Do unto others

btLike any IT professional trying to provide a service, I do what I can to ensure that service meets my customers requirements. Sometimes, working out what my customers want and how to keep them happy can be a challenge. However, I found myself waiting for a BT engineer to install a phone line and broadband, and I’ve realised this is an opportunity to use my own experience as an insight into my customers experience.  The service I expect from BT should be reflected by the service I would offer to my customers.

Service Timeline

  • 3rd December. I called to advise I was moving house, moving to a property about half a mile away serviced by the same exchange, and wanted to move my existing phone service, number and broadband.  To my dismay, the earliest I could get an engineer for was 7th January (22 working days or five weeks later).
  • 4th December. Email confirmation of my order and appointment arrived, including the times within which the engineer was booked to visit (13:00-18:00), which saved me taking a whole day annual leave.
  • 5th January. In the morning, I received a text from BT confirming my appointment on 7th January between 13:00-18:00, and confirming my address and postcode.  All good so far.
  • 7th January. At 18:03 I gave up and called BT to query the status of my order. On the positive side, there is an 0330 number which you can call from mobile phones and it counts as part of your contract minutes (like a normal 01 or 02 number). I requested a call back (rather than hold for 5-10 minutes) and when they did call I was told there was a fault at the exchange (which had now been fixed), and an engineer will be with me tomorrow between 08:00-13:00.  I had plans, and I’m not happy about the wasted half day annual leave.  I did some research and contacted the UK Customer Services Director (Warren Buckley), emailed a complaint directly, and received a quick and helpful response.  Let’s hope this results in a prompt delivery of service tomorrow, and some recompense for the wasted half day leave.

Lessons learnt

So what can I learn from this experience, and how can this help me deliver better IT services?

  1. First contact. The initial contact with customers, whether it’s to report a fault or order a service, is very important. In this case the contact was easily made, and the process of ordering was efficient and reasonably quick. Making sure someone is there to answer the phone or email promptly is well worth the investment, as this is your chance to make a first impression, which can be as important as the service itself.
  2. Response times. Five weeks was disappointing to say the least, which means either my expectations were set incorrectly, or there were insufficient resources to deliver the service in a reasonable time. Checking the BT site it should be 4 working days for connecting an existing line or 16 working days to connect a completely new line.  In this case there was an existing BT line (which had been disconnected), so there appears to be insufficient resources.  It’s critical to determine what customers consider a ‘reasonable’ time to response to service requests, and if necessary change their expectations to match what you can deliver.
  3. Communication.  Right up until the day of the scheduled visit the communication from BT was excellent, which went some way to making up for the delay in delivering, and gave me confidence in the company’s ability to deliver.  The communication on the day however was zero, which left me frustrated and angry.  Always communicate with your customers, even if you have to communicate bad news.  No news is NOT good news in this case.  Engaging with customers using social networking (in this case via Twitter and LinkedIn) goes a long way to making the customer feel like they have a voice, which helped a great deal in this case.
  4. Delivery.  When it comes down to it, nothing else matters, except delivery.  In this case the delivery wasn’t there, and though a quick response to my complaint went some way to repairing BT’s reputation, the damage is done.  Make sure you can actually deliver the service to a standard which meets the customer’s reasonable expectations.  Do whatever you can to prevent failures in that delivery, and make sure you know if something will go, or has gone wrong, and put immediate measures in place to correct the problem.

None of these statements will be a revelation to any competent service providers, but it’s helped me focus on the key factors, and understand the importance and inter-relationship of each.  In this case, I’m hoping BT will focus on the continual service improvement which is a key part of the ITIL service model, and work on preventing this sort of service failure happening again.  I’m also hoping I never have such a failure in the service I deliver!

Richard Bartlett

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