BT #FAIL – Computer says no…

Ok, so I’ve waited a little while to record the saga of getting my BT internet connection here at my new house. I do now have the connection, and for the record 33Mb is awesome.
However, to get to this point I went through a considerable amount of hassle and spent a couple of days really very angry.

The story begins on the 11th November, they day after we moved into our new house. BT was due to send an engineer to connect our phone and our internet. The email they sent confirming this most definitely states that an engineer will visit, and that the actions due to be completed are phone connection, and internet connection.

However, it turns out this is slightly misleading. They don’t mean ‘an’ engineer, they mean ‘two’ engineers, one for the phone, and the other for the internet.

As it happens, I was not here on the day, as I had to return to the old house to pick up the cats. So when I finally got back at 6.30 I had just found out that one engineer had arrived earlier in the day, had connected the phone line, but been entirely none the wiser about any need to connect the internet. This was a surprise to my wife, since we had been given the strong impression that ‘an’ engineer would be doing both. Just after hearing that the phone was connected, but not the internet, I received a call from another engineer. He was due to come and connect the internet, however the system had not notified him that the phone line had been connected, and he was not able to do anything until that was the case. I told him it was now connected. However it was apparently now too late, instead he asked what time I he could return tomorrow to connect me. Given that I had planned to conduct an interview via Skype at 10am the next morning, I asked that he be here by 9.30 to get it all connected. ‘no problem, see you tomorrow’

12th October…10am arrives and I conduct the interview over the phone (which was worth it since we went on to hire the candidate) by 11.30 I phone BT to find out what is going on. To be told that there is no booking for today, it has been rescheduled to the 26th October. Obviously I was pretty unhappy, this is completely unacceptable. However I’m told that there is ‘no way to move the appointment earlier’ ‘it simply cannot be done’ This confuses me, surely a simple phone call to an engineer that to get them here would work. Apparently the computer said no.

What they could do was give me a userid/pwd for btopenzone that showed some signal in my neighbourhood. As it transpires, if I sit in my lounge window, I can just about get a connection, which is at a speed somewhat equivalent to a dial up modem.

I was very annoyed, and told that a complaint would be filed on my behalf, however I would just have to wait until the 26th.

26th October, another day off work, since I have no internet connection to use to work from home. First thing in the morning I ring BT to check on things, realising that no one told me what time to expect an engineer, just the date.

“There is no booking on the 26th october, ‘it shows as 7th November”,

–I am almost lost for words, what do you mean no booking? I was most definitely told today.

“ah yes, I can see it *was* for today, but the system shows your phoneline isn’t connected yet, so it’s been rescheduled. is your phone line working?”

–Yes it is working, I’m speaking to you from it right now, If the system says it’s not right, why was this not spotted 2 weeks ago by the person that told me it was booked for today?

“I don’t know, but I’ll see if I can sort out the system to show the right status”

–And then send an engineer?

“Oh, no we won’t be able to do that now”

–I want to speak to your manager




And on it goes. Basically it takes BT over an hour, just to make the system reflect that my phone line is in fact connected. And because I played the manager card, they are able to move me to a ‘premium booking’ for the following morning 8am-10am. I find this interesting, since the first call claimed that no force on earth could bring my appointment forward now that it was reset for 2 weeks hence, and yet now apparently I am angry enough to break through this cast iron limitation, and get a new booking. But sadly no force on earth can make it today. I am still bemused as to how a company that fundamentally pays for engineers to do a job, is entirely unable to just call an engineer and tell them they have an extra emergency job, because someone screwed up. In my line of work, there are many reasons why I, or my team might be asked to work late to accommodate something, and it would rarely be a problem to do so. But apparently BT engineers time is strictly controlled, all booking made back to back and weeks in advance with no spare time, and no possible way to suggest that someone work a little late.

Weirdly BT are happy to knock a few months line rental off my bill for the inconvenience.  I would rather that took the equivalent  money and offered it to an engineer to tack and extra appointment on the end of their day. but this of course is madness to suggest, no force on earth could prompt a phone call between two human beings to just arrange something to happen, the computer says no.

Incidentally when offered months line rental for free, I raise the point that the day of holiday I just took, and wasted, waiting for an engineer that hasn’t come, is worth somewhat more to me than a few months line rental, I would rather send a bill for my time. At which point ‘Martin Plant’ tells me that BT’s liability is actually limited to the cost of their service for the time between the initial booking and when it is finally connected. That the ombudsman will back that up, and that they are actually being much more generous than they are required to be given the particularly poor service I’ve received.

