back to article BT's hiring! 500 more customer service folk to answer your angry calls

Former UK state monopoly BT - whose broadband division Openreach has been repeatedly been criticised for its poor customer service - is to hire 500 call centre staff in a bid to tackle complaints. The new roles are in addition to the previously announced target of 1,000 UK and Ireland customer service jobs by the end of March …

  1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    India or England. Does it matter if the "customer service representative" tells blatant lies?

    1. David Lawton

      Very much so, i only want to be told the lies once, not 4 times because i cannot understand what they are saying.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        So did...

        The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, just decide to take over British Telecom One Morning?

  2. Commswonk Silver badge
    WTF?

    What?

    By hiring more customer service staff it hopes to answer “more than” 90 per cent of customer calls by March 2017.

    Oh FFS... that's an awfully long time to sit with a 'phone clamped to my ear being told my call is important to them.

    Or trying to ignore Vivaldi and his Four Seasons...

    1. Snar

      Re: What?

      You beat me to it :)

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: What?

      [blockquote]Or trying to ignore Vivaldi and his Four Seasons...[/blockquote]

      Have you thought about browing their website using Opera instead?

  3. AMBxx Silver badge

    Must admit

    Maybe I'm in a minority of one, but PlusNet's service has always been pretty good. I don't use their DNS or webmail, just a simple broadband connection, but never had a problem.

    1. Steve Button

      Re: Must admit

      If you've never had a problem you probably aren't in the best position to comment. It's when you DO have a problem and how your ISP deals with it that determines if they are "pretty good" or just lucky.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Must admit

        Sorry, I wasn't clear - it's not that I haven;t had a problem, it's that I've not had a problem with their support.

        Everytime I've had to call them, it's straight through to UK call centre, then a quick fix.

        1. wyatt

          Re: Must admit

          I've also had a positive experience with Plus.net customer service (Business). I raised a ticket with them for low line speeds which they looked into and provided their diagnostic charts and line stats for me to see. Unfortunately the best we could come up with was to remove the front panel of the NTE socket, who ever moved the socket where they did didn't do a good job and it was crippling the speed. To resolve would need Openreach probably at my cost.

  4. Halfmad

    Your call is important to us, if we bother to answer it

    and then don't lie through our teeth.

    I've had over a dozen "engineers" out to look at our line over the past few years. I finally cracked a few months ago and took the BT master socket to bits, discovered an ancient ADSL splitter built into it and reconnected everything - voila! 3 times faster internet speed with no drops.

    Now you imagine how many hours I spent on the phone to get that number of engineers to attend? How often I spoke to "Gary" in India who ran through his little script word for word, how often I told him "Yes I've got internet explorer open", how often I then had to agree to accept any costs should they find no fault etc etc.

    What a waste of space these companies are.

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: Your call is important to us, if we bother to answer it

      Your call is important to us is just another lie.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Your call is important to us, if we bother to answer it

        "Your call is important to us is just another lie."

        Unless it's on a premium rate number...

        1. tr1ck5t3r

          Re: Your call is important to us, if we bother to answer it

          Just use 0800 400 400, you can get through to virtually all parts of BT on that number, both consumer and business. The 3rd or 4th question ask's if it is a business or consumer account and routes accordingly, either way its free and doesnt cost anything.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Your call is important to us, if we bother to answer it

      I've had over a dozen "engineers" out to look at our line over the past few years. I finally cracked a few months ago and took the BT master socket to bits, discovered an ancient ADSL splitter built into it and reconnected everything - voila! 3 times faster internet speed with no drops.

      You didn't actually say so but are we to assume that your service is VDSL rather than ADSL? In any case I am still at a loss to work out how none of the visiting "engineers" managed to find the fault. I cannot imagine that their testing (I assume that they did actually carry out some speed tests) didn't reveal some sort of problem, and having a peek inside an LJU is a good way of finding a defect with the customer's wiring, not least because if they find one they can then charge the customer.

      So I have this feeling of enduring bewilderment...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Your call is important to us, if we bother to answer it

        This is all off-topic....

        But, you dont have to be vDSL to have a master socket with a filter attached......engineers were fitting these sockets quite frequently a number of years back when Openreach was branded.....they have the logo on them - hence why the push to fit....

        and - if its the master socket, no charge can be levied....

