Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders

Walter Bagehot

May 6, 2015

BT can't do phone lines

My struggle for a BT service

Here is a copy of an email I sent to Gavin Patterson BT chief executive on April 2



“Dear Mr Patterson,




I’m sorry to trouble you on this matter, but into each life a little rain must fall and I’m feeling pretty drenched.


On April 23 I rang BT to order an upgrade of my broadband service to BT Infinity. I realised this would mean the loss of my BT Broadband Talk line which I use for business calls, so I also ordered the installation of a second landline to be installed on April 22 to replace it . I did this on the strict understanding that my Talk line would be maintained until April 23. Within 20 minutes of completing the order I received an email to tell me that my Talk line would be disconnected and, sure enough, within minutes it was.


I rang back to complain. Those five words, by the way, to the uninitiated, might suggest a straightforward and painless procedure, whereas the seasoned BT customer knows they mean being bounced around an automated telephone system like some hapless pinball, whose torment is relieved only by prolonged exposure to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.


When I eventually spoke to human beings I was assured that I had not really experienced what I had thought I had experienced, then there was an acknowledgment that I had actually experienced it and then a concession that I should not have experienced what I had experienced. However, no, it would not be possible to reinstate my Broadband Talk line. I expressed my dissatisfaction and was told that an attempt would be made to install the new landline earlier than April 22 to minimise the amount of time I would have to spend without a second line.


This, I would have thought was the bare minimum BT could do to recompense me for their error but I received a call on April 1 to tell me that it would not be possible to do even that. Again, I said I was not happy and received another call on April 2 to say that `the engineers can’t bring the job forward as it’s still with network records. It’s possible but they can’t guarantee it and the engineers will monitor it’. I don’t know what all that means but the subtext seems to be that any inconvenience to me is simply something to be borne whereas any inconvenience to BT – even when it arises from BT’s own ineptitude – is out of the question.


In tandem with the telephone, I have been experiencing increasing problems with my email. It has become clear that a growing number of my contacts are sending me emails which I am not receiving. On April 1 I spoke to a gentleman manning the bt yahoo helpline - with all the attendant delays and robotic switching. He was charming and as helpful as he could be; he asked a lot of questions but was unable to resolve the problem. I might add, at this point, that the fact he seemed to be speaking from the Indian Subcontinent did not make communication any easier. After failing to solve my problem he transferred me to a colleague. Sadly it slipped his mind to brief this colleague on the conversation we had just been having, so I had to rehearse the whole affair. His colleague asked the same questions and followed the same procedures with predictably the same result. He promised to call me back on April 2, which he did, again with the same result but with a promise to `escalate’ the problem.


As, by now, you will be painfully aware, I have resolved to take the escalating into my own hands – to you.


Why should I stay with BT? Your customer service is ramshackle at best and derisory at worst. Nobody takes responsibility for a customer’s problems. The customer is left feeling they have to go through a long battle of attrition or to run round in ever decreasing circles; either way the overwhelming temptation is to give up and seek another supplier. If BT cannot guarantee that I will receive emails from my correspondents or that they will know when I have failed to receive those emails then BT becomes a positive handicap to my business.


As a freelance journalist, email and telephone is obviously of vital importance. Can you assure you me that if I continue to use BT, you will be able to provide both these services? If not – what are you for?


I’m sorry to trouble you on these matters but if your organisation left me any other choice I would take it.


Yours sincerely,


Peter W Jackson.


PS in replying to this email would you please cc to my gmail address pjackson77bt@gmail.com ‘’



As a result of this email I was contacted within hours by his office who then passed the detail on to BT’s Executive Level Complaints. They contacted me within a couple of days and assured me my problems would be dealt with. I was optimistic, after all, it looked like the big guns were being deployed in my favour.


Sure enough they did have the installation of BT Infinity brought forward to April 10, but told me that it would not be possible to reinstate my Broadband Talk line. They did intimate that there might be problems installing a second line.


On April 22 an engineer called to install a second line, but told me it would not be possible without running a new line into the house. I was told a surveyor would be sent to look at the feasibility of this. Two days later BT did not send a surveyor but the same engineer who had installed the Infinity and who could not understand why he had been sent again. There was a sheepish silence from BT until April 30 when I received a call to tell me that there had been two surveys to look at the feasibility of running a new line to the house and now a third would be necessary which is scheduled for May 7. I’m not holding my breath.


By the way, my email problem seem to have gradually resolved itself without, as far as I can see, any assistance from BT. A number of emails, however, appear to be lost for ever in some kind of cyber limbo, including at least one which was a commission for work.


This is the level of service BT can provide when the chief executive takes a hand.