British Telecom: The Enemy of a Successful Business

[See updates at the bottom of this post]

This feels like groundhog day. British Telecom has managed to screw up yet again. Last time, they pissed me off to about a 4 on a scale of 1-10. But this time, I’m not sure the scale even stops at 10.

BT has somehow managed to get itself in enough of a muddle to close our account and disconnect our phone line without prior notification. And what’s reliant on a phone line? Why yes, it’s our ADSL home internet connection. Which is where we run a business and develop Alfred. See where I’m going? This isn’t good news when trying to develop a new product!

Below is the letter I sent to BT last night. The only positive here is that a nice Scottish advisor from the BTCare Twitter team called me this afternoon – but couldn’t help much, unfortunately.

All I can do now is hope that by some miracle, our issue gets fast-tracked and resolved. If anyone at BT can help, please let me know.

Letter to BT on 25th March

To whom this may concern,

We called BT last night after being notified by a friend that our phone line appeared to be inactive. According to your call centre rep, our phone line was disconnected on 22nd March after being restricted on 6th March. As we only have a landline with BT for the purposes of our internet connection (provided by for business use), we were unaware of this apparent restriction until today.

After over 45 minutes waiting on a never-ending ringing line, we finally got through to an advisor. According to the advisor, we were sent letters on 1st February and a final reminder in early March – I can categorically confirm that none of these letters were received. When I asked the advisor to confirm the address on file, she read out our old address [redacted], from which we moved back in March 2008. She sounded flustered when I said that this address was wrong, and that we’d received letters from BT to this new address [redacted] since. She backtracked her story and assured us that recent bills had gone to the new address.

At this stage, and prior to closing a customer’s account, why does BT not attempt to contact customers by phone? It baffles me that no direct attempt at contacting us was attempted other than by the notoriously unreliable British postal system.

The advisor requested on 25th March for the line to be reactivated, but this cannot be done until Tuesday 30th March. At this point in time, it seemed to surprise your advisor that our Internet connection was still functional. As we run a business from home, it is critical that our phone line remains functional, so my only hope is that the incompetence of your team at disconnecting a line will work in our favour this time and mean that our internet can remain functional until reactivation on Tuesday. We have been given a temporary number of [number redacted], which I hope will not affect our Internet connection.

I’ll make it clear at this point that, should our Internet stop working between now and Tuesday or be affected following the reconnection on Tuesday, I will absolutely be seeking damages compensation from BT.

I’m furious with BT’s incapability to answer any questions last night, and implore you to review your shambolic processes so that mistakes like this one are avoided in the future. We have been BT customers for many years, paying faithfully as soon as a bill is received, so the lack of attempts at resolving this issue on BT’s part is truly disappointing.

As a word of note, we pay every other bill we receive by Direct Debit. However, there’s a very good reason we were no longer paying by Direct Debit for BT services. In late 2007, BT took £223 from our account without our permission following an engineer visit for which we should not have been charged. We received no apology and spent hours on the phone before we were refunded the amount.

You may want to read the past exchanges I’ve had with your colleagues and familiarise yourself with some of the comments left anonymously by some of your own staff on the 20th December ’07 blog post:

The original post:
And the follow-up posts:

I have faith that the recipients of this letter will have more power to act upon this issue than call centre advisors have, and trust that you will resolve this matter in a prompt and efficient manner. I would like a BT representative to contact me ASAP to provide more information on resolving this.

Please find all of our contact and account details below.

Vero Pepperrell

Anyone? Help?

[Update at 10:20am, 27th March: Last night, following my post, I was approached by BT’s MD of Customer Service, Warren Buckley. This morning, a member of his team called me, having reactivated our line with the temporary number, assuring us that our old number would be back in place this afternoon or Monday. Fingers crossed, the Internet might not go off. A huge thank you to JP Rangaswami, Warren and Alison for their speedy response.]

[Update 28th March: Phone number reinstated by yesterday afternoon, ISP made aware of the account number change. In theory, this ordeal is over and our Internet shouldn’t drop at all. Will hold off celebrating until about Tuesday, but it’s promising. Thanks again to those who got involved.]

[Update 26th May: As of today, I’m closing the comments on this post as this isn’t an official BT support channel. Get in touch with them on Twitter @btcare if you need a hand with resolving your issue!]

13 thoughts on “British Telecom: The Enemy of a Successful Business

  1. Oana

    BT are complete and utter morons. I went back and forth with at least 6 different people there, plus wrote a bunch of letters, to fix their billing us for service AFTER we had disconnected the line and moved back to Canada. All I can say is best of luck.

  2. Adam

    can’t believe you’ve actually made me glad I’m with NTHellWorld (ne Virgin Media and their Jedwood hold music!). Unfortunately with a residential account you seem to have very little comeback for loss of service until it’s been offline for about a week, it’s pathetic!

  3. Warren Buckley


    I am the Managing Director of Customer Service at BT and have picked up your issue. I have also sent you a tweet. I will make sure the team pick this up first thing tomorrow morning and get in contact. Warren

  4. Andrew Grill


    Your experiences with BT is a clear sign that social media now has a currency in the service business space.

    2 years ago you would never have heard from the Managing Director of Customer Service at BT except if you went and staged a hunger strike at their offices (ok big stretch but really when would you have heard from him?)

    Now, consumers have the power – they can use a very public channel such as twitter and blogging to get satisfaction.

