Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Churn Baby Churn

I've decided to change my broadband supplier.
When I first got "the internet", back when it was a fledgling miracle, I signed up with Prestel because it came top of some consumer test. When Prestel disappeared I should have learned lesson one of the Internet - everything disappears, sooner than you'd think.
I switched to BT. I think it was called BT Internet at the time. It has since changed its name to BT Connect, BT Openworld, BT Yahoo and BT Lost The Will To Live, by which point I had accumulated no end of passwords and usernames and no longer knew what my deal was.
When I upgraded to broadband an engineer actually came to my house. Takes you back, doesn't it?
On the basis of remarks by friends and running various web-based "speed tests" since then, I suspect that my broadband is not as broad as it should be. In a sane world I would call a number and talk this over with a BT employee who was in a position to do something about it. After a few calls in the last couple of days I have come to the conclusion that this will not be possible. I shall therefore adopt the policy used by a young friend of mine when dealing with phone companies:
1. Ring up
2. Say you're leaving
3. Negotiate
4. Be prepared to go through with "2".
I shall let you know how I get on - assuming I'm not cut off.


  1. I am currently in the process of trying to get disconnected from BT Broadband. It's more difficult than you might imagine. I hope your phone allows you to put the receiver down and have it on speaker. I once found a combination of options on a BT line that literally delivered you back to the first set of options. Kafka would have creamed himself.

  2. Good luck. I moved from BT to Sky about two years ago and it was like having to deal with the Gestapo. I spoke to some lady who kept asking loads of questions, who then put me through to a man who was particularly aggressive in asking pretty much exactly the same questions. The whole process took about an hour.

    I think I have read since then that Ofcom have ordered them all to be more helpful when people leave, so it might be easier now. I told BT at the time that they were so unhelpful that I will never consider going back to them and that's still the case.

  3. Anonymous10:05 am

    I'm also with BT Total Broadband and Totally unhappy. Having realised how slow my speed was I've had engineers in on a regular basis but unable to fix the problem. What is truly frustrating, however, is the customer service. They've obviously been told to cheer up so they now ring and ask, Uriah Heep-stylee, "are you satisfied with our service sir?" I've explained that I'm not, but nothing else happens except that I've been getting the same pre-scripted apologetic call for the last couple of months. Oh, except once, when they phoned me to ask to sign up for another 12 months. i politely declined. I'd go elsewhere, but I'm concerned about changing my email address and losing all that precious work.

  4. Don't worry about your old email address. You'll be able to access your old inbox online after you've cancelled the account, so it's easy to mop up any emails that come through to your old address. (I believe this stands for most ISPs?) I was actually told of this free service by a telecommunications employee, so it must be true.

  5. Anonymous12:23 pm

    I used to be with Blueyonder (who were fine). They were bought by NTL, who were then bought by Virgin. Shortly after this last exchange, I moved to an area that Virgin didn't supply to, and so terminated my account. At the time it was £58 in credit. It took me 6 months, and countless hours on the phone, to get this reimbursed (strangely, it was after I asked for the name and contact details of the Chief Exec.). I can't comment on Virgin as ISPs, but their customer service and admin. are utterly risible.

  6. Anonymous1:23 pm

    Best of luck - I tried writing, ringing and emailing to cancel my account with them all with no luck. I then cancelled my direct debit which didn't work either, but at least controlled what money they received from me. Six months later and with the help of an Ofcom reference number and a "special" BT Ofcom complaints telephone number I reached a resolution. Nothing would be able to drag me back . . .

    Like Bruce I received at least two calls during my wildnerness months from BT asking me if I was happy with their service I explained that I really really wasn't and nothing happened.

    Busby must be hanging his head in shame.

    Simon James x

  7. Anonymous1:51 pm

    I spent an hour waiting for a reply from BT - punctuated only by the recorded message that 'your call is important to us'. When I wanted information about a service I was connected immediately.
    And don't get me started on npower.

  8. My step-son worked on a BT help desk. Whenever he came off shift he would complain bitterly about the company policy to get the hapless punter off the line as quickly as possible regardless of whether their problem was resolved or not.

    The prevailing ethos was to push on to the next customer on the line regardless, as the company who had the BT franchise desk were paid on the number of calls dealt with rather the quality of the outcome.

    Indeed they had a special script to fob the baffled punter off with, and when he blatantly insisted on staying on-call until their problem had been successfully resolved, he found himself being officially cautioned about failing to adopt and comply with company standards.

    He privately described the BT internet product as “Sh*t” and was relieved when he left in favour of a different firm (a software provider) who he described as “understanding the basic concept of quality”.

    Our broadband at home (here in Whitley Bay) is proved via cable which, when I last looked, is owned by Virgin. Everything works just tickety-boo and in five or six years I’ve had to call a free helpline just once.

  9. Bruce, I know what you mean about losing your email address, but what you have to do -- right now -- is set up your own domain.

    It's dirt cheap and you can use it just for the email address.