  5. Dabooka Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Can some one please explain

    how recruiting 500 call handlers is going to reduce the time waited for the 14,000 consumers and small businesses waiting for broadband and phone line repairs and the 11,000 who experienced late installations?

    Hitting a 90% target for call answering isn't going to do much to quell the actual complaints is it, just maybe massage a few numbers so they don't appear top of the Hit Parade.

    Cretins.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Can some one please explain

      Yep - note the absence of a phrase such as 'within 10 minutes'. Their target is purely to answer the phone!

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Can some one please explain

      It is also worth remembering that taking into account leave, sickness and (most particularly) shift working the number of additional call handlers on duty at any one time is unlikely to exceed about 150 out of the 500.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Can some one please explain

      And can someone please explain how all of sudden management decides that they need to hire FIVE HUNDRED more people to staff the call centers ? I seriously doubt that call center staff is 50,000 and these 500 more are just a 1% increase.

      Even if, and I think that is a big "if", even if the call center staff currently number 5,000, it's a 10% increase, and that means that manglement knew bloody well that the call center was seriously understaffed in the first place and, that being the case, it is manglement that is entirely responsible for minimizing the call center and ensuring customer dissatisfaction.

      On top of that, they publicly declare that, with 500 more call center staff, they expect to only answer 90% of calls. Sorry, you're supposed to answer ALL THE CALLS.

      Of course, to minimize the number of calls, you could hire and properly train another 500 technicians who would then go out and actually SOLVE THE PROBLEMS people are calling about - but yeah, that's silly talk.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >whose broadband division Openreach

    Que ?

    When did they become a broadband division ?

  7. 080

    Customer Hatred

    If you want to experience true customer hatred try complaining to Orange France AKA France Telecom.

    1. KroSha

      Re: Customer Hatred

      I left Orange for precisely this reason. They couldn't seem to understand that I didn't want to receive spam SMS about Orange services. After about 15 requests over 3 months, I ported to Three and have been happy ever since.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Customer Hatred

      I see your Orange France and raise you Telefonica.

  8. croaker
    FAIL

    "Fixing" the wrong thing

    It must be cheaper to employ 500 shaved chimps to say the problem's not their fault rather than hire actual engineers to fix the root cause of all these unanswered calls.

    1. Kernel

      Re: "Fixing" the wrong thing

      "It must be cheaper to employ 500 shaved chimps to say the problem's not their fault rather than hire actual engineers to fix the root cause...."

      I sincerely hope so - as of yesterday I've devoted 43 years of my life to learning how to fix faults in telephone exchanges and related equipment, plus significant time each year keeping my knowledge and skills up to date as the deployed technology changes.

      If I'm not being paid considerably more than a call centre wonk then you can colour me pissed-off!

    2. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: "Fixing" the wrong thing

      Do you think they're going to bother shaving the chimps ? So long as their facial hair doesn't rustle against their headset mic, you'll be none the wiser.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "Fixing" the wrong thing

        "So long as their facial hair doesn't rustle against their headset mic,"

        They shave other parts, so the poo doesn't stick.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now which is going to have more effect on the number of complaints, 500 additional call centre staff or 500 additional competant technicians?

    Tough one that.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My problem is BT (Or should I say OpenReach separate company blah blah) don't actually bother to keep appointments. They told me my line was live when it hadn't even been installed.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A "Wizard of Id" cartoon in the 1970s summed it up nicely. Unfortunately an image of it isn't on the web. Here's a paraphrase from memory.

    Salesman trying to sell a new cart. "We have the largest Customer Service department in the country."

    Potential customer. "No thanks - I want to buy one that doesn't need such a large Customer Service department"

  12. Steve Goodey
    Facepalm

    Engineers bah!

    They don't need more engineers or external planners. New technology will do away with them! Apparently.

  13. Adam Jarvis

    Peston on Sunday Interview with Mike Rake , Chairman of BT Plc, his 'Freudian Slip'

    Text Extract from the interview (genuine).

    Mike Rake (BT Chairman)

    What ofcom...{interupted by Peston}, What we are negotiating WITH OFCOM is not actually a structural separation of OFCOM. It's more of what is called Enhanced function separation. We (BT) are committed to creating an independent board THAT WILL RUN OFCOM with an independent Chairman,Independent Directors.