    In fact I now no longer call a call centre, I tweet – @btcare and @vodafoneuk are pretty responsive and also see that I am very publicly asking for help.

    The real story here is how the traditional channels of customer service and complaint resolution no longer work.

    With these new backchannels, brands are seeing that they have to be more responsive.

    At a recent political launch someone asked a politician if they thought that social media would change the way politics and campaigns were conducted.

    His answer was quite candid – he said that yes, he thought that social media would “shorten the lifespan of politicians”. The same is probably true of brands.

    The key for anyone who has a customer facing business is that they must urgently review and improve their customer service and resolution processes as “the consumers are coming”.

    We (consumers) have found a way to fight back, and we like it – being able to publicly shame a company into doing what we are supposedly paying them for.

    You can read my expanded thoughts about this over at London Calling

    Andrew Grill

  5. Andrew Grill

    And as a follow up – this shows that writing letters to companies now has no effect – we just have to tweet or blog now and senior execs sit up and take notice!

  6. Liz@VioletPosy

    I refuse to use BT *EVER* I’ve had them take out two server rooms but disconnecting equipment that they have been specifically told not to touch. And followed by the experience my parents had with them it didn’t improve my opinion of them. Short version – 3 months to install a phone line, when they did it was in the airing cupboard because that is of course where the main line in your house should be installed (the friend who was house sitting didn’t think this was weird!), when Mum phoned to complain/ask to have it moved, the customer complaints dept hung up on her before she could actually complain – they are shit frankly and her phone line is still in the airing cupboard.

    Virgin Media on the other hand have been fabulous whenever I’ve dealt with them, broadband went down and I had a man on my doorstep 45 minutes later with a new router – amazing!

    Good luck getting everything back to normal x

  7. Michael Huxley

    I am currently experiencing a similar series of BT screw-ups. After I sent them an e-mail, enquiring what notice period they required should I wish to leave them, but stressing that I did not wish to leave them at this point, my line was disconnected on 21st April 2010.

    After a phonecall to BT, I was assured that in two or three days my service would be reinstated, along with my original number.

    However, on 23rd April I found a resumed service but with a completely different number. To cut a rather long story short, a series of phonecalls, and an unanswered letter to BT’s correspondence centre, have resulted in more random numbers being allocated to my landline.

    To say that I was dissatisfied with BT’s service levels would be a gross understatement! I too rely on internet access from home, and have been without it since the beginning of this series of entirely avoidable blunders by BT. Would you please forward to me any contact details that you have, for Warren Buckley?


  8. Michael Huxley

    Re comments 7 and 8 above, Warren Buckley was good to his word and all is now well with my phone line. The service I received from Warren and his team was nothing short of exemplary, so I think its fair to balance my initial comment with this rather more positive update!

    1. Vero

      Mike, I’m really happy to hear that your issue was resolved. As per my issue, Warren’s team is excellent and goes above and beyond the call of duty. Hopefully, their passion to get things right will be passed on to the rest of customer care over time.

  9. Paul M

    I have heard quite a few people report premature line termination by BT, often because they give advance notification of moving house and BT cut the line within 24 hours and not on the specified day. Any ADSL service piggy-backing on that line is thus automatically terminated as well, and even if the phone line is reconnected quickly the ADSL can take many days to restore.

    I am told that BT will, if customer insists, divert the telephone number to a mobile phone at their expense to ensure the customer maintains a working phone line – it doesn’t matter whether this is for private or business, as they are effectively in breach of contract for failing to provide a service otherwise.

    It’s quite important to keep nagging BT to get it fixed as quickly as possible for two reasons. Firstly, under some circumstances they have been known to re-issue the number to someone else which can can turn aggravation into disaster. Secondly, an idle line can be “re-purposed” by an Openreach engineer, making it even harder to restore service.

    I regularly hear good things about the ISP called Andrews and Arnold who seem particularly effective in overcoming the more moronic aspects of BT’s practices; not the cheapest but certainly effective, and they are respected in the industry for that! A key point is that the owner cares about their customers and doesn’t let BT’s stupidity spoil things for them!

  10. U Makwana

    Well Mr Warren Buckley I hope you read this post!
    I ordered a BT line with Broadband and confirmed by you on 24th April 2010 to be installed on 21st May between 8am and 1pm. I efficiently received letter and a few sms to confirm the appointment. Wow then on taking a day off work on the 21st and waiting for 4 hours, no engineer or calls. I phoned BT went through all the hoops eventually speaking to a human was efficiently cut off. Phoned again and guess what I was again cut off. On the third try I was put through to a understanding person who assured to ring back and let me know of the progress. He did as promised and made an appointment for 26th May 2010 at 10am. I received a call on 24th confirming the appointment and then on 25th I received a sms the appoint is on 9th June between 8am and 1pm. I promptly phoned BT and again went through the hoops only to be told that the appointment has been changed to 9th June, so I asked for a supervisor or manager to call back, as per BT promises there was no call back. So now I have lost two days wages, I still have to pay BT engineer to install a line and having waited over a month for a line to be installed within the London area is acceptable practice?!

  11. Vero

    Hi all, I’ll have to close the comments now as this is not an official complaints channel for BT. There are a number of ways to reach them, including their official Twitter account (@btcare) and I’m sure they’ll be able to help as they did for me!

    U Makwana: You may want to try getting in touch with BT Care on Twitter ( who are very good and quick at resolving issues.

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