broadband Business Net

The BT engineering visit lottery – get yer tickets ere

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

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

28 replies on “The BT engineering visit lottery – get yer tickets ere”

It sometimes wish there was a way for me to have a spare optical modem (or GPON terminal to give it its official name). I’ve got spare routers, spare ethernet cable, multiple computers. But as that GPON terminal is BTO’s kit I can’t touch it and I sort of understand why. Still, as I have FTTP, there should be no question about what it is that needs fixing.

(In truth I do have a contingency plan. There’s a MiFi with a RevK SIM in it for those occasions when the fibre goes down).

My bet is that BTO brings you a new home hub but not a replacement VDSL modem – assuming someone shows up at all.

“Personally speaking” – No doubt there will be yet an umpteenth millionth review of the engineers notes, missed appointments and many touches before someone realises Tref just needed a new modem.

I can feel your pain. It is replicated thousands of times every day. We have had much experience of this. Every single engineer who has been has been brilliant, but the service from management is awful, the help lines are awful, the ISPs (various) are tearing their hair out because the line faults are so bad, and the whole copper network is creaking ready to bust. Daughter with faulty modem just asked for another and it came next day delivery, (idnet) but with fttc from bt I guess you have no choice but to go through the whole tickbox helpdesk scenario. I agree with previous commenter, its good to know someone like you has the same issues as us ordinary punters! My guess is the powers that be will believe you whereas they think we’re all just numpties. Keep posting tref. Hope Anne gets her connection back soon.

We have a nortel phone system on a site out in Ceredigion, (west Wales coast). Now being out in the back of beyond means we’ve always stuck with BT for supporting it as they can *usually* provide a decent service.

Now we booked an engineer visit to do a reconfig in early Febuary. We were given a date of the 8th of March. Now this meant we’d be waiting a month, but needs must.

Come that day in March, I drive two hours to be on site for the engineer’s visit. We weren’t given a time so I got in for 9am.

No engineer

Called corporate callcentre, was told he/she would be there any time before 6pm.

3pm, still no engineer, so I call again. This time I’m put through to another call centre who say

“We don’t have the resource to send anyone on to site today”…

I was fuming, but of course could do nowt about it.

Come monday I call back and try and find out when we’re getting a new engineer appointment. That comes back as the 20th of April…

I have now spent two days chasing BT for an engineer appointment. At this rate it’ll be quicker to send me on a training course!

Parcel delivery is somewhat different, they know it’s on the van and after that it’s traffic and navigation delays. They can even GPS track the van to update its ETA.

It took me over 45 minutes just to get into a facility this morning to replace a power supply, a job which has to be done within 7 minutes. From 08:30 to 12:40 to do a 7 minute task in the wilds of East Anglia.

BT’s job control system should have some capability to see how jobs are progressing against schedule but the activity is often a bit more involved than pushing a card through a letterbox and running away 😉

Why did you wait so long to update this blog entry???
I’ve been viewing it all afternoon!!!

PS. You should have a ‘Satisfaction Survey’ popup every minute or so to see if your readers are happy with your blog – EVEN BEFORE THEY GET A CHANCE TO READ IT #cough BT


Ah soz. I have been doing my day job. Customer meetings until 5 then in a zone listening to my fave sounds on the London Underground using a decent pair of earphones that didn’t irritate neighbours with their tinny emissions.

Next visit is arranged for Friday btw. Wife will not stay in any more and it is my first available day. they would be daft not to turn up considering all the bad press they have received as a result of this blog post. Just hope they bring a modem.

It seems that the only way to get action is to shame them on social media, at which point they escalate to people who at least try and fix things. I’m now on my 1.5th no show – one was a full-on no show, the other they cancelled 5 minutes into the expected window, and I had at least been warned it was quite likely to be cancelled.

I too am waiting for an engineer on Friday. Let’s hope it works out for both of us.

Keep me posted Mike. I’m having dinner with the BT regional director for the East Midlands on Thursday night. It will be an interesting conversation and an interesting morning on Friday.

Last time I had a problem with BT was back in the day when my ISDN2 line stopped working. The BT call centre as it was then said it would take at least a week before someone came out to have a look.

It was “suggested” by an old friend of mine that I email the CEO of BT (at the time it was Ben Verwaayen). I did this and within 30 minutes I had received a reply from his office in London (Ben himself was in the States!) and the next morning a BT van arrived and installed a temporary fix (by stringing a new line down the street, above the lamp posts) until they could fix the line properly which they did later that week.

Now that was service. 🙂

also I meant to add in terms of tools – Openreach are rolling out a field force improvement called oPhone. This is an iPhone and has many specifically designed applications for engineers to access the different systems to be more effective. Its early days but is working well – making the field force as effective as possible isn’t a choice for us its an absolute necessity as thats what our business is. So its frustrating to see when this happens as quality of experience is a key metric for us.

You should get Timico to look up in their T&Cs for how much BT charge for when the engineer turns up to find nobody at home.

Then send an invoice to BT. Argue that the charge should apply both ways.

I had exactly the same problem this week.. upgrading a system, everything set and then 9am monday morning get a phone call, sorry there’s been a “Fault in the booking system” no engineer available to come today.. After a long battle, I used this blog as evidence they had a shortage of engineers and had caused a few cancellations with different people all week and suddenly I got an engineer the next day on the hurry up.. funny that, BT really don’t like bad press.

Time for Openreach to be forcibly removed from BT Group and made a non-profit, mutually owned limited company owned by its members, the telcos and ISPs.

I’m afraid I’ve never bought into the notion that they treat all customers fairly, while the engineers on the ground are from my experience good people I think it is those you don’t see that are the cause of these issues.

Couldn’t agree more. Now, I’m officially pissed off with BT. I have several orders for them that may require attendance at different premises. A BT Openreach robot calls me with a demand to give them access on such and such a date and quotes an order number, but no address. BT Openreach don’t regard me as a customer, so won’t talk to me. I call BT Retail, who I’m dealing with, and they have no way of telling me which of the possible addresses the BT Openreach order number refers to, and furthermore refuse to call BT Openreach and ask. I have to escalate it to a team leader, who does and comes back to say that the order number does not exist. I play her the recording I have of the call so she can’t say I got it wrong, so she goes away and comes back some time later to confirm that they’ve given me an incorrect reference. At least she did confirm it was the most likely address – that address was one her junior had said in an earlier call had no work scheduled on the date in question.

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