    Peston: Openreach not Ofcom. {You mean Openreach}

    Mike Rake: Oh, Yes (chuckle). that's a Freudian Slip! (Haha) (He can't stop chuckling to himself) Openreach (he continues to chuckle) that will run the networks, invest in the networks, which will have more freedom on Capital and operating expenditure, more hiring for commercial rollout.

    That's what you were negotiating with them {ofcom}, they are saying the don't trust your plans, why they (ofcom) are now trying to break the company up.

    Mike Rake at this point still can't stop chuckling to himself...(he knows BT basically owns ofcom). He make several further chuckles to himself, knowing the mistake he made was really the truth.

    Ofcom is a total waste of space and money. It proved Ofcom / BT are in each other's pockets.

    Freudian Slip - my arse. It was a true eye opener of an interview, regards BT/Ofcom's relationship.

    Just as annoying though was Ed Balls, ignorantly flicking through his mobile phone while the interview took place. Fcuking technically clueless Politicians, happily accessing data from his phone {Strictly gossip probably}, but not interested in how BT intends to make sure that data is delivered to millions of phones, going forward. i.e. BT's rollout plans.He couldn't be bothered to actually listen (or just hadn't a clue).

    Mike Rake is well past his Prime, in terms of deciding Britain's future regards Superfast Broadband. Its probably his clueless idea to promote Pointless G.fast, over FTTP. Mike, do us all a favour and retire, you really proved in that interview you're really not up to the job.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Peston on Sunday Interview with Mike Rake , Chairman of BT Plc, his 'Freudian Slip'

      "Mike Rake at this point still can't stop chuckling to himself...(he knows BT basically owns ofcom). He make several further chuckles to himself, knowing the mistake he made was really the truth."

      Same problem in New Zealand. It was the Ministry of Commerce which forced the breakup after quantifying the economic damage the original NZ setup was doing and documenting how BT was systematically abusing the UK market with the BT/Openreach model that TNZ was attempting to sell to NZ regulators as the way forward.

      The subsequent experience in NZ is a good indicator for the UK:

      The split-off lines company has proven to be very sucessful, selling to all comers and actively recruiting customers who the original Telco regarded as competitors. In the UK the effect would be seeing duct access sold to Virgin so they can run their own cables at a fraction of the cost of digging up roads, etc.

      Contrary to doom and gloom predictions, the lines company has proven to be attractive to banks (financing for investment in infrastructure), whilst the telco has started looking quite ill.

      Also contrary to predictions, the actual cost structures that the telco had presented as arguments against a breakup (claiming the lines company was a major cost/loss centre) proved to be completely fictional.

      The exact same arguments against the breakup of BT/Openreach were presented against the breakup of TNZ/Chorus - and anyone who looks at what's happened in the last 5 years in New Zealand will know that the effects have been good for the country.

      None of this will happen unless Openreach is 100% separated from BT.

      The problem is not that Openreach is a monopoly, but that Openreach is a natural monopoly which BT can use (and IS using) as leverage to behave anticompetitively in other areas. Directors, board and offices must be completely cleaved from the mothership to end up with a company that is not subject to undue influence and anticompetitive pressures.

      BT is terrified of losing Openreach, because:

      1: Openreach is actually a major profit centre

      2: It is being used to lever their monopoly to seek additional rent on interconnections with or circuits used by competitors

      3: Without it, BT will be an extremely sick company without much political influence.

      If Openreach really was such a massive pensions liabliity, BT would be actively seeking to unload it on the government.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Peston on Sunday Interview with Mike Rake , Chairman of BT Plc, his 'Freudian Slip'

        Man my teeth itch when I hear the name Mike Rake.

        Chairman of BT during the Phorm data interception scandal.

        Chairman of Barclays whilst they were busy fixing Libor rates.

        Chairman of KPMG Intl during multiple malpractice incidents

        yikes!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well run and efficient corporations. BT's not one of them.

    "whose broadband division Openreach"

    Openreach looks after (or is supposed to) the access & backhaul networks. Which includes voice and the last x miles of private wires.

    Not just broadband.

    "The new roles are in addition to the previously announced target of 1,000 UK and Ireland customer service jobs"

    That's 99.9% of the problem right there. The latest green behind the ears graduate to be promoted rapidly into a position of real power thinks it's the customer service agent's job to talk to the customer AND fix their problem(s).

