ADS hell – how it feels to be a football in a match between BT and SKY

This is a bit of a departure from the normal Beancounter’s guide articles but, as Sherlock Holmes might have said, it does promise to address some instructive issues…

On about 11 September my father’s phone line ceased functioning. BT eventually gave me a repair forecast of 15 September. This date passed with no resolution.

After repeated phone calls and struggling with the automated fault report services and the internet-based fault report service which twice told me there appeared to be a problem and then automatically closed the query without doing anything, I eventually spoke to someone who said they would find out what was going on and resolve the problem within the next 24 hours. They were courteous and helpful and the problem was apparently resolved well within the time period specified. During the conversation they mentioned an issue with the broadband on the line, but gave no further information.

Whilst the phone line itself then worked, the Internet light on the SKY broadband router showed absolutely no sign of life. I telephoned the SKY support line and related the situation regarding the problem with the phone line. The support person claimed to have checked the line and reported ‘the good news is that there is no problem at the exchange’.

We then spent ages disconnecting, reconnecting, changing filters etc. etc. to no avail. This morning I took a laptop to my father’s house so that I could have access to router, phone and computer as suggested by SKY support.

We went through a similar process with SKY support again, including removing the front of the BT master socket and connecting the router directly to the test socket. Still absolutely no response from the Internet light on the router. Convinced by now that it was an exchange problem, I asked SKY support to confirm that the line was OK at the exchange – they said they had and it was.

Given connecting directly to the test socket of the master socket hadn’t worked, I was even more convinced that the problem had to be at the exchange. I phoned BT and, after ages fighting my way through a voice mail system determined to prevent me talking to a human being, eventually spoke to someone who said that there had been a problem with the SKY ADSL equipment at the exchange, SKY had been given the standard 48 hours notice to sort this out, in fact additional time had been given, but BT had then returned the line to a normal PSTN line to restore the phone service. They said I would have to phone SKY to sort this out.

I phoned SKY again and after more voice mail and a hold system that seemed designed to convince you that you had been cut off (near silence, very quiet music well in the background) I was referred from one support technician to another and once more went through the problem. They said the line in question was not a BT line, BT had not updated their database and I would have to contact BT again. By this stage I had become somewhat fed up and suggested that I did not intend to phone BT or SKY anymore and suggested that they just get the issue sorted out.

I decided to give email a try and on the Internet found a customer service email for Sky Broadband, and the email address of the BT CEO – I sent them an email recounting the above story (with copies to OTELO and BBC Watchdog – well you never know…)

28 September 2007

Seconds out, round 2.

Following an email to the CEO of BT and a customer service email address at Sky Broadband, within minutes I had had an automated response from Sky Broadband as follows – well I would include it, but the lengthy disclaimer at the bottom prohibits me from disclosing its contents to anyone. Anyway it suggested that they would reply soon. In contrast, a team manager from BT Openreach’s High Level Complaints department phoned me within a couple of hours promising to send an engineer to try to sort the problem out the next day. He gave me his mobile phone number, and sent an email confirming the details of the phone message and apologising that the problem had arisen in the first place.

Definitely BT 3, SKY 0.

29 September 2007 – 12:15pm

I received a phone call on my mobile phone from a BT manager who had organised an engineer’s visit to the exchange who confirmed that the issue was with the SKY equipment at the exchange and unfortunately, he was not allowed to touch that equipment without first talking to SKY (or something like that). Apparently, the only thing to do was to phone SKY (again) and ask them to contact BT and do whatever had to be done to sort the problem out.

With a feeling of immense trepidation and resignation I phoned SKY. I didn’t think it was going to be easy, but I really hadn’t thought it would be as bad as it was. Now firstly, for all the good it will do, I’d like to apologise to those people at the SKY call centre that I spoke to if I wasn’t as calm and courteous as perhaps I should have been. However, organisations that inflict a support system on their customers, and their staff, that seems to have no mechanism for using judgement or common sense bear a heavy responsibility for the effect on both customers and staff. I first spoke to someone at technical support, explained the situation and asked to speak to someone who could deal with the issue, they put me through to someone who seemed unaware that SKY actually had any equipment in BT exchanges, they said all they could do was to put me through to …..(ominous organ music)

Technical support.

Now, as soon as that happens you know that you might as well put the phone down, crawl into a corner, roll yourself into a small ball and whimper a bit. I wish I had, but instead I allowed myself to be transferred back to technical support. I feared that I would spend my life in some terrible loop – a bit like the one in a Doctor Who episode where Romana (or was it the Doctor) had to wiggle K9’s tail at exactly the right time to break free. This didn’t happen. Instead I got nowhere at all. In spite of explaining clearly, very clearly, even more clearly and then e x t r e m e l y c l e a r l y, that I knew what the problem was, I just needed to talk to the right person to explain it to, the technical support person said they had to check the line before they could pass the query to ‘level 3 support’ (I wonder how many levels there are?). That would have been OK, even though as I explained, explained and explained again, SKY had apparently checked the line twice in the last week without finding a problem – strange when BT claim they converted it back from an ADSL to a PSTN line two weeks ago. However, they couldn’t check the line unless I had access to the problem phone line – which I was 40 miles away from. No argument would persuade the support person to put me through to anyone else. Apparently, all I could do was to drive to my father’s house and phone SKY from there – in spite of having already done exactly that twice before in the last week. Before I ended up crushing my mobile phone like Popeye and a spinach can, I ended the call and took a few deep breaths.

A few minutes later, I phoned my BT contact, and recounted the story of my lack of progress with SKY. He said he was sorry but he could see no other solution than to do as SKY had demanded, but he did give me a contact name, phone number and a job reference.

BT 6 – SKY -435

The story continues….

One response to “ADS hell – how it feels to be a football in a match between BT and SKY

  1. Pingback: BT ride to the rescue « Beancounters’ guide to technology

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