Customer "service"

I’m not normally one to complain excessively, but when faced with appalling customer service from a corporate behemoth – I’m talking about BT – that’s a completely different matter.

If you’ve ever tried to change broadband suppliers, you may well have had a similar experience to what I’ve been through during the past five weeks.

In theory, it’s quite simple. You phone your current internet service provider to ask for a migration code (MAC), which your new supplier then uses to switch your service over. According to the industry’s code of conduct, the ISP should provide you with your MAC within 5 working days.

It should be simple, shouldn’t it? But, of course, it’s anything but.

Apparently most ISPs have a tendency to drag their feet over issuing MACs, presumably in the hope that most people will eventually give up and stay with them. Now I don’t know whether BT is significantly better or worse than, say, Sky or Tiscali or Talk Talk, but what I do know is that I don’t exactly have a warm glow about them.

The timeline goes as follows:

Nov 6th: Requested a MAC from BT’s Customer Options team. I was told they would email it to me within 5 working days, in line with the code of conduct.

Nov 18th: Follow-up call. Polite service, profuse apologies, and a promise that it would be sorted out within 48 hours.

Nov 20th: Ditto.

Nov 25th: Another call, and a promise that I would either receive the MAC or someone would contact me within 48 hours. Registered a complaint with a manager anyway, expressing my disappointment.

Dec 1st: Still nothing. Emailed BT’s High Level Escalation complaints team ( after the phone number I had found for them didn’t work. Received an automated email response promising they would get back to me within two working days. They didn’t – which I personally find even more offensive than their general inaction. If you promise to call someone back, you call them back; that’s basic courtesy.

Dec 11th (today): In total exasperation, I launched a three-pronged approach, thus:

1. I phoned BT again, stating clearly that I expected action within one week, or I would also be switching my landline supplier.

2. I then phoned the Ofcom and registered a complaint which they promised to pass on to BT. (Ofcom doesn’t actually have the power to do anything, but by escalating it with the ISP there’s more chance they’ll actually sit up and take notice.)

3. Finally, I emailed BT’s chief executive ( directly at 8.58am, politely summarising the various communications I had made, and expressing my disappointment at the lack of any positive outcome or even feedback. I received an email response at 9.01am, a call from his PA at 9.30am, and a MAC by email and accompanying phone call by 11am. (Apparently the MAC had been generated four weeks ago, but never sent to me – go figure.)

That’s two hours from my email to a surprisingly swift resolution – after five weeks of frustration. Hopefully that should now be the end of it. Even if it isn’t, I now at least have a direct line to someone high up in BT’s organisation who has been both responsive and effective. You can’t ask for more than that.

Isn’t it funny how quickly things happen when you cut out the middle man? Makes you wonder why companies invest so much in customer service infrastructure when the only way to get things done is to contact the man at the top.