    They probably don't have a clue that it's the lack of active technicians who actually diagnose (or are supposed to) and fix the faults that gives rise to the increased number of complaints.

    'the biz positioned the move as a "a boost to the UK and Ireland jobs market"'

    Meanwhile the beancounter who got a massive bonus & promoted three times for "saving the company £m" by offshoring the cs jobs in the first place is busy implementing their next mega cost saving idea.

    And round and round it goes.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Planet(s) BT

    There must be a few, their database refers to them*, a sort of parallel universe that is more fixed than our own, BT refer to those realities in all negotiations.

    *There must be be more than one as no two parts of BT can agree the physical state of anything.

  16. zaax

    As this is on the BT retail side it will have no effect on the repair times.

  17. Clockworkseer

    Also, they're ony technically going to hire them. As per BT usual form, they'll probably go via an agency, and get contract workers with worse pay and conditions than those on actual BT contracts, shovel them in, and see who sticks. They might hand out a few BT contracts a year to "top performers."

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "As this is on the BT retail side it will have no effect on the repair times."

    It might.

    For example, a recent fault in a VDSL cab near here affected dozens of people who were mostly, but not exclusively, customers of BT. After a few days, and aided by customers, the smarter Openreach guys started to work out that they were getting lots of faults downstream from this cab, and that for certain classes of fault report and remote diagnostic symptom there was little point in an engineer visit to customer site, because the symptoms were down to the broken VDSL cab. But they had to do it, because that's what the process says you have to do.

    At one point there were three BT Openreach bods attending three separate fault reports in a block of 40 flats I'm familiar with. All wasting their time because the symptoms were due to the fsult in the VDSL cab. Also wasting their customers time. All could have been doing useful (rather than pointless) work elsewhere. All because BT Retail (and BT Business) processes said the engineer visit had to be done, even though the cause had been already identified, and was not rectifiable by a customer site visit.

    To make matters worse, the only method of getting an update on when the VDSL cab might perhaps be fixed seemed to involve opening yet another fault with BT (the previous one having been mysteriously closed) and thus incurring the cost and inconvenience (to all concerned) of yet another unnecessary engineer visit to customer site.

    Awful company. Awful management. First against the wall...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you thought fault finding was bad with a FTTC Cab/VDSL2, wait till BT attempt G.fasdt fault finding.

      G.fast is already very much dependent on device firmware matching between Huawei Kit, but a customer deciding to use their own Router with the wrong firmware on G.fast, will degrade adjacent lines due to cross talk. It will be a nightmare to find the rogue router (which might only be on switched on certain hours) affecting others.

      There will need to be much stricter enforcement regards third party equipment for G.fast to get half decent reliable results, within its working range - 150m from the roadside cab. In the real world with Copper, Alu, Rusty, loose, damp terminals the headline 'upto' figures BT are spouting regards G.fast are just unrealistic.

      G.fast is pretty much very selective vapourware, in terms of real world results when you take into account ageing cabling/mismatched cabling. i.e. Don't expect G.fast to be rolled out rurally to any great extent.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        fault finding as profit opportunity?

        "If you thought fault finding was bad with a FTTC Cab/VDSL2, wait till BT attempt G.fasdt fault finding."

        Depends on whether fault finding is seen as an extra revenue/profit opportunity or not. Afaict, SFI services became a chargeable service in order to create an extra revenue stream (or to shed a load of relatively skilled and time-consuming work). Whether that's 'bad' or not depends on where someone sits :(

        "the headline 'upto' figures BT are spouting regards G.fast are just unrealistic."

        Will anyone be surprised by that?

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "G.fast is pretty much very selective vapourware, in terms of real world results "

        Expensive vapourware that BTOR can charge 150% of installation costs up front for without having to go to the expense of new cable.

        Widespread installation of FTTH requires they amortise the cost over 20 years (they can charge for the terminal equipment, but not the cable laying)

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " the only method of getting an update on when the VDSL cab might perhaps be fixed seemed to involve opening yet another fault with BT (the previous one having been mysteriously closed) "

      The reason for _that_ being that Openreach techs only get paid when the fault is closed, so they close it no matter what.

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