/ 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!).’

For better customer service, press one

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.

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.

Sam says:
24 March 2013


I currently work for orange. There is no dedicated ‘complaints team’ however there is a correspondence address you can write to, although I can’t remember it off the top of my head. If you just ask for it though, they should give this to you straight away.

Every mobile phone company should have a complaints department. There could be plenty of job opportunities. 🙂

Claire allinson says:
10 March 2013

Stay away from virgin. See how hard they are to deal with check out twitter complaints never again. This company is a joke

John Aldridge says:
12 March 2013

I have used Tiscali/Talk Talk for around 5 years but have recently cancelled my contract. I made the mistake of getting fibre optic. The BT engineer came around and connected the fibre optic but for some unknown reason the broadband would not connect. The BT engineer phoned Talk Talk on my behalf and explained the situation to them. They told him that I had to switch off and switch on the router in 24 hours time and it would then work. The BT engineer said this was not correct and had never happened before! I did as requested the following day but no success – oh joy!
I then proceeded to phone the off shore call centre and after several hours the problem was still unresolved. I explained to them that I work from home and it is essential that I have connectivity, they said that the earliest they could get to me was in 21 days. I said this was not good enough and what was I supposed to do in the meantime, no response – tough basically. I wrote to the Customer Services Director in Southampton he did not respond (does he exist). Everytime I e-mail or call Talk Talk I speak to someone different and have to explain the whole situation again.
In total frustration after 25+ e-mails and hours of phone calls I cancelled and am now with Plusnet who are a breath of fresh air!
However they want to charge me for 18 months of the fibre optic contract which I have never recieved!!
Beware Talk Talk, in our house they have been voted the worst communication company in the UK.

i decided to upgrade my bt.broadband,so on 04/13/2013 a bt.contractor arrived did the fit & part of the package was a free ? youview bow when he left broadband was ok but free box does not.i have spent upwards of 4hrs.on the phone to no avail,talking to a least 6 callcentre people in india.one guy asked me to pull out the powerlead at rear of box,this i refused.so basically im left with a non-functioning you view.& to top it all i was offered a engineering visit for £99-130.

I am being “Sold” as an O2 customer to Sky along with another 500,000 or so customers. I have been trawling the net for information on service,cost & other conditions from other ISP’s. It looks as though Plusnet could be the better of the two. I am not really interested in Sky TV (I can just about cope with Freeview). My worry will be when the changeover takes place. What extra costs will I incur? Will I have to pay to get out of a contract I have not signed for? I would like to know how long it would take Sky to put me onto fiber optic, (something O2 were not going to be doing) and at what cost? I have been quoted around £80.00 by Plusnet to convert. Whoever I go to, can I expect to pay for fiber optic whilst I am still on copper (more buffering than viewing. 2.5Kbps at best). There are other questions I could be asking, but these are the most important at this time around.

Hannah says:
20 March 2013

We moved into our house in Nov 2012 and started looking into getting a broadband service. We tried to get a service from Plusnet, then BT, but there was a Tag on the line that they couldn’t remove. It took until the beginning of Feb 2013 to establish that the Tag had been put there by TalkTalk. I emailed TalkTalk to ask them to remove the Tag. They requested the previous owner’s name, account number and phone number. Thanks to being a really good bloke, the previous owner provided these details, which we sent on. A few days later TalkTalk said due to the Data Protection Act they couldn’t accept this from us and we had to get the previous owner to email them direct. The previous owner kindly did this on 1/3/13 and I sent an email on 4/3/13 and 8/3/13 to follow up as there was no response.

Since then we have had nothing except a single email on 14/3/13 to say our issue is “currently being dealt with”. I put in an emailed complaint on Tue 12/3/13 and have had no response to it. At all! We have been in touch with Ofcom but they say they can’t do anything. What else can we do? We feel completely powerless, and angry that we have had to involve the previous occupant – what if he had emigrated? Things would be even worse than they are. It seems that problems with a tag left on the line when a house is sold fall into a grey area that nobody will accept responsibility for. I hope this reads ok, as I’m writing on a smartphone (using 3G) and can’t properly see what I’m typing.

