customer service

Sky Broadband Update

It’s probably time for an update on my Sky Broadband situation.

I last wrote about Sky on 16th April. That was the date of their second failed attempt to connect me to their broadband. It was the date that I decided to cancel my order and go elsewhere.

First the good news. I was considering alternative providers. I called Virgin Media and they told me that I could have a 50 Mb fibre connection for an extra £2 a month over what I already paid them for my TV and phone package. And, as a bonus, they could do it within a week – still five days earlier than Sky had scheduled their third attempt at connecting me. I ordered it, they came round on the promised day and everything works fine. Very happy with them.

This then left me trying to cancel my Sky order. This was slightly complicated by the fact that Sky had successfully connected my phone line[1] and also the fact that this phone line is used for monitoring my ADT burglar alarm. I didn’t want to cancel the phone line until ADT had moved the alarm monitoring to the Virgin Media line. I explained all this to Sky and they seemed to understand.

A chap called Andy in Sky’s customer service took it upon himself to manage the project. He took to phoning me weekly to ask me what was going on with ADT. To be honest, I got a bit lazy and it took me a while to get in touch with them.

Then my hand was forced. In the middle of May, some error lights on the burglar alarm started flashing. I called ADT to see what the problem was and they told me that it looked like the phone line was dead. I plugged a phone into the line and was able to confirm this. The phone line had been disconnected – despite my explicit instructions about not doing that until I asked for it.

I was a bit stuck. Calling Sky’s customer support from a non-Sky phone line is very expensive. And the only Sky phone line I had was dead. I tried their online chat facility, but the people you get on that are absolutely useless. Luckily Andy was due to call me for a progress update the following day, so I decided to wait for that.

When Andy called, I asked why they have disconnected the phone. He said that they hadn’t. He ran a few line checks and discovered a fault on the line. He offered to send an engineer to fix it. I told him not to bother and to go ahead with the cancellation. He told me that there was some problem with their systems that prevented him cancelling the contract right away but that he had reported the bug and would let me know when it was fixed.

Time passed.

Earlier this week, I wondered idly what was going on so I sent them an email asking for a progress report. A woman called and told me that my records said that someone (Andy, I assume) had been checking into my account daily and leaving notes explaining why he still couldn’t close the account.

The following day, I got a call from Andy (I’m sure it was pure coincidence that this was the day after I had chased them). He told me that the bug had been fixed and asked me to confirm that I still wanted to cancel the account. I told him that I did and he started the process. He warned me that I would receive a few automated emails.

Within half an hour I got the first email, telling me that my services would be cancelled on Thursday 6th June. Hooray. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The following day, I got another (presumably automatic email) offering me twelve months of free line rental if I changed my mind. Then I got the same message by text. And today I’ve got a missed call from a number which Google tells me is Sky’s customer retention department. They certainly seem keen to keep me. It’s a shame they didn’t put so much effort in back in April when they might have been able to salvage something from the disaster.

Oh, and I’ve received a bill. They want to charge me a month’s line rental for the phone line. A phone line that only ever really existed to serve a broadband connection that they weren’t able to provide. A phone line that I’ve used to make one call – the call to Sky customer services on 16th April when I first told them to cancel my order.

I’ve cancelled the old Be Broadband direct debit that they were planning to use to take the money. I’m amazed that they wouldn’t just waive those charges.

So, two months on I’m still (to some extent) a Sky customer. But the end is (hopefully) in sight.

Oh, and throughout all of this, the  @SkyHelpTeam Twitter account has been a source of much amusement. They reply to every mention but haven’t got a clue what is going on. They use a social media customer tracker called Lithium. But they must have it configured wrong because each conversation starts with them knowing no history of this problem at all. And, having watched the product video, that’s exactly what Lithium is for.

Throughout this whole affair, all of Sky customer service people (with about two exceptions) have shown themselves to be rubbish at their job.

