Saturday, 14 April 2012

Broken BT promises

I was told saying "our favourite telco" does not help if I am worried about defamation, the main thing is to be factually correct. This is factually correct.

The problem I have today is that BT are ignoring me, yet again.

A customer's line has been off for a month. On Friday BT finally determined that the fault was a problem with the DSLAM port. My understanding is that this type of fault can be diagnosed using a standard automated TAM test (takes a few minutes) and "fixed" by moving to a new port (takes around a day). It has taken a month and is still not fixed.

They have not sent engineers when promised, sent the wrong engineers, cancelled fault reports, cancelled escalations of faults, refused high level escalations, and allowed a fault to continue for a month. Yes, a whole month with no service.

My staff have been chasing several times a day.

Our new BT account manager had managed to make a lot more progress over the last few days, getting the Director's Service Office involved, which is how we got as far as actually diagnosing it was a DSLAM port issue.

Even so, the latest is, now that they have identified the fault, they have ceased the line and are re-providing it. The promise yesterday was "I will have it back on tomorrow morning".

This morning at 07:15 I chased to find a more exact time, and they said they were not sure want time.

Morning came and went, and no reply to email at 09:01, 12:01, 13:11, 14:07, 15:03. I have emailed again at 17:11. echat to HLE says no representative, so email was only option.

Whilst today may be "working hours" by BT's definition, it is not for me or my staff.

Once again BT waste my time, damage our reputation as an ISP, and mess our end user around.

Recently, I asked if I should fall out with BE, our other supplier, and we are having a meeting soon with them to make sure we don't fall out and we all know where we stand. I am sure that will all be resolved and both sides are keen to understand why we had a dispute and what we need to change to fix that.

But what do you do with BT when you have little choice but to deal with them.

There is no ADR I can use to chase BT. Shame, as so many shorfalls. If I am lucky we will get a few pounds compensation, but as they kept sending the fault back to us (unfixed) we probably do not get that. They have the cheek to charge us for this service for the month as well. We refund our customer, and that is our loss as is all the time spent on this. I think our customer has bigger losses, sadly.

I am appalled. I only hope we get this customer back on line soon. I do feel sorry for them.

The sad thing is that I remember when we started broadband and things were good. BT were good to deal with most of the time. Their fault desk gave the impression that they actually wanted to fix faults. They did not try to micro bill for everything and they did not charge to send an engineer. Why has it all gone so down hill? Why are the majority of interactions with BT a battle. We should be "on the same side" trying to help an end user and fix a fault.

I wonder if there is a way to get BT back on track. To actually want to fix faults not fight ISPs. To actually want to provide a quality service. We want to fix things, and we are happy to try and work with BT to do that, but are they? I don't think my 5p BT Group plc share gets me much say from their side.

To give you an idea of what we have to put up with - this is just what they are doing this weekend on this one fault after they had promised the line would be back on Saturday morning:-
  • Sat 07:41: Got a reply to my email of 07:15 but they could not confirm time when line will be working
  • Sat 17:00: No reply to emails of 09:01, 12:01, 13:11, 14:07, or 15:03.
  • Sat 17:24: Since starting typing this post: one reply to my 17:11 email and one to my 15:03 email. Promised update at 6pm by Karen
  • Sat 18:00: No update and 6pm has passed. What a surprise.
  • Sat 18:01: Latest update says they have not in fact even expedited this as waiting on the order getting to "committed" stage. WTF. This was promised for "this morning".
  • No reply to emails of 18:03, 18:09, 18:25, 18:48, 18:53, 19:00, 19:07
  • Sat 19:35: Latest news is that it seems BT plc have no control over when BT plc's systems will show the order to be committed state. I would expect BT plc to actually have control over BT plc's systems myself.
  • Sun 06:41: Finally an update, and they have cancelled the new order for the line replacement and can't do anything until some planned systems work is done. So yet more excuses and more problems.
  • Sun 12:04: An hour since BT's planned work was finished and BTs systems restored. We were told "The very moment that they are I will do so, and keep you informed of the progress." but that is another broken promise I see as they have not even an hour later in spite of emails at 11:08 chasing. No reply.
  • Sun 13:06: They are finally placing the order. 
  • Sun 13:53: They claim to have placed the order. Now to wait for their systems to think about it for a while. I do not have high hopes of this being fixed on a Sunday somehow.
  • Sun 15:31: Order still not showing on BBCR (i.e. BTs systems not updating us) and no reply to email of 14:54 asking for new circuit ID. Not convinced this is going to happen.
  • Sun 17:00: Still waiting for order to show on BBCR. Still waiting for confirmation from BT of order state and circuit number. Getting silly. 
  • Sun 18:00: Still waiting for order to show on BBCR but BT have confirmed the circuit ID. It does not normally take this long for an order to commit. I have my concerned that this will be another "system problem"
  • Sun 19:19: BT say they have expedited the order - now to see when it will be jumpered.
  • Sun 20:02: Finally the order shows on BBCR - as issued, not committed. Hmmm
  • Sun 21:01:  End user logs in. Hmmm, odd as BT seemed to think they would not be able to do anything until 07:30 tomorrow. Can't do line tests or anything, but may in fact be working. Yay!
I would say that was a successful, if rather long, weekend. Thanks to Stuart and Shaun for their input on this as well.

