The BT engineering visit lottery – get yer tickets ere

broadband engineering lottery

Photo by Maurits Tillema

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Tuesday, 12 March, 2013

Broadband engineering visit lottery results in 3 cancelled appointments.

BT has some great engineers on the ground. I witnessed one in action recently when he did some troubleshooting on my line and found a corroded pair of wires creating noise. The knock on effect was a modulated line with slower speeds. It was fixed. Great.

On Thursday Mrs Davies called me whilst I was in London to say “the internet isn’t working”. Now I love her a lot but whenever she says the internet isn’t working it is working and usually it is down to user error with whichever gadget she happens to be playing with. Either that or Microsoft software.

On this occasion I got home and found that indeed “the internet wasn’t working”! A quick skeet showed me that the VDSL modem was kaput. A technical term for “knackered” – from the same school as vorchsprung dorch technik (or however they spell it). It’s kind of ok because we all have mobile connectivity in our house. Frustrating for my wife who has grown used to “lightning” speed connectivity. Lots of “” in this post btw.

The upshot of it is largely that the kids couldn’t play Xbox live games and she who must be obeyed could not catch up with the Hairy Bikers on the iPad in the kitchen. Not the end of the world I’d say but certainly noticeable from a family feedback perspective.

My parting shot on the way in on Friday was “Not to worry” and “I’ll get someone out with a new modem”.

The appointment was set for the next day, Saturday, am. For the uninitiated the BT definition of am is 08.00 hrs to 13.00 hrs. Obviously making sure that any clocks stuck on Daylight Savings or British Summer Time did not cause anyone to not be around and miss the appointment, important as we all understand that appointment to be.

Mrs Davies had to be out at a charity coffee morning, so I waited in. I had lots of errands needing doing but the only one I got done was to fix a kids bike as all the others involved leaving the house which I could not do. A no show by a customer incurs a charge from Openreach.

Anne, for that is her name, got back at lunchtime so I could nip out to Waitrose & do other important stuff.

In the meantime I got in touch with our NOC to ask whether there was any way we could find out where we were in the queue which would at least give us a feel for when the engineer might turn up.

We can only do this via Instant Message Chat Line – to a “call centre” that would appear to be in India. The call centre which kept referring to BT as their “supplier” said they could only contact BT for an update when the engineer was actually late, in my case after 1pm. Huh. The NOC tells me that they are not encouraged to call before 2pm on such occasions and the system is often not updated by the engineer on the ground until two or three hours after that.

At around 7pm we decided the BT engineer was not coming that day and rescheduled the visit until Monday am – again 8am until 1pm. Again the guy didn’t turn up. Same deal as before. No info from the Chat Line person.

Now the visit has been rescheduled yet again until this morning – leaving me with a “much annoyed” wife – language toned down here from actual. She has to miss another coffee morning etc. I get it in the neck.

There are a few issues here. Firstly the engineer did not show up twice and the communication channels with Openreach were very poor. I’m not blaming the engineer. Those guys are under a lot of pressure to maintain a network that is very old and starting to fall apart. Finding a fault is often akin to plugging a hole in a hosepipe only to find another one further along.

It is a very difficult job running the UK copper lines network. Thankless even. I can understand how hard it is to meet an appointment having myself experienced an engineer take over two hours to fix a problem that only has 1 hour budgeted in the system.

However the system is very customer unfriendly. BT would not contact the engineer for an update until he was already late. This man in his van needs the tools to be able to update the system in real time. It would also be very useful to know where I was on the day’s list of visits. A location tracker even.

These days it is no longer acceptable for me to only find out that he isn’t coming hours after he hasn’t turned up. BT needs to up its game. This isn’t an isolated incident. The NOC tells me they have examples of customers having three or four no-shows on the trot for BT engineering visits to our business customers. It is happening every day.

We read about BT taking on 1,000 new engineers. From what I can see they are destined purely for FTTX rollout and not fixing their existing problems.

The “BT” internal support staff would also appear to be under pressure. They did not read my ticket which specifically said my modem was dead. Instead they looked at the notes from the previous visit, saw that there had been problems with line error rates and reset the system to start it training again. Of course it will not work – because the modem is dead.

Ranting about this on Twitter on Saturday night I find that I would be, were I a BT Retail customer, able to claim a £10 compensation for my troubles! £10 for staying in what is so far 10+ hours waiting!!! You should also note that I have to pay BT around ten times that amount if I don’t turn up for the appointment myself and the BT engineer does.

I’m a pretty easy going kind of guy who normally likes to look on the positive side of things. I’ve written good things about BT on many occasion. Many people find it easy to knock them and we have to strike a balance as their job is not necessarily an easy one.

However this recent experience, which is still ongoing, lets me see how frustrating it can be from an end customer’s perspective. BT needs to get its act together and treat the customer as if they are the ones paying their salaries. It just isn’t good enough.

In the meantime we wait to see if someone turns up today. What’s the betting they don’t have a spare modem with them?! I think I might buy a lottery ticket – feels as if I’d have a better chance of winning that than getting an engineer out today.

Trefor Davies

This article was written by Trefor Davies
on Tuesday, 12 March, 2013

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