I have just read the April edition of ” THE BEST (AND WORST) BROADBAND PROVIDERS
It would seem that Plusnet have on offer what I need. The question now is, do I wait to see what Sky will provide me, or do I take the plunge and contact Plusnet? In my opinion O2 have broken any contract I may have (I have signed nothing on paper & have not pressed some number on my phone to continue with any contract) Plusnet have an offer which expires whist I am out of the country, I need to take advantage of this offer. The prices shown in the specification & ratings, BB & ‘phone Plusnet £19.98 Sky £31.50… or BB only, Plusnet £5.99 Sky N/A.
No choice really is there? Good prices & overall service at a lower cost.

I went for Sky , I was offered a deal I could not refuse, Free Sky box & dish, TV set-up & free internet for 12 months. All I pay is line rental.
I’ll be cancelling the Sky TV when the contract is up, I do not watch a great deal of TV other than the news & odd film.

I requested an unlock code from Orange 9 and a half weeks ago, and got nothing. Speaking to the orange call centre is like wading through treacle – slow, frustrating, unfulfilling, annoying, time consuming! Each time all it gets is, yes the request was sent, but no update on when we might get the code. I will never use Orange again.

birdy says:
3 January 2014

We went for Talk Talk and signed up online mid October. We were given an install date of 22nd November, which was far ahead from when we signed up but we understood how it can be. So we waited patiently for our install date only to receive an email a week before to say that our install date was being pushed back two weeks to 3rd December. I wouldn’t have minded but there was no reason given, and we assumed that it was impossible to push us out of an engineer slot that we had already booked. But whatever. We pushed on. Along came 3rd December, engineer comes. He then tells me that there’s no room in the exchange and that he’d been the one to fill it the Friday before. Ironically, we’d have been up and running with our internet had our original appointment not been pushed back. So I rang Talk Talk. They refused to speak to me as my partner was the account holder and they refused to ring him to get his permission. So he rang later that day. They apologised, said we’d get money off and that the earliest someone would get back to us to arrange a further date to sort it would be 31st December. That date has come and gone, four days have now passed with no contact. I AM AT THE END OF MY TETHER. has anyone else had this trouble or are we just unlucky?!?!?!?!

Sarah says:
21 January 2014

I regularly conference call with the USA. Recently, with no warning or notification Talk Talk stopped connecting to the number I use. Addressing it has been a nightmare. I don’t think most of the people I’ve talked to understand the problem so I’ve been passed back and forth between departments and received a number of texts saying the issue has been fixed when it hasn’t. I still haven’t got resolution. I am very dissatisfied with having to deal with people who are obviously following scripts and keep asking me the same questions. I feel sorry for the employees who do not seem to have enough experience and training.

Alan says:
30 August 2014

I left Talk Talk after just 4 days, when they blocked my phone no. after trying to report a problem. Thereafter, they agreed to talk to me ‘but not about the problem.’ Since; six-weeks of threats and runaround, demands for amounts of money they appear to have plucked out of the air and cannot substantiate when I ring them.
They are obstructive and evasive, and, in at least ten contacts, include three letters to UK addresses, have not produced a final bill for the two-weeks before I moved to Sky, who, incidentally, have been excellent.
Talk Talk – ‘abandon hope ye who enter here.’

Vivien says:
30 June 2015


TERRIBLE TERRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE! If a Talk Talk operator does not know what to do with you, they will just transfer you to another operator!

What happened was I changed the date of installation. Then found out that they had cancelled it with no apparent reason and I had to be put back in queue again. When I demanded to know the reason of cancellation, I was put through from one operator to another, even a manager (7 operators in total). I received a feeble excuse and had to go through a new application resulting a 2hr call. When I called back 3 days before my installation date, the operator could not even find my account details, despite me giving him my account number and my address, but I was put through a few more depts until finally I told them that I had enough and asked to make a formal complaint with their customer loyalty dept. and CANCELLED MY INSTALLATION, that call lasted 1hr 22mins. I presumed my account was closed before installation but then found that they had took one month payment from my account! After a week, I got a call asking how did I find using their service!!! > ONE WORD OF ADVICE, DO NOT GO FOR TALK TALK BECAUSE IT IS CHEAP BECAUSE YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

Ewen McPherson says:
10 December 2015

There appears to be a new kid on the block, ID mobiles who are a subsidiary of earphone warehouse. Very polite and do nothing have been waiting 16days for replacement SIM card.