Now we need to get a proper report from BT on why this all went so wrong and what they (or we) can do to improve things in future.

It is tempting, as some have suggested, to publish the bad experiences on fault reports like this from time to time, but I would want to ensure we publish the few good experiences we have as well. Just occasionally we get a shock when someone actually fixes a fault promptly and efficiently. I'll post if I see such a case in the near future.


  1. Surely if BT acknowledge that the service is at fault and the fault has been with their infrastructure from the start, they are clearly in breach of contract as they have been unwilling/unable to supply the service which you are paying for ?

    Is it worth contacting all non-BT owned ISPs who depend on BT Wholesale infrastructure to provide services and lobbying OFCOM or some other industry body to take action over this cavalier attitude by BT Wholesale ?

    I would very much like to know the average time-to-fix for ADSL faults reported to BT Wholesale by BT Retail compared to non-BT Retail owned ISPs - that is likely info which only OFCOM could request though.

    1. I get the impression some ISPs just don't want to be bothered with BT - probably had enough of trying to deal with them, always trying to shift responsibility onto the customer if anything - this, when the problem is in any way obscure, is no way to get anything fixed. However, when it is a really big and clear problem, it should be quite simple to get them to handle it properly.

      Knowledge on the customer part seems to count for little, and service usually comes with a spit. Oh well... maybe things will change one day...

  2. Its not the only issue your guys are chasing with BT. An issue of the identity of my FTTC line has arisen, and your guys have been chasing it for 6 weeks.

    Actually, it's been going on for a year, after having a data-only line installed in preparation for FTTC.

    All my incoming calls stopped for a few days. Realising there was a problem, I tried plugging a phone unto the FTTC socket, I discovered my calls were now coming in on that line, not the voice line I had with BT.

    When I reported it to BT retail, they said everything was fine, and I was mistaken. After much insistence, they sent out an Openreach engineer, who ripped everything off the wall, scratched his head, and put it all back again as it was. He left saying I needed to get back in contact with BT Retail. So I did, and the second engineer came out, who also ripped everything off the wall, put it all back, and also said it was a BT Retail problem!! Clearly it's a problem at the exchange, but nobody at BT would take responsibility.

    I gave up in the end, and cancelled my BT line, and re-wired all my phone extensions to the FTTC socket. I cant make outgoing calls on it, so I use AA VOIP instead.

    I thought this was all behind me, but when I asked to be on the FTTC 80Meg trial, Openreach now dont recognise the line to upgrade it. The trial is now over, and I pay the premium rate, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks.

    Just hope I dont loose my incoming number that I have had for 13 years. I wish I had attempted to port it to a VOIP service now, but I was afraid of rocking the boat.

    1. I hope they can change - the crap i am listing on this fault is not unusual - it is day to day stuff for staff with some silly arguments and BT refusing to follow processes, etc, thrown in.

    2. I know how you feel.

      The classic one was for them to close a fault as solved without actually confirming it was, then because they closed it they won't take an escalation for the case so they have to raise a new case... Rinse and repeat.

  3. I wonder if there's mileage in documenting all this crap publically like this (opt-in, of course, just in case someone is a bit sensitive about their connection, but I can't imagine most people not wanting it out in the open).

    Call it or something :p

  4. BTW are very poor (IMHO) of identifying issues with MSAN ports. Being a LLU provider with my current employer its very easy for me to identify this issue with my LLU products and my 20C BTW tails.

    What I do with my non fave telco in these instances is provide a debug ppp negotiation output log. (We use Cisco routers). We clearly see the issue and usually get a TPM the same day action-ed overnight.

    I main the problem CP's have our favorite telco is that there is no mechanism to supply them with the additional information we as CP's have that will resolve the issue. whether its a single line or a back-haul link.

    Maybe something to raise on May 8th at the ISP forum?