[1] You’ll have noticed, no doubt, that we had two phone lines. The home phone (along with our TV) has been provided by Virgin Media for years. I also had another phone line for the broadband. I had this on a separate contract because it had been paid for through the limited company that I use for contracting.

customer service

Recorded Delivery

Do you ever use the Royal Mail’s Recorded Delivery service? And, if you do, do you ever take advantage of the the fact that your delivery has been recorded? I mean, do you go to their web site and check that the delivery has taken place? Or do you just assume that it has all worked unless the recipient complains?

I ask because I’ve just realised that I’ve used recorded delivery three times in the last year and it has never worked correctly for me. I don’t mean that the items haven’t been delivered. I just mean that the delivery hasn’t been recorded.

I occasionally sell spare gig tickets through SeatWave. And SeatWave recommend sending tickets using First Class Recorded Delivery. So that’s what I do. It costs an extra £1.55, but SeatWave add an extra £2 to your payment – so you make a little profit on the deal.

I posted a ticket on Saturday. It’s now Wednesday so I expected the ticket to have been delivered. But on checking the Track and Trace web site I was told:

Item AH941308524GB was posted at 92a Balham High SW12 9AF on 11/08/12 and is being progressed through our network for delivery

I turned to Twitter and asked @RoyalMail whether that was an acceptable delay. They said that it should be the next working day (i.e. Monday – two days ago) but that they wouldn’t accept claims for missing items until the items were fifteen working days late!

I have records from the two other tickets I’ve sent using this method. Here’s what the web site said about the first one (which was sent in September 2011):

Item AI018756736GB could not be delivered on 26/09/11 11:44 (and no Safeplace option was specified by the addressee). A”something for you card” will have been delivered, the item will be returned to BOURNEMOUTH pending instructions from the addressee. You can arrange a redelivery online, call the BOURNEMOUTH office to arrange a re-delivery, or collect the item from BOURNEMOUTH by bringing proof of identification and address.

This is for a gig that took place last October. So I’m pretty sure that I would have heard if the ticket hadn’t been delivered by now. @RoyalMail were able to confirm that they had a signature, but couldn’t explain why the Track and Trace web site didn’t know that.

Here’s another one. This was posted in March 2012 for a gig that took place in March:

Item AI645696097GB was posted at 65/69 The Green W12 8QF on 12/03/12 and is being progressed through our network for delivery.

Once again, I’m pretty sure I’d know if the ticket hadn’t got there in time, but the web site claims it still hasn’t been delivered over five months after I sent it.

Those are the only three times I’ve used this service in the last year. And on every occasion the service hasn’t worked as it is supposed to. Ok, perhaps there’s a chance that the most recent one is actually still being “progressed through” their network. But I’m not holding out much hope.

I’d be willing to accept the occasional failure. But this looks like the service never works. Which is why I’m asking for your experiences. Has anyone ever seen the Track and Trace web site saying that a package was delivered successfully? Again, I’m not complaining that items aren’t getting delivered (I’m pretty sure that they are) I’m saying that the deliveries aren’t being recorded – which for a service called “recorded delivery” is a major failing.

Surely the Royal Mail can’t be taking £1.55 a time from us for a service that they can’t provide? Perhaps they know that no-one ever bothers to check whether the service has worked. Or that if anyone does check they’ll just think, “oh, but the package was delivered anyway so I can’t be bothered to gather the evidence I’d need to claim back my £1.55”. That’s  certainly my reaction.

But I bet there are a lot of £1.55s. Perhaps we should start complaining a bit more.

The nice person at @RoyalMail gave me an email address to write to. So I’ve sent them a full description of my complain. I’ll let you know what they say.

customer service

Loving Bose

I bloody love Bose. I never owned any of their equipment – it’s always seemed a little overpriced to me – but their customer service is great. They keep giving me stuff.

My wife has a pair of QuietComfort 3 headphones. She thinks that they’re great. But we often need to get replacement parts for them. And that’s where I come into contact with Bose customer service.

Early in 2009 when she hadn’t had the headphones for long, she was wearing them walking down a really crowded street. Something happened and somehow the cable connecting the headphones to her iPod got tangled around someone else’s arm and both plugs came out of their sockets. Before she knew it she had no sound as the cable vanished off down the street.

