, staffed almost entirely by morons” lacks simplicity. How about something less corporate? “As full of shit as a Christmas turkey” has a certain ring.

Anyhow yesterday our second “home hub” came, like the first, in a box unencumbered by helpful instructions, just a series of vainglorious boasts about how wonderful the service is.

Both times some essential wires were missing. At least, that’s what we concluded - though without the instructions how can you possibly tell, any more than you could find out where to get the wires even if we knew where to stick them?

However I have one excellent idea which involves forcible insertion up the fundament of someone very senior at BT.

For all the good they are we might just as well start our own broadband service – and my beloved’s regular conversations with BT (Hindustan) Ltd got her nowhere.

This is not because poor ladies in Bangalore or Chennai or wherever don’t want to help, nor that they are stupid. It’s just that they a) speak a slightly different kind of English to the one we use here and b) have no idea what they are talking about, presumably because nobody has thought to tell them.

To give one example, whilst the engineer I mentioned was in our flat a lady in India was informing us that neither our order, nor our phone number nor even our post-code existed.

Are we a figment of our own imagination? How did the engineer come to visit us at our phantom flat? Do they have a random installation programme? Just walk in anywhere and start installing? They certainly have a random management system.

The engineer was so annoyed about this nonsense that he took over the phone call and sorted things out (as he thought).

The only people getting any fun out of all this are the colleagues who follow with the occasional chuckle these weird exchanges with the subcontinent. After the last one, her boss said to my loved one with a sort of lugubrious glee, “You’ll never get it, you know”.

He should know. He’s been waiting since December to get his broadband properly installed. Not an infinity, but far too long.

Friends tell me all the providers are the same, but surely none can quite match the surreal levels of uselessness we have encountered.

And when finally the root of the problem was discovered it was simple. Whoever took the original order failed to tick two boxes. The second person and the third got it half right, ticking one of the boxes. So on the first occasion nothing arrived; and on the second two just half the order arrived.

For years BT was named as the number one brand in Britain. But sheer incompetence will always override bullshit. What Mr Big Fat Useless who runs BT should do is get off his overpaid arse and try being a customer.

A relevant comment came from Jeff Bezos of Amazon a few years ago.

Somebody asked him if his customers were loyal. “Absolutely. One hundred per cent,” he replied. “Right up till the moment someone comes along and offers a better service.”

The minute someone offers a really good broadband service, they’ll clean up.

P. S. Since I drafted this, another exchange has taken place: the missing wires will reach us on Monday – so they claim. I won’t be at all surprised if instead we receive a microwave or food mixer.

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