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British Telecom – With Its Pathetic Customer Service Is This The Worst Company In The UK?

BT is a communications company with a reputation of providing the worst customer service in the United Kingdom.  Datalite UK Ltd experienced a horrendous year of problems with British Telecom concluding that with their rubbish customer service they should really be called British TeleCON!


Datalite UK Ltd commissioned British Telecom to provide a communications package of Telephone and Broadband Internet in early 2009.  The year that followed saw a horrendous catalogue of problems exasperated by unbelievably poor customer service.  These experiences are passed on to other potential business BT customers; with the overall message AVOID BT LIKE THE PLAGUE! 

Getting straight to the point,  if you run a United Kingdom company and seeking a communications solution DO NOT CHOOSE BRITISH TELECOM. 

British Telecom has a truly dreadful reputation in the United Kingdom, a simple Google search of ‘Bad Customer Service’ or similar can verify this.  This abysmal view is official, in 2009 following a survey of the UK Nations customer service record, BT was voted worst, commanding twice the votes of the next worst (British Gas).  The Daily Mail Wooden Spoon Awards reached a similar dismal conclusion with BT winning by a long way.  

Datalite UK Ltd opened new retail premises in Ryde, Isle of Wight in January 2009.  British Telecom was commissioned to supply a business communications telephone and broadband package.  Arranged in December 2008, confirmed by BT eMail, and all appeared in order.  

The first week of January 2009 saw the visit of the British Telecom engineer to apparently install the telephone and broadband connection.   He was oblivious to the Broadband requirement and only installed voice connection.   He lacked initiative; we had to assist locating the external terminal telephone point and measuring drilling distances.  Even after all that the telephone point box installed was wonky – requiring subsequent realignment.  

The more serious problem was lack of broadband.  It was anticipated a quick telephone call to BT would rapidly resolve this.  Instead of the expected business customer assistance Datalite was subjected to BT’s dreadful voicemail system.  Words cannot do justice to how awful this is.  For starters the initial options lead in a circular ‘cul de sac’ around the same choices.  After experimenting with different options and over half an hour of ‘Your custom is important’ mantra, Datalite eventually got through to an advisor, obviously of Indian origin.  Nothing against the use of Indian call centres, but BT seemed to have got their facility on the cheap!   Invariable every advisor we spoke to had a poor command of English and could not understand the problem let alone proffer a solution.   

After a little devious detective work a BT UK ‘service’ number was uncovered.  At last communication could be conducted with someone who can speak English!  The UK based BT advisor chap candidly admitted that the broadband element of our order was dropped due to a known ‘computer glitch’ in BT’s software.    

One would think that a brand new business customer would be given top service by British Telecom to rapidly resolve a problem of their own making.  BT’s dismal response was they could only put the order through again, but with bottom of the queue status and hence a two week delay.  The BT representative said he may be able to upgrade this to priority, but unlikely due to ‘procedures’.     

Datalite being primarily an internet business had to survive its first few weeks without onsite broadband internet access.  Incidentally Datalite requested BT to loan an internet dongle as the lack of broadband was their error, but they refused saying they could only supply at full price on a year contract.    BT’s apathy and lack of assistance regarding the plight they imposed was incredulous. 

Eventually BT installed broadband connection, albeit with rubbish performance.  The de facto speed was akin to old fashion modem speeds, and the online speed test was as low as 100kbps instead of the advertised 5MB and the service kept cutting out!  Again BT had to be contacted; by this stage their useless voicemail was just plain annoying, frustrating, and invariably a waste of time.  The various BT ‘advisors’ fobbed Datalite off saying nothing could be done as actual speed could not be guaranteed!   

A pattern was ascertained that the cut outs of broadband coincided with use of telephone.  So whenever a customer telephoned (many times each day) Datalite had no access to the internet whatsoever.  This was a definite and repeatable fault, so perhaps now BT will assist in resolving their communications problems.  How wrong Datalite was – the next six weeks were an absolute disgrace in customer service. 

Without access to online orders and to quickly answer potential customer queries was a dreadful business position.  As well as affecting ability to provide top rate customer service, this undoubtedly directly led to losing several thousand pounds worth of orders. 

This particularly awful six week period necessitated numerous calls to BT Call Centre.  The cycle was invariably to:  Report the fault saga yet again to a new advisor apparently lacking in records, informed it must be the external equipment, explain this had already been tested, said they will test the line and call back, the call back never happened so back to the first step! 

There appeared no way to break this mindless cycle, so in the end Datalite threatened to report this plight to the media.  This at least prompted some positive action to upgrade the reported fault to ‘special attention’ status, enter BT advisor ‘Mash’.   

The lady Mash introduced herself as part of the BT distress team.  To be fair she was proactive, arranged for an engineer to call to examine the line within days and promised that compensation will be arranged for the effective 6 weeks of outage experienced (a promise that was forgotten about).  It is sad to contemplate that only the imminent threat of adverse media action publicity forced BT to come out of their apathetic state and actually send an engineer around – this should have been done six weeks earlier! 

The British Telecom engineer did indeed find a BT line wiring fault, which partially resolved the problem.  Broadband was still sluggish and still prone to dropouts requiring a return visit to resolve more line issues, resulting in an improvement and a loss of connection to roughly once a day (rather than twenty times).  The result was being removed from the special ‘distress service’ to BT’s bog standard service.  

This put the business back to a sluggish broadband of still lower than expected speeds, a problem of course treated with absolute contempt by BT’s customer service mantra ‘we cannot guarantee broadband speeds’.  They suggested that the disconnections were down to our (thrice checked and replaced) equipment and we could be charged for a call out.   Enough was enough BT had to be dropped. 

There were contract considerations to make January 2010 as the best bet for leaving BT.  The remarkable thing about BT is how expensive their rubbish service was.   BT uses every trick in the book to effectively con customers out of more money.  These include adding the cost of the router (normally supplied free), extra broadband costs for exceeding the download limit (more than likely due to the faults cited above) and numerous other unexpected costs. 

Datalite UK Ltd changed over its communications package to TalkTalk Opal Business package.  This is supplied at half the de facto cost of the BT package and includes priority business service, direct help line – very efficiently answered within a couple of rings, unlimited broadband, and consistent speeds of 10MBS.  BT’s final act was to lose a day’s worth of eMails during the transition and charge the business nearly 400 to finish the contract.  However, on a more positive note a lady called Christine of BT’s Billing Section instantly arranged with her manager for this to be halved – in the most inefficient organisations there still exists good staff.   

An efficient business communications package is now provided to Datalite from one of BT’s rival companies, after enduring a truly horrendous year of the worst customer service ever experienced.  The company that should really be called British TeleCON, appears not to care about Datalite UK Ltd and the numerous other businesses they profess to serve.  However, they leave a thoroughly disgruntled customer, whom uses every opportunity including this article to broadcast the message AVOID BT LIKE THE PLAGUE!

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About The Author
John D Henry BA BSc, Managing Director of  DATALITE UK LTD
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