How BT does business with its customers – part 3

Fancy catching up on the full story? Start with part 1 and part 2.

Alan gets back to me the following week: “I checked this with our suppliers and the external work for your order is due to be completed on 16/06 with the internal work booked for 26/06. Once the external work is done I’ll expedite the appointment for the internal work with the aim of getting an appointment for 20/06. I’ll check this again on Monday 16/06 and will be in touch again then with an update.”

Alan gets back in touch on the 16/06 as promised: “External work completed and I’ve booked appointment for Friday 20/06 between 8am-1pm for the internal work to be done at your premises.”

At this stage, I’m thinking: this chap sounds efficient. I wonder whether the engineer will actually turn up on Friday…I am also hesitating to believe that the routing problem which has puzzled engineer after engineer for 3 months has actually been fixed. But I give Alan the benefit of the doubt, thank him for his update, and respond: “I will let you know what happens on Friday.”

On Friday morning…the BT engineer miraculously turns up. He even does a meticulous job of positioning the cables neatly so that they cannot be seen. He works cleanly and activates the service we ordered just over 3 months ago. Even more surprising, everything works just as it should.

So Alan is now officially held in my book as ‘THE most efficient chap working for BT’. The successful delivery of the service was entirely due to his intervention. With the gentle persuasion of a letter of complaint and the parish clerk’s involvement of course.

After this 3 months debacle, I’m left rather puzzled: if BT can indeed deliver an efficient and professional service, then why was that not done right from the start? Why is this level of service only available to those who formally complain in writing?

From BT’s perspective, it’s a peculiar way of doing business: its senior management prefers to waste hours of its employees’ time booking multiple appointments, responding to multiple customer complaints via phone, live chat, and emails, sending several engineers to carry out the external work without briefing them on what they ought to do (none seem to have any information about what the previous engineer does)…all to fulfil just one order.

Not only does this level of inefficiency impact the bottom line, but it also impacts negatively on its customers and its reputation. By sharing my story with a few acquaintances at work and outside of work, three have come back to say they have experienced similar issues with BT engineers not turning up for appointments. One just commented: “Oh I hate BT.”

Yet, all this could be avoided by tackling the elephant in the room: the communication issues between BT and its infrastructure arm, Openreach. May I suggest BT’s chief executive considers the following?

  1. Establish a strong leadership team who can frame the business problem accurately and in a non-biased manner and commission this team to carry out an independent audit of the situation (ie. without a political agenda!)
  2. Let this team work with a competent research consultancy who can do the leg work (obtain the data, analyse the research data, and put forward some sensible recommendations)
  3. Ask the team to come up with an action plan that will remedy the situation and set a timeframe
  4. Task the leadership team with implementing their action plan
  5. Allocate some budget and resources make this happen

Despite operating in a cavalier manner towards its customers, BT can still make over £2 billion in profit a year. So finding the budget is not going to be the issue here. Motivation to change is more likely to be the issue. As it happens, BT is the only fibre optic broadband provider in several geographical areas in the country (including mine). There is no competition…and BT knows it. So why bother.

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