Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dear BT....

After the high of last weekend, my ear to ear grin has been annoying everyone, even me. I needed something that would trigger my normally grumpy demeanour and bring me crashing back down to earth. Step forward British Telecom, a company seemingly devoted to infuriating and driving away its customer base. Given that it acts like the 'Fawlty Towers' of customer services, I thought it only appropriate to communicate with them in a reciprocal way.

Here is a letter sent this morning to Ian Livingstone - Chief Exective of BT.

Dear Ian,

Firstly, apologies for contacting you via letter. I would of course normally send you an e-mail but given the speed of the service you have provided over the last 3 months, I'm not sure that you or I would still be alive by the time it appeared in your in-box.

I did consider taking all of the equipment you have provided, along with the bills, flyers and assorted documentation that regularly fills up my paper recycling bin and setting fire to it all. I could then have sent this message through the medium of smoke signal but in the end I chose a more traditional and less drastic means of communication.

Over the course of the last 3 months, I'm pretty sure I have spoken to each and every one of your employees across the world and I am delighted to tell you that your globalisation programme has been a roaring success. Against all the odds and despite language barriers and cultural differences you now have a standardised service across all of your business units. They are now uniformly and unwaveringly useless, irrespective of location and function.

Despite hours and hours of trawling through menu systems, unnecessarily inputting my details into your automated systems (and then being asked to repeat them to each new person) I still find myself tortuously explaining the history of my problem to each of your many employees. The 'update' I must provide is now up around the ten minute mark, a routine I have now honed to perfection and take great pride in delivering. Unfortunately, my tale of woe is usually met with abject apathy or worse faux sympathy along the lines of  'I understand your concerns Mr. Leishman, we appreciate your patience and loyalty but let me stop you there, I'm going to pass you on to somebody who cares ever so slightly less than I do'. 

I have whiled away many hours within the purgatory that is your automated menu system, listening intently to the pre-recorded woman explaining how important my call is and how BT is committed to providing great service. I don't know who that Scottish lady is but I can tell you her lack of sincerity and her hollow promises have forced me to re-evaluate my opinion of the whole of Scotland. 

I now have a service which is worse than when I first raised a complaint several months ago. That in itself is a formidable achievement, particularly given the time and the resource we have both devoted to the problem. I'm almost reluctant to escalate any further for fear of what might happen.

I have met an entire army of your engineers over that period, vast swathes of them. In fact 'Coffee for BT engineers' now appears as a line item in its own right on my domestic budget. I have spent several days working from home, awaiting the latest engineer from whichever BT department has been blamed by the last one that attempted to solve my problem. I say working from home, I'm sure you will agree, working from home is a little challenging when your broadband speed is slower than glacial erosion. 

Your engineers have all been unfailingly courteous, professional and spectacularly unsuccessful in addressing my problem. The quality of chin scratching has though been particularly impressive along with the honesty displayed by one of your engineers, who when I asked him if he had a BT Broadband service, replied 'You must be f**king joking'. I laughed for a whole two minutes before realising he was being serious.

Over the last month, my problem has evolved. I have gone from having an unstable connection that disconnected sporadically to having no service at all. Given that I was one of only four people idiotic enough to sign up to your BT Vision TV service, I now have only basic TV services, the Digital revolution is now for me just a distant memory. In fact, I  am thinking of re-instating my old VHS recorder so that my wife can record Coronation Street. I now have to get in the car and drive to my sister-in-laws to send an e-mail which I think we can agree is not an acceptable state of affairs, particularly when I am sending the e-mail to her. That just seems silly doesn't it Ian?

The latest suggestion from your 'team' was to change the router which they would do for free if I signed up for another 18 months. Whilst I admire their entrepreneurship, I think you'll find if you check the copy of my birth certificate (enclosed) that the word 'Yesterday' does not appear against the column marked 'Date of Birth'. Instead, I went out and bought my own router and naturally it achieved nothing. There are as yet undiscovered lifeforms, clinging to the sides of hydrothermic vents in the worlds deepest oceans, that knew that my router was not the problem but desperation is a funny thing isn't it Ian?

I even tried to cancel my service this morning but was told that I would be in breach of contract and would have to pay four months worth of subscription for the privilege of putting myself out of my bandwidth induced misery. I can tell you that my appetite for doing that is broadly the same as it is for disembowelling myself with a teaspoon. So in complete exasperation I write to you to see if you can help.

I look forward to hearing from you. (by letter or on my wholly reliable mobile phone)


Alan Leishman


  1. Brilliant. (Tried to leave comment earlier, couldn't.)

  2. P.S. Found you via RAFairman on Twitter...a great guy.

  3. What a brilliant letter..... good luck mate, I know how you feel, I've got Bt as well.... fekkin' useless!

  4. Fabulous - I too have felt the frustration of ISP who plainy don't give a turd when they have your monthly payment - TalkTalk in my case . . . . . now with Plusnet. Also found you via RAFairman on Twitter ;-)

  5. Excellent letter. If I were ever in any doubt when it comes to changing ISP's I'll just read this again :-) /Via RAFairman, another star!

  6. I have to say, not that it will be any consolation, but I too have had exactly the same level of nil customer service from BT, been told by so many of their employee's "it wasn't their dept but if you just ring [another number]" I like you wrote to the CEO. Alas he didn't reply to my letter, so I simply voted with my feet and changed provider [ also sent by @RAFairman of twitter]

  7. I had problem with BT. In the end I rang the Chairman's office... I have to say that the problem was resolved within a day. Should not have to do that, but when faced with a problem, I've discovered that it pays to go to the top sooner rather than later.

  8. "disembowelling myself with a teaspoon"

    I am now using this once everyday...

  9. Although I know I shouldn't laugh at your plight, I have to say I very nearly lost control of my bladder reading that. Thank you for the laughs. I also arrived via Crab Air :o)

  10. Nice piece mate. Sadly, I think we've all been there.

  11. Oh, and rather amusing that Google decides to use ads for BT broadband to accompany the article :-)

  12. Fantastic letter! Man after my own heart. A bit ominous, really, though, as I've recently changed ISP to BT as I work from home and my employer pays for it, and the wi-fi regularly fails. Fortunately, the PC I use for work is connected to the hub via cable. When I was with Tiscali, I only had to reset the router about once a month. At the moment, it's two or three times a day. Funnily enough, a guy I know who used to be a BT engineer said to me once that, to get anywhere, you needed to contact the CEO's office!

    Good to hear your service seems to have returned!


  13. So, what happened? Did you get a reply, or a resolution?

  14. Hi, You can contact us on Twitter about this, tweet @btcare and please add so we know its you :o)

  15. To be fair, once my letter was in the public domain things moved very fast indeed. Within a few hours I was contacted by somebody senior and my problem was rectified very shortly afterwards. Strangely, I never did receive a written reply.....

  16. Hello Alan,

    I did the same when BT disconnected me "by mistake" last year. I blogged and tweeted while going through this horrendous telephone vortex, reported the whole fiasco to @BTCare via email, and someone refunded my reconnection charge (haha) and two month's rental for all the hassle. Ask for compensation, get your rental money back and some free months.

    They were very nice indeed, in the end.

    Everyone - go public, if you can!

  17. hahahhahahahahhaahahhahahahahahahahahha. BT are shit.