Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Adventures in call centre land

So I called BT and was put through to a young man in a foreign country. He was as helpful as anyone can be at that remove. He looked at my records and said that was pretty much what I could expect living where I do. I asked for my MAC code.
"So you want to leave BT?" he said.
"I might," I replied. "I just want the MAC code."
"Hang on a moment."
I do. He comes back.
"I've just been talking to somebody in sales who might be able to help you. Let me transfer you."
Female voice from the North-East of England comes on (instant smell of toast) and tells me that they've had a look at my records, I've been a customer of BT's for a long time and therefore should have been promoted to the faster broadband. She's prepared to do that now and to lower the rate and to roll our BT phone bills into the same deal but she wants it all to go on to Direct Debit.
I've made some quite responsible decisions in my time and raised three children but I am:
a) genetically incapable of assessing deals of any kind on the telephone
b) married to a woman who is fighting a lone battle against Direct Debit
Therefore, I say, send me the details and I'll look at it.
Meanwhile, I've had lots of feedback on this blog, all of which is appreciated but most of which encourages me in the belief that if you can avoid changing your supplier, then you should.
And then I get an email from someone who'd read this blog and works for BT who might be able to help me. Hey, I'm not a crusader for consumer rights. I know very few problems that can't be solved with the help of a sympathetic soul who knows where the levers are and which ones to pull.
So I shall continue approaching this problem via the front door as well as the back. I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. you can test your broadband speed here

    if you're using airport, check that it's not the airport at fault (rather than the ISP) by trying the speed test with the computer plugged into the modem's usb or ethernet cable with your computer's airport turned off.

    BroadbandChoices has just published the results of its latest survey, which found that one third of consumers wishing to switch broadband provider don’t do so because they have no faith in the process.

    In 2007 the figures (Ofcom) for consumers switching broadband provider rose, to 13% (up from 9% in 2006). Current statistics show that one in four consumers is looking to switch broadband provider in 2008. “Many consumers are afraid to switch in case something goes wrong”, says Michael Phillips, product development director at "While the LLU MAC code system is being trialled for partial LLU connections (where only the broadband is provided by an unbundled line) ISP’s are under no obligation to accept the codes and many customers have been forced to foot the ‘cease and re-provide’ cost of moving to a new provider, which currently stands at £58.75. There should also be a move for Ofcom to enforce the rules on LLU MAC so they follow the same regulations as the ADSL providers. If the joining provider was forced to facilitate the switch over then these problems could be eradicated."

    Tips by a chap called Vodka for cancelling a service ( from
    I've worked for a telecommunications company that I would prefer to go unnamed, and I'd like to offer some tips to anyone trying to disconnect a service they no longer want. The biggest tip is to call well outside of normal business hours -- in my company, customer service was open 24/7, but the retention department closed in the evening. If you call, say, before bed, or during the middle of the night, you'll just be talking to a regular CS rep who has no incentive whatsoever to keep you as a customer. It can turn a twenty minute phone call into a two minute phone call.
    Second, if you get a rude rep, hang up and call right back. Some reps, especially in commission driven departments like sales and retention, are especially pushy, where as if you call back you might get someone who is right at the end of his shift and just wants to get you off of his phone.

    Third, there is one reason for disconnection that will work for almost every service--moving. Tell them you're moving out of the service area, or moving in with someone who already has the same service, and they should be required to cancel everything for you.

    Also, it would be helpful to remember that the representatives in retention are paid to retain you as customers--threatening to record the call, asking for their name or ID, or asking for a supervisor will not do anything. All calls are recorded and the representatives have responses they are required to give for every customer question or complaint. The rep who actually gets in trouble will be the one who disconnects you immediately without trying to retain you, not the one who spends twenty minutes using every tactic in the book the company wrote for him.


  2. If your wife hates direct debit, DD with BT will drive her insane. It's like playng poker with them but there's only ever one winner because they set the rules.

    My wife was working from home when pregnant so the DD was quite a lot. Then when she went back to work we asked to reduce the DD which they refused, until they had over £600 of our money sitting in their account. Then they wouldn't give us any of our money back, just reduce the DD. You'll notice that you will never be in the red with their dd. If you are, they will swiftly put up your monthly payment so they soon have a princely sum they are sitting on.

    We cut all ties with BT a couple of months ago and have only just got the money back that they were sitting on. Funny how they are very quick to take money at the start, but very slow to give it back at the end.

  3. Anonymous12:00 pm

    Motivated by your efforts I had a go at re-negotiating with BT myself this morning. By threatening to leave they offered me a fiver-a-month discount, from about £25 a month down to £20. Not too bad, but the snag is I have to sign up for another 12 months and the last thing I want to do is be locked into a company whose customer service leaves so much to be desired. But as Simon above suggests, because they set the rules they can't lose – I'd probably have the same connection problems elsewhere so if the prices aren't much different it hardly seems worth moving. As ever the Man always wins.

  4. Is 'airport' a slang term for 'wireless'? E.g., I'm on wireless because I'm in the airport, about to fly off somewhere fancy again (yawn)