An open letter to BT regarding the outage of my phone line.

Dear Sir/Madam,

On the 27th May 2012, a construction company performing maintenance on a property near to mine, accidentally severed the underground cabling providing my BT phone line. We notified BT of this the same day and wheels were put in motion to rectify the fault. I was told I would receive text messages as the fault was handled. I received 2 within a few hour, but have to this date received no others.

On the 30th May 2012 a BT Openreach engineer visited our property, surveyed the problem from outside, tested the sockets inside, used a tool to detect the distance to the fault and concluded that the fault was 73 metres from the socket, which put it roughly in the centre of the construction company’s dig. We gave him tea, he was a pleasant chap.

None of the surrounding properties using the same pole from which our cables run were affected.

The engineer said that BT would come out in their own time to fix the cable, which would require digging up the hole the construction company had filled in.

In the meantime however he said that as the other properties were clearly fine, he would be back the day after, the 31st, with a hoist so he could patch our line using a spare line from the nearest pole (directly outside our house). He was quite specific. He had a training seminar that day somewhere on Horspath Driftway, 500yrds away, which lasted till around 1pm, so would be with us by 1:30 to 2pm-ish.

We never saw him again and we heard nothing from anyone at BT to explain why.

I have phoned several times since then, an average of once a day between the 1st June and today the 12th, seeking an update. Between the 1st and 10th during 4 of these calls (on consecutive days) I was told by courteous, helpful executives from your Indian call-centre that an engineer could be expected at the property the following day.

No engineer came.

During each call, the same points were covered: I was told where the fault was. I was told this in person by the engineer on the 30th so this repeated reiteration became increasingly frustrating. I received apologies for the delay and assurances that an engineer would come the next day. In some of the later phone calls I deliberately held on the line for 20 minutes or more while the executive contacted Openreach to check their schedules. I asked the executive to clarify on at least 2 occasions that when they said “an engineer will be at the property tomorrow” that they literally meant that.

No engineers came.

At some point between the 1st and 12th I was contacted by a (presumably) higher ranking person from a (presumably) English office who has been dealing with my case ever since. I believe this to be Mark (last name not known) who has been pursuing Openreach on my behalf.

Mark however went silent for a few days (at that point a week since the outage was first reported) and with seemingly no other source of help I vented my frustrations on Twitter.

I was replied to by the @BTcare account.

Mark phoned me the same day (the 8th) and said our repair was “on the roster” (I think that was the phrase) for Openreach engineers visiting on that very same day but failing that, they’d be at the property on Saturday (9th June). Regardless whether engineers came, Mark said he would phone me again on Monday 11th to check what was going on.

By this point 2 weeks without phone or Internet, you can appreciate that after around 7-10 phone calls and countless broken promises, when an executive with what seems to be a degree of power states what appear to be facts, you hold them to those facts. That phone call he promised has ceased to be a courtesy or good-will gesture, the delay has made the call a necessity, a requirement and pivotal point of trust to keep a customer who has that very day received post from Virgin explaining that their service is now in your road and you don’t need a BT line to receive it.

No engineers came.

Mark also didn’t phone on Monday.

Again, frustrated, I let @BTcare know on twitter.

who responded the following day

I’m sure you can appreciate the frustration in receiving this reiterated “information” as if I were meant to draw some optimism from it. I’m inclined to think it was well-meaning but poorly researched.

Mark however phoned the same day (this morning) to say an engineer would be at the property today - a promise that by this point become nothing more than words. To my surprise an Openreach engineer has also phoned to say he will be at the property today but hadn’t read the case notes and couldn’t say whether he was digging up the road (which probably wouldn’t be a quick fix) or patching the house from the pole.

I’m yet to see whether my service will be restored today but I’m inclined to be optimistic. **

BT have let me down severely these past 2 weeks. The clear breakdown in communications is the most frustrating part. After repeated phone calls, the dawning realisation that the left hand (BT Customer Care) doesn’t know what the right (BT Openreach) is doing fills me with an ever-growing sense of despair.

Either Openreach were deliberately misleading Customer Care in regards the dates they would be available, or they’re incapable of estimating their workloads. Which is it? They’re either unprofessional or incompetent.

Or perhaps the problem was with the call centres who over-promised to keep me happy? Were the case notes not directly in front of them? Why would you continue to mislead someone who has clearly been hoping for some kind of escalation and who is clearly spending considerable time chasing the status of the fix?

I will be seeking the following in compensation: - The entire month of line rental free. - The entire month of Infinity broadband free. - £7.50 in compensation for the additional costs I had to pay my mobile provider to enabled Tethering on my mobile, so I could keep my connection alive (My profession is the web. It is essential) in lieu of a phone line.

I feel this is the bare minimum you can do to make up for the previous 2 weeks which I think you as a consumer yourself should be able to agree has been a bafflingly, insulting poor customer experience.

Thanks.

To his credit, Mark has been excellent. As something of a middle-man in helping sort out my problems its hard to know exactly what he’s done, but he was helpful and courteous to the last. Mark is the only reason I’ve continued chasing BT and not cancelled all my services a week ago, as my wife suggested.</b>

** Edit June 12th 13:56 PM: Service is restored! Now just to get Mark back on the phone somehow, so he can get the Infinity engineers on the case. Unfortunately there is no number to call Mark on (“Don’t call us, we won’t call you either”) so I’ll have to wait for the call he promised he’d make tomorrow (13th) regardless whether service was restored. It’s nice he’s going to call, but annoying that I have to wait an additional day before Infinity are even aware that they’re needed. If I could call him now and say “Thanks for all your help, now just do this last thing with Infinity” it would go some way to calming me down.</b>