I assumed that replacing the cable wouldn’t be a problem. But it turns out that Bose cables had non-standard plugs on them. So I had to go into the Bose shop on Regent St. They didn’t have any in stock, but in the storeroom the staff found a cable that had been used for demonstrations – which they just gave me. For free.

About a year later, my wife started to worry that she might lose the cable again and decided that she wanted a replacement. This time I wasn’t working near a Bose shop so I decided to order it from their web site. I got an email from customer support saying that the cable was out of stock but that they had an almost new cable that had been returned by a customer that they would send me for no charge. They said that they would cancel my original order.

Within a couple of days I received my second free headphone cable in the post.

But a few days later I got an email saying that my original order was about to be dispatched. I contacted customer service and reminded them that they were going to cancel the order. They apologised and said that it was too late to cancel the order now so they would refund my money and I should just keep the cable when it arrived “as a gesture of goodwill”.

So a few days later we received our third free headphone cable.

About a month ago, my wife decided that she wanted replacements for the cushions that go over your ears. I should point out that these are not ear-bud headphones. They are pretty large. The replacement cushions cost £20.

This week I finally remembered to go into the Bose shop in Westfield to buy them. The helpful woman behind the counter went off to the storeroom to find me some. A few minutes later she returned and reported that they didn’t seem to have any in stock. But she did have a pair which had been used for demonstrations that she was happy to let me have for free.

So that’s three cables and one pair of replacement cushions that we’ve got from Bose and we haven’t paid for any of them. Which is why I love Bose.

I was going to finish by saying that I didn’t understand how Bose could make any profit if they give this stuff away at the drop of a hat. But the answer is obvious. The original kit costs so much that it doesn’t matter in the slightest if they give the replacement accessories away.

I think that’s a great business model.

customer service

Message to ADT

When someone sends you an email through a contact form on your web site, it’s nice to send them an automated response thanking them for their message and indicating when you might get back to them. It’s simple enough to set up and it’s what customers have come to expect.

It can, however, run the risk of making you look a little unprofessional if the response looks like this:

This is an automatic email from the Sitekit CMS Forms module.
Thank you for your submission David Cross, we appreciate your feedback.
Your submission was as follows:
Name: David Cross
Address: %Address (UK Style)%
Email address:

I got that when submitting a customer complaint to ADT last week. Three obvious things wrong with it.

  1. As a customer, I have absolutely no interest in the fact that you’re using “the Sitekit CMS Forms module”.
  2. Someone should look at why that address is so broken.
  3. It doesn’t say when I can expect a response. It’s been about five days and I’ve heard nothing more from them.

Must try harder, ADT.

customer service

OLB Non Enrolled Non Endorsed 1

When communicating with your customers, it’s important to look at the information that you’re sending from their point of view. Are they really going to be interested in the information that you send?

Earlier today I finally got round to unsubscribing from the MBNA marketing emails that have been annoying me for months. To confirm my unsubscription they sent me an email which started with this:

We are sorry that you unsubscribed from the newsletter OLB Non Enrolled Non Endorsed 1

Is there really any customer who is going to be even slightly interested in that level of detail? I don’t care what your internal name for the newsletter is. I just want to stop seeing it in my inbox.

customer service

Customer Relationship Failure

Jessops - Advice for Life
Jessops – Advice for Life

I generally don’t like getting marketing email. Whenever I buy something online or sign up to a new web site, I always make sure that the “please send me email” is not checked. This doesn’t, of course, stop me getting marketing email but it does give me the moral high ground if I choose to complain about it.

There are, however, a small number of companies and organisations who I’m happy to receive mail from. Generally that’s campaigns that I support and things like that. There are only a couple of retailers in that list. One of them is Jessops, the photographic people. Photography is a hobby that I don’t have time to follow that closely, so I’m happy for Jessops to send me information about new products every few weeks. Sometimes it might even get me into a shop to buy something.

But over the last couple of months my patience with Jessops has been sorely tried. I think they have started to use a new CRM or mass-mail tool. Whatever the issue is, the result has been that the email I get from them has become really impersonal and, actually borders on being rude.