Turns out that is all lies. Though I have not pursued the matter (life is too short) I did read up a little in the ombudsman guidelines, that merely states that any award they make will not be punitive, and will reflect a fair value considering the damage/inconvenience caused, and be limited to 5000 pounds. Which sounds to me like me claiming back for my lost day of holiday at my rate of pay would be entirely fair, and not in excess of the limit. But I digress.

27th October 9am, I decide it’s time to call BT now that I’m half way through the slot I was given.

“The person dealing with you case is on the phone, she”ll call you back as soon as she is off it”

10.01 am I call again…

“She is actually just on the phone dealing with it now, I’ll get her to give you a call when she’s off”

–“No that’s ok,.. I’ll hold.”

5 mins later I get to hear the story…

“I’ve been on hold to <some other dept> since 9.30, and I’m still on hold trying to find out about an engineer for you”

I continue to hold, whilst she continues to hold, and an engineer continues to not show up.

After some time she convinces me that she has been promised a callback within the hour, and there is no point me holding.

What takes an hour!? you call, you ask a question, you get a response. what the hell takes an hour to find out? it’s not like I’m asking them to perform differential calculus, or write some custom software to solve the problem. just tell me a freaking engineer is on the way. (I was really very angry, not just about the lack of an engineer, but the absurdity of a company that has no idea what it is doing, and is apparently unable to find out in anything under an hour for any given issue)

Just under an hour later I get a call…

“For some reason the order on their system failed, so an appointment was not made, I’m escalating as high as I can go and saying this is unacceptable but it will be this afternoon before I know more’

–What takes until this afternoon? you employ engineers, phone one, tell him he has a job. I don’t understand what takes time to solve here

“it just doesn’t work that way, but we’re trying very hard (at what?!)”

–I have to go to work now, and I simply can’t be here this afternoon, so i want an engineer waiting for me when I get home at 7pm

“We can’t do that, the engineers stop work at 6, and they have all their jobs already planned, but when would be the next convienient time to have an engineer’

–The next convenient time is 7pm today, how about instead of offering me money off my bill, you offer that money to an engineer who I’m sure would be glad to take a little overtime

“we can’t do that”

–Then Saturday morning

“I’ll see what I can do, but I won’t be able to confirm until later this afternoon”

–when you get back to me, I want to know the name of the engineer, and his mobile number. So that I know this is actually arranged, with an actual person who knows he is due at my house on Saturday morning

“We can’t do that, we can’t get that information, the system only allocates jobs on the morning, so we don’t know until then

–I don’t care what the system ‘normally’ does, at this point that system has failed utterly to work 4 times already

“well I’ll see what I can do”  -this was a lie just to get me off the phone


So basically this has been a string of ‘computer says no’ and even for the things that theoretically fit within their ‘process’ they are unable to determine answers in anything short of a few hours. What the hell is there to ‘find out’ I still fail to understand how they can be so out of touch, that in a situation where they have now had 4 appointments made and failed to keep, they can’t just make a call, sort it out, and be back with confirmation in 5 minutes. My frustration mostly stems from the knowledge that even when I worked for IBM, a company with 300,000 employees all over the world, if a customer contacted me out of the blue with a query (which was not any part of my job to deal with) I could mostly have them an answer in a few hours. And that is for someone that would not expect to ever deal with customer queries. How can a group whose whole purpose is to sort this kind of thing out, need such elapsed time to figure out something that is so core to their business?

Sometime much later that day I get a voicemail left saying that an engineer should be with me on Saturday morning between 8am and 1pm.

29th Oct – Finally an engineer arrives, and connects my internet, totally none the wiser that there has ever been any problem with the booking.

So it took 18 days and 5 appointments, but finally BT managed to achieve the apparently complicated and unusual request of giving me an internet connection.

It is a wonder that they are able to stay in business at all, For all the hassle my account has a credit of about 200 pounds, and despite that, if a company came along providing good broadband speed with unlimited download, as an over the air service, I would drop BT, phone line and all, in a heartbeat.

It seems odd that we have certain businesses, that have such a monopoly on essentials that their customers can hate them, but still have no choice but remain customers. For most businesses, if they were this incompetent at their core business, they would be out of business pretty quickly as customers would just go elsewhere.

Thankfully after all this trouble the actual internet connection is 33Mb down and 5Mb up and it rocks. Just a shame it took so much effort to achieve.

One response to “BT #FAIL – Computer says no…”

  1. For some striking contrast, my BT phone line and internet was installed first time and with no issues.Placing the order online however failed and I had an order booked without any reference number. Once connected I had to setup my online billing but had no account number to do so with. It took several calls to sort out.

    I am with you – Even with a physical line, if i could take BT out of the loop life would be better.