/ Technology

Cross wires – are you hung up on bad customer service?

A robotic hand holding a mobile phone

We always keep our ears close to the ground, listening out for the latest consumer gripe. And many of you regularly complain about the customer service you receive from telecoms companies.

It may come as no surprise that they’re the most complained-about sector. After all, home phone and broadband are seen as essentials now, and nearly every household has to deal with these companies.

We often receive complaints about the level of customer service provided by telecoms providers. For example, Prof T R Wyatt shared his experiences with Talk Talk:

‘We live in the countryside and have on several occasions had problems with poor external connections. Each time it has taken weeks to get the problem fixed. Talk Talk’s customer service is the worst I have ever experienced. It takes several hours of phone calls to slowly progress through the various levels in their hierarchy of support.’

Hami had difficulties cancelling a Virgin Media package:

‘When you ring them you have to choose one of the five options. Then again one of the four subsequent menus, then most possibly again. The system is so complicated you are bound to make a mistake. If you do get somebody to talk to, you are put on hold and after about half an hour the phone cuts off. There are loads of menus for paying the bills, but none for cancellation.’

David Butcher was not impressed by Orange’s customer service:

‘Their broadband call centre is halfway round the world and when I’ve called I’ve been left sensing that I know more about the problem than they do! Their mobile call centre can leave you on hold for ages (I once had a recorded message telling me I’d be dealt with in two hours!).’

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Calling your phone or broadband company usually starts well. After just a couple of rings the phone is answered, but alas – you usually hear a robotic voice icily thanking you for your call. A call which is, of course, really important to them.

After selecting various options and still feeling none-the-wiser about who you’re meant to be speaking to, eventually they throw you a lifeline: ‘to speak to an operator, please hold’. This is usually followed by some lift-style music and an intermittent message thanking you for your call, which is still very important. If you’re lucky, you then get through to that operator after a few more minutes of waiting.

I’m with O2 and find that when I get through to a human operator they are very helpful and efficient in answering my question. So my gripe lies with the convoluted automated system rather than the level of customer service itself. Sometimes it just feels like a queue management tool, keeping you busy while you wait to speak to a real person.

Have you called your home phone or broadband provider recently? What was it about? Were you happy with the level of customer service?

Vivien says:
5 March 2013

Whenever I shop around for cheaper service, I always end up back with BT, not the cheapest, but massively supportive, especially if you use their Twitter support line @BTCare


I’m currently having a nightmare with talktalk trying to sort out what should be a simple account problem. I first sent an email explaining the problem which ended up with the foreign customer service section (funny how the sales staff are based in the UK but the customer service staff are always in another country), who completely couldn’t understand the problem so were of no use. I then tried to use the talktalk support forum and the staff there are even worse. In the end I’ve given up completely and trying to get the problem rectified through raising a complaint. Absolutely shocking service and I now understand why they are consistently at the top of broadband complaints, well above the OFCOM industry average figures.

12 August 2013

I have just gone through the most horrible of three or four days having my head battered against the wall by Talk Talk customer services . I lost track of the hours spent talking to and being transferred from department to department by their foreign customer services who are all clueless.
I very much doubt there is a more useless customer services in the country or even possibly the world.

Simon B says:
29 May 2014

I’m have a lot of problems with TalkTalk also. Broadband has been rubbish for weeks with little or no signal. Call centre people are the other side of the world and hard to understand and if they get the broadband working it soon drops out again. All they want to do is blame my internal wiring (which is new). When I know the problem lies elsewhere because my neighbours have same problem. I’m just going round in circles with them so I’m binning them and going elsewhere. They are thoroughly useless.

Claire allinson says:
5 March 2013

I tried to cancel my Internet by email. I got no response. I called was cut off three times and was on the phone for nearly two hours. They told me to pay 22.50 and I would be rid of them. I made the payment. I was also told they would then have to credit me with 11.00 quid. This never happened I got yet another bill with more charges. When I called about my bill I was told they couldn’t help and I had to pay it. I asked to speak to a manager Stephen haye from Glasgow call centre. He was really unhelpful and not prepared to even listen to the call. I have now been asked to pay another 32.00 quid. The service is awful after four years of been with virgin, this is the first contact I have has with them. I will never deal with this company again.

Brunel says:
6 March 2013

Just got off the phone trying to cancel my mobile account with Talk Talk. What an awful company. I requested the account be cancelled over a month ago and asked for the mobile number’s transfer code which apparently is valid for a month. For one reason or another I didn’t transfer in a month and assumed the account with its number would simply be cancelled. Talk Talk now tell me if this doesnt happen they retain the number and account and keep charging. Apparently the operator (somewhere in India of course) claims I put the phone down when this was explained to me and no mention was made of cancellation. The recording is being sought to decide if I am let off the subsequent bill. One to watch out for others. I’m now with plusnet for my broadband who are by comparison a pleasure to deal with.

Matt Healey says:
6 March 2013

Once you’ve waded through the huge menu structure to get to speak to one of the offshore broadband “support” you’re led through a script that the hold music announcements have told you 300 times about you get to speak to someone who has probably been told to not believe the customer. You’re left with the impression that you’re being called a liar and the Internet fault you have is NEVER the fault of their network and is always the customers computer etc. even if the customer doesn’t have a pc and has just a tablet or games console. You’re left with the feeling of frustration not that you e been helped. On the rare occasion you speak to a UK rep this doesn’t happen.

Jane says:
9 March 2013

There are many more examples of bad customer services on the conversations about Fixed means fixed and EEs latest price rise.

After receiving an SMS to tell me the contract I had signed 10 days ago, was going up in price this April, I rang Orange customer services today.

I feel sorry for the poor souls in the call centres. He basically said that it was tough luck and he could do nothing about it. I asked why I was not told 10 days ago when I signed and he said the sales staff were not told until this week. I asked to speak to a supervisor and he said all the staff had been told not to refer customers to the supervisors or managers. I could not work out whether it was the supervisors who had refused to speak to customers and unwilling to do anything about the complaints or whether they had been briefed by higher management not to speak as they were where not allowed to do anything about it. So here we have managers in telecom customers services call centres hiding in their offices not prepared to speak to customers. By the way this was a UK based call centre.

I asked for the address of where to submit a complaint and he said there was no address to write to as this was a modern communications company, implying I was out of date with modern practices. I stated that 10 days ago I signed a written contract on paper and wanted proposed changes to my contract in writing. He said that is not how things are done now. I asked what the procedure was for me to submit a complaint and he said this was it and he had recorded my complaint on my contract but nothing was going to change.

I said I wanted to write in and get a response to my complaint in writing and he still said this was not things were done now as Orange was a modern communication firm.

Can somebody explain how one goes through the Ofcom complaints procedure if Orange if customer services have been briefed not to give out the address and just stonewall the customers. He admitted there had been a lot of complaints and the company expected lots of complaints but it was tough. Perhaps a template letter on the website with the relevant Customer services department addresses would help.

He also confirmed that as I had renewed in an EE shop I did not have the 14 day cooling off period I would have had if I had renewed over the phone. So much for supporting the local High Street.

Why am I sorry for the operative? Yes, I was frustrated at having been ripped off by Orange, and being stonewalled by a call centre operative when I wanted to speak to someone in authority. He was following a script. I could not say exactly what I wanted to say or even exactly how I felt because even though it is Orange in the wrong, I would have been accused of being in the wrong and he was not being supported by his managers and could not refer the call to someone higher up the chain.

The minimum he should have been able to do is to give an address for people to write into and advise customers on the Ofcom complaints procedure.