The problem is that somehow they have got the parts of my name confused. Perhaps they got the forename and surname fields the wrong way in some data import exercise. Or perhaps they are using the wrong data field in their mail merge process. But where they think they are writing email with friendly subjects like “Dave, 3 for 2 offers on photo products”, I’m actually seeing “Cross, 3 for 2 offers on photo products”.

To be honest, I prefer it if retailers address me as “Mr Cross” (I realise I may be a bit out of date there) but I’m reasonably happy for them to call me “Dave”. Calling me “Cross” just isn’t acceptable. The first time it happened I assumed it was a glitch that would be fixed before the next run. But I’ve since received three or four other messages with the same error in the subject line.

Each time one of those messages arrives it lowers my respect for Jessops. Each time I get closer to just removing myself from their mailing list. But I do still find the contents of the mail interesting. Today I got another message and I replied to it asking them to fix the problem. But I strongly suspect that the reply address won’t go to a real person – that seems to be standard (if broken) practice these days.

It’ll only take a couple more of these messages to push into unsubscribing. And Jessops will probably lose the small amount of custom that they currently get from me. I don’t suppose they really care.

By the way. Whilst we’re talking about Jessops, does anyone else think that their new slogan is a little excessive? Does anyone really go to a camera shop for “advice for life”?

customer service

Waiting For Donut

Google are naming versions of Android after cakes. My G1 is currently running version 1.5 – or Cupcake – and apparently version 1.6 – Donut[1] – is imminent. Every morning when I turn my phone on I’m hopeful it will tell me that an over the air update is available. Every day, so far, I’ve been disappointed.

Today I decided to ask T-Mobile customer support what they knew. I realise that this is clutching at straws as T-Mobile customer support never know anything but I thought I’d give it a try. I sent them an email and within minutes I got their standard auto-response saying that they would answer my query within seven days.

Then, this evening they called me. T-Mobile have this really annoying habit of phoning you in response to email queries. I thought I had made it clear to them that I didn’t like this, but tonight’s support agent was so keen that he decided to call me anyway. It seems that my account is marked ‘do not call’ as he noticed that halfway through our conversation and apologised. He told me that he had the answer to my query and I asked him to tell me.

Then he said that he couldn’t tell me until I had identified myself. I was astonished. I mean, it’s not as though I was asking for private details of my account. But he was adamant that I had to give him my password before he could give me the information he had for me. I gave him the password and it took him several seconds to confirm that it was correct. He then passed on the information.

Or rather, he didn’t. Or, at least, he didn’t pass on anything useful. The information that he couldn’t possibly give me until I had given him the password, was that he didn’t know when I could expect to get Donut. That information hadn’t been given to the customer service team. He recommended that I watched the web site for news.

This is the web site which advertises the G2 with a photo of the G1. I have no confidence at all in that site. I strongly suspect that it won’t be updated until a couple of weeks after I’m happily running Donut.

I have lower and lower expectations every time I have contact with T-Mobile customer support. But on this occasion they have managed to sail easily under the low expectations I had. Asking a customer for a password in order to tell him that you don’t have the information he has asked for is just ludicrous.

Is there anyone from T-Mobile reading? When can I expect my Donut update?

Update: On Twitter, @fcw suggested trying a manual check-in – by dialling *#*#checkin#*#*. I got a few errors when I tried that this morning (Javascript socket exceptions), but eventually it worked. Well, it worked to the extent that I saw a “check-in successful” message. I still don’t have Donut though.

[1] The American mis-spelling of “doughnut”.

customer service

Headphones on the G1

[This is here as a public service to other frustrated G1 owners]

In December, when I wrote about my first impressions of the G1, one of my biggest complaints was that it had a completely non-standard socket for headphones. It came with a set of headphones which fitted the socket, but they were some of the worst and most uncomfortable headphones that I had ever tried. I lasted less than an hour using them.