    Then send out a change of address while you still have the old one active, send everything from now on from the new address, and sooner or later people will get the message and switch over.

    It's a royal pain, but you have to do it. Eventually something will happen to your current address and you will be kicking the cat.

    Dealing with this internet lark is bit like going to the dentist, isn't it? There's no getting around it, and not taking care of it now will lead to worse problems later.

  10. I agree. Buying my own domain is one of the best day's work I ever did. When my kids reach their sixteenth birthday I offer to buy them their own domain. None of them have had the foresight to take me up on it.

  11. Anonymous3:46 pm

    David, Little, Andrew et al. Thanks for tips and moral support. I shall certainly look into this domain business. Until today whenever I heard the word domain it made me think of Seinfeld. Can't wait to be master of my own domain...

  12. I made the mistake of moving from BT to Talk Talk (I know - what a fool) because it was free. Free! It was also unmitigated rubbish and they were desperately unhelpful. But, luckily, they were so rubbish so quickly that I could get us out without incurring charges. I've now (under advice from a web designer friend) moved us to Be There who have been quick, courteous, helpful and prompt. 18 quid a month for - hang on to your hats, literally - 15mb+ wireless broadband. Highly, highly recommended...

  13. Anonymous4:31 pm

    It seems that everyone has had the misfortune to be with BT at some point and I don't know anyone who has a good word to say about them.

    As a Mac User, I had to pay more for the privilege of being with BT in the old days, because their basic package didn't support Macs!

    Having moved house and been able to switch provider more than once now, I can honestly say that they're all as crap as each other.

    When everything works, it's fine and dandy, but when something goes wrong, woe betide you, if you try and call them (whoever they are).

    And as for connection speed, it doesn't matter who you're with - they're all pretty rubbish.

    The fundamental problem is that it's become nigh on impossible for any ISP actually to make any money providing broadband. This is why AOL sold their access business to Carphone Warehouse at the end of 2006.

    There are more problems to come with Web access and, although I applaud you for trying to get away from BT and know for certain that anyone else will be an improvement, there will be major changes within the next couple of years, either from a pricing standpoint, or which companies provide your broadband and how they do it.

  14. I hope your move goes ok DH. I intended to move from Tiscali, but having identified that the problems were half Tiscali (software/ISP) and half BT phone line (hardware), I played merry hell into both of them and eventually got things sorted out. However, having read some of the comments on here I'm now a bit concerned, and being always on the lookout for first hand advice I am wondering why is it important to have your own "domain".
    What does that mean, that you 'own' your own website, or that you are your own ISP or ??.
    I use some third party webmail addresses and don't see any problem with that, but am I heading for trouble?
    Any non-technical advice welcomed.

  15. Anonymous1:04 am

    My feeling with broadband is that you get what you pay for. When we moved (again) last year I wanted to go with a fast dedicted supplier instead of trying to cut corners by doing some kind of cable/phone/tv/internet bundle. I had wanted to sign up with Be Broadband two years ago in my old place but we weren't covered by them then. I signed up on the move and they have been great. Good free wireless box and they tell you when things are going to happen. They are now owned by O2 though, but you can't tell. And by jiminy it seems very fast.

    And I agree on buying your own domain, gives you great independence...

  16. Anonymous1:43 am

    Hah! You can all thank the Lord you weren't in New Zealand when Telecom Xtra, the country's *only* broadband supplier, decided to join forces with Yahoo to create "YahooBubble" in order to "maximise your on-line blah blah blah... personal space... snore snore".

    The upshot was that *everybody* in the whole fecking country was fecked with for days, unable to send or receive emails. Businesses went under, questions were asked in Parliament.

    Why do these people think we *need* and *want* these "on-line experiences"? And what arrogance to force it upon every user of their so-called service! I just want to send emails as efficiently as possible, not go to some ad-ridden Yahoo crap site.

    It was somewhat comforting to see Telecom's share price lose about 25% of its value overnight.

  17. Owning your own domain is not important but it is convenient. It means that my email address remains the same no matter what ISP I use. I tried to explain to my kids that it also makes them appear serious but they seem to think the same effect is achieved by a tee shirt from Abercrombie & Fitch.

  18. Anonymous8:10 pm

    A curse on Customer Retention teams. That's what they're called and that's what you got when you said you wanted to leave. Red lights flash, sirens wail - and you suddenly get passed to someone who suddenly realises just how important a customer you actually are. It only ever happens when the word 'leave' is invoked. Otherwise you're just another mug punter. Try the same with your mobile network and see just how many free minutes you can suddenly get for less money with the super new phone they'll offer you. They're all paranoid about losing market share in a saturated marketplace and have teams in place who may be executed if they fail to retain your account.
    Virgin recently dropped my broadband tariff & upgraded me to some incredible high-speed broadband when I did the same. Hasn't made a blind bit of difference. But it's cheaper. Or nearly the same as it was before they hiked the price last year.