RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS: Beaten down by BT’s woeful customer service

Beaten down by BT: How telecom giant’s woeful customer service took RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS to the end of her tether

BT has beaten me. The final scores are in and it’s BT: 1 – Rachel: nil.

Back in February I phoned the telecoms giant to make some straightforward changes to my account.

But I spent more than four infuriating hours on the phone to customer services over the next two weeks trying to get it sorted.

BT staff promised to phone me back — and didn’t. I waited at home for equipment to arrive — it didn’t. I was promised compensation — it never arrived.

Then, earlier this month I got an email saying my complaint had been resolved and closed.

Worn down: Rachel spent more than four hours on the phone to BT customer services over the course of two weeks as she attempted to make some changes to her account    

It most certainly has not been resolved. But, BT has worn me down. I normally thrive on standing up for consumers. Making sure companies treat their customers fairly is what gets me out of bed in the morning. 

But, I cannot face spending any more time battling BT. Just thinking about it makes me seethe. I give up.

So, I was shocked to see BT’s announcement last week that it is planning to replace more than 10,000 customer service jobs with technologies including artificial intelligence (AI).

Judging by my experience, they need more staff — not fewer.

BT is not the only company to think it can improve customer service by bringing in more robots. Hundreds of thousands of customer service roles are likely to disappear this decade as a result.

But automation and AI have already taken over swathes of customer service in recent years. Has it got any better? Not a chance.

Phone and broadband customers spent longer waiting on hold to speak to their providers last year than in 2021, data from regulator Ofcom revealed last week.

 Only half of mobile, broadband and landline customers who made a complaint to their provider last year were satisfied with how it was handled.

Energy providers are no better. E.On Next, Good Energy and Octopus Energy were forced to pay £8 million in compensation to customers following huge delays in producing final bills when they switched suppliers, the regulator Ofgem said last week.

Customer service at NS&I is in disarray, as we have reported in these pages. The DWP is taking months at times to resolve state pension errors.

Even investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown is reportedly upsetting some customers by introducing automation to its once-outstanding customer service phone experience.

I don’t know anyone who thinks their life has been improved by the ability to interact with a chatbot. If this is the state of customer service in the UK now, I hate to think what it will be like once the next wave of AI takes hold.

Be polite to staff

I really feel for anyone who is given the run around by a company. But I have little sympathy with the reader whose case Money Mail consumer champion Sally Hamilton looked into this week.

There is no excuse for being rude to customer service staff. Their jobs may be taken over by AI in time, but staff are not robots yet.

Time well spent

Last week I asked what money lessons you wish you’d learned at school. Many of you, like me, don’t remember receiving any.

Luckily, reader Patricia Finch, 72, from Norfolk, learned personal finance lessons from her father, which she believes all children should be taught at school. 

‘My father advised me that when I received my first wages in a brown envelope as cash, I should make a list of payments such as fares, lunches and expenses before I thought about clothes or luxury items, to make sure I could manage through the week,’ she says.

Patricia has also successfully imparted these lessons to her own children — although some they had to learn the hard way.

Reader Kay says that when she was growing up in the 1960s, money wasn’t something that was talked about at home or school.

She was able to pick up herself how to prioritise spending. ‘I wanted to own my own home, so I worked three jobs,’ she says. 

‘But I feel strongly personal finance should be taught in schools. We are all born with different strengths but financial awareness is so important to us all.’ Hear hear.


I just phoned BT to reopen the complaint. How can it improve if I let it get away with poor customer service? Looks like we might be going into extra time after all. Wish me luck.


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