But soon after I got my G1, I started to hear from other people who had got a different headphone adapter in the box. Instead of a pair of headphones with the dodgy “not quite USB” plug on them, they got a pair of headphones with a standard 3.5mm plug togther with an adapter to convert from 3.5mm to the dodgy “not quite USB” socket. This is clearly a better package as it allows you to use any headphones with the G1.

I emailed T-Mobile customer support to see if they could sent me the nice adapter. They said that I could get one from a T-Mobile shop. I went into three or four shops. None of them knew what I was talking about. In one of them the manager unboxed three G1s to see what was in the box. In all three cases it was the crappy old connection that I already had.

I emailed T-Mobile customer support again explaining what had happened and asking why they had sent me on a wild goose chase. They apologised and promised to look into it.

At this point, I should point out that T-Mobile customer support really aren’t very good. You’ve got a good chance of getting someone in a call centre in India who really hasn’t got much of a clue about what you’re talking about. They have an intensely irritating habit of repeating a paraphrased version of your query back to you in the mistaken believe (I assume) that this will somehow be useful to you. They are also told to reply to all requests with a phone call. Even ones that they receive by email. Even ones, I’ve discovered, that start with “PLEASE REPLY BY EMAIL – DO NOT PHONE ME”. I like to deal with customer support by email so that I have a permanent record of what I have been told.

Sorry about that diversion. I found it theraputic. Where was I? Oh yes. They promised to look into it. Then they promptly forgot about it. Three months later I wrote to them again, explaining that when someone tells me that they are looking into something, then I expect to get a follow-up at some point.

They replied, apologised and said that they would look into it and get back to me. Which, to their credit, they did. A couple of days later I got a mail saying that they couldn’t change the offer they had made me. This was strange as they hadn’t actually made me an offer. They went on to say that if I bought myself the adaptor that I wanted, they would refund the cost.

Before they could change their mind, I went onto the HTC web site and bought one of these. I forwarded the order confirmation to T-Mobile and they phoned me (grr!) to tell me that they had credited the amount to my account.

So there’s the happy ending to the story. After about six months of trying, many visits to T-Mobile shops and many frustrating email conversations with T-Mobile customer support I got what I wanted. I can now listen to music on my G1 using my favourite headphones.

If you’re trying to get a decent headphone adapter out of them, feel free to point them at this blog entry. If they do it for one person, they should really do it for everyone who asks. If by writing this I can make someone’s interaction with T-Mobile less painful then that would make me very happy.

Let me know how you get on.

Update: I should mention that there’s another option. The G1 supports stereo bluetooth headphones – so just buy something like this and there’s no need to plug anything in.

customer service

Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

Long-time readers will know that I am not averse to contacting companies to complain about bad service that I receive. This isn’t a particularly fulfilling hobby as you very rarely get any kind of satisfaction. But recently it’s becoming even less satisfying than before. I’ve noticed that email conversations with customer service reps are becoming more and more drawn out as many of them seem less and less capable of understanding the issues that I am raising. It can often take a couple of rounds of email before they are clear what I’m talking about. And I’m pretty sure it’s not me describing things badly.

Here’s an example.

Last week the BBC showed an abbreviated version of Leonard Cohen: Live in London. I missed it as it was first broadcast, so over the weekend I tried to catch up with it on iPlayer. We have Virgin Media, so we can watch iPlayer content through our V+ box. I found the programme and started to watch. I didn’t last long though as the aspect ratio of the programme was wrong. The programme had been filmed in 4:3, but the iPlayer has stretched it to 16:9[1]. This meant that everyone everyone appeared fatter than they should be. I know that many people are used to watching television like this, but to me it renders a programme unwatchable.

I wrote to the iPlayer support team explaining the problem. Here’s what I wrote:

The version of “Leonard Cohen – Live in London” which is currently available on iPlayer on Virgin Media is in the wrong aspect ratio. It appears to be a 4:3 broadcast which has been stretched to 16:9. Everyone therefore seems to be far too fat and the programme is unwatchable.

I think that’s clear.

This morning I got a reply from them. Here’s what they said:

I understand you’re unhappy with the size of ‘Leonard Cohen’ on BBC iPlayer.

