As many other customers of BT (British Telecom), I subscribed a fibre package that includes voice, broadband, and TV. I also enabled direct debit, and opted out of paper or even email bill. The only thing I get is a monthly notification that my bill is issued and ready to view online. Normally I check the value (if it is what was agreed) and leave it. But in the last couple of months noticed the value increased by £15, so decided to check the bill, which, as you would expect (but not accept these days) was indecipherable. So contacted BT to ask for clarification.
My preferred channel is Live Chat, so I requested a chat session. The chat launch form asked me for Name, Phone Number, Email Address and Topic of Enquiry. Customer Service agent Naveen greeted me, asked me for my account number, and after I asked if he could clarify my bill, dropped me a whole load of pre-formatted messages with generic links to policy and communication documents about fee increases.
1. Why would BT ask customers for Name, Phone Number and Email Address on the chat launch form, if that doesn’t help the agent identify customer accounts, requires agent to ask again, and increases customer effort by forcing customer to repeat information already provided?
2. Why would BT guide its customer service agents to flood customer’s with pre-formatted blurb and generic links to policy documentation, on a Live Chat session, which is supposed to be a 1-to-1 personalised conversation?
I thanked Naveen for the information but said it didn’t help me, nor was it related to my question. I didn’t want a reason for the increase, but rather a clarification on my bill, products and services included, and associated fees. He started by saying that I should not “look at the left side of the bill” as that was only “for BT’s reference“. Then started going in circles. It was clear that not even him could understand or clarify my bill.
3. Why would BT put on a customer bill, information and description which is confusing and not for customer’s reference or understanding?
4. Why would BT make billing processes, and bills themselves, so difficult that not even their trained customer service agents dealing with billing enquiries can understand, or are able to clarify a simple enquiry re. service fees?
Naveen asked if he could call me, saying it would be “easier said than written“. But before he called, asked me if by any chance I had another account, and if I could provide my phone number.
5. Why would BT not give their customer service agents the necessary (crucial!) 360-degree view of the customer, avoiding them having to ask the customer for information that they, themselves, should have in the first place?
6. Why would BT ask for a phone number on the chat launch form, if that information is not even passed to the customer service agent, forcing him to ask the same question again, and the customer to repeat information already provided?
The call only lasted a few seconds. Naveen asked me to close the chat session first, and informed me that he was transferring me to the billing department. I got transferred to a line and… got an automated voice message saying the line was only open on weekdays (it was Sunday!). I wasn’t sure if Naveen was sloppy or trying to be clever.
I requested another chat session. Surprise, surprise!… got routed to Naveen again. Could not help asking him if he knew the line was closed (he must have known!). Initially he denied saying that the called dropped, and after I confronted him, saying that I heard the automated voice message, he accepted it was closed (i.e. he lied at first) and started going around saying he was confused by the change of the hour to summer time!
7. Why would BT not teach its customer service agents to be honest and transparent? To acknowledge an error and apologise? To straight away say sorry and positively offer themselves to resolve the situation?
Naveen asked if he could call again, and on the phone said he was going to talk to the billing department and call me back in 10 mins. I rejected the offer. After all the billing department was closed on Sundays, right?! I sensed he was again trying to get rid of me, again. So I said I would be happy to wait whilst he transferred me.
A few minutes went on with Naveen trying to convince me he would call back “I promise sir, you have my word“. And me saying I would be glad to wait for 10 mins, until he transferred me. Running out of options he said I was not understanding what he was saying, and threw “this is your last chance“. I didn’t understand if it was a threat or something else, but because it seemed to be the end-of-the-line, I asked to speak to his supervisor.
Naveen’s response was as funny as it was stupid “it is useless to talk to my supervisor as he is equally trained“. I said that was irrelevant – even though sad, if true – and demanded to talk to the supervisor. After resisting for a bit, he finally accepted, asked me to hold on the line whilst he transferred me, and… hang up the phone.
8. Why would BT not have pre-defined processes and guides, specifically for these steps in the journey where there might be disruption (e.g. billing department closed on weekends, and front-line agent not able to resolve customer’s enquiry), which would help a customer service agent push back a customer, without hurting the customer experience?
I contacted BT for the third time in 60 minutes, after Naveen got rid of me twice. Got through to Krunal, a customer service agent who wasn’t able to explain my bill, but told me I was up for contract renewal, which would give me a £10 discount on my final bill – but not without, again, asking me for phone and account number, as well as name.
9. Why would BT not pro-actively contact customers who are up for renewal and eligible for offers or promotions, which would make them pay less, be more satisfied, trust BT, and keep being loyal to the company?
I’m happy with the broadband and TV service, so I renewed. But asked Krunal to open a complaint re. Naveen. Told him the whole story and got surprised with his response: “Maybe he is having a bad day today!!“. If it wasn’t for Krunal being helpful and swift re. the contract and offering, I would have been annoyed with the response. But it was enough already, so I left it there and only asked feedback on action taken re. complaint.
10. Why would BT allow their reputation and brand be hurt by a (definitely) young, inexperienced and scared customer service agent, when all he needed was some guidance and training on how to deal with billing queries (which are always complex and sensitive); a system that would give him a full view of the customer, information and knowledge; and a process (and procedures) that would empower him to make decisions, take actions and resolve customer’s queries?
With the setup that BT seems to have, its customer service agents are helpless and get frustrated, by not being able to resolve customers queries, having to jump from silo to departments, and ending up delivering a fragmented, bad and strenuous experience.