The bit rate varies per programme and is dependent on the amount of changes per video frame. For example, a programme such as ‘Doctor Who’ or ‘Leonard Cohen’ will be at a higher rate than a Current Affairs programme (where a presenter is fairly static in the frame).

Considering the above information:

The average file size for a 30 minute streamed programme is around 110MB. The average file size for a 1 hour streamed programme is around 215MB.

I appreciate you may feel differently on this matter and I’d like to assure you that I have registered your comments on our log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for BBC iPlayer and commissioning executives within the BBC, and their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

Nothing in there at all about aspect ratios. They seem to have assumed that I’m talking about the size of downloaded programmes. Which is strange as I specifically mentioned the Virgin Media version of iPlayer which doesn’t support programme downloads.

I can see three explanations:

  1. The person genuinely misunderstood what I was asking about and answered the question to the best of her ability. In which case she needs better training in the products that she is supposed to be supporting.
  2. The person didn’t read my mail carefully and just sent a reply that looked like it might address the issues I was talking about. In which case she needs to read email more closely. Perhaps the iPlayer support team needs more people so they have time to read messages and write replies carefully.
  3. No-one read my email and some automated system sent a canned reply based on some (obviously flawed) keyword matching.

I know I shouldn’t waste my time, but I’ve had another go at explaining exactly what the problem is and why this reply didn’t address any of my issues. Let’s wait and see what happens.

But it shouldn’t be like this. Speaking to customer service shouldn’t be like banging your head against a brick wall. People should know the products they are supporting and they should want to give the best service they can. It’s becoming far too common that customer service replies appear to be dashed off as quickly as possible in the hope that no-one will actually bother to read the reply. Either the support team don’t have the training to properly support their products or they are overworked and don’t have time to do a proper job.

Either way, it’s all very frustrating.

The BBC showed the Leonard Cohen concert again over the weekend. I recorded it on my V+ box. It was broadcast in the correct aspect ratio. I enjoyed watching it very much.

[1] I like to call this “Dixonsvision” in memory of the sadly-missed shop which used to insist on demonstrating all of its widescreen TVs this way.

customer service

Right Hand Meet Left Hand

My quest for a Nokia E71 has come to an end. It hasn’t been a success.

I’ve been trying to buy one for some weeks. I wanted to get one from O2 (my current phone company) as being an existing customer has some small advantages (even if it’s only a few free texts each month). So about five weeks ago I called them to find out when it would be available through them. I was told that I would be able to order one in about a week’s time.

I called back on the suggested date only to be told that the release had been put back by a week. This pattern repeated twice more over the next couple of weeks.

I called them a couple of weeks ago and was told that there was no firm date. I asked for a PAC code so that I could take my business elsewhere. You have to get a PAC code from their retentions department so that they can try to offer you all sorts of things to tempt you into staying. They offered to halve my monthly fees whilst I was waiting for the phone to be released. I agreed.

Yesterday I heard rumours that some people has received E71s from O2, so I emailed O2 customer services to find out if it was true. Someone called Jagat Dave replied telling me that the phone was available and that I could either upgrade on their web site or call the upgrade department. I looked at the web site and couldn’t find the phone there at all.

Today, I called the upgrade department. They were very surprised to hear that the phone was available as it wasn’t on any of their systems and therefore they couldn’t order it for me. Their systems didn’t even have any firm date for the release (but were sure that it was imminent).

I gave up and asked, once more, for my PAC code. This time I made it clear to the retentions department that I wasn’t interested in anything other than a date for the E71. They couldn’t give me that and therefore have arranged for the PAC code to be sent to me. I should get it with 48 hours (actually, it has just arrived whilst I’ve been typing this).

I went off to the T-Mobile site and ordered a G1. It should arrive tomorrow.

I can’t believe that they’ve made this so difficult. I understand that sometimes releases get put back at the last minute. But for it to have happened so many times is ridiculous. And then for the customer services department to be telling me things that obviously aren’t true… well it’s just incredible.

Mind you, I fully expect to be writing some kind of customer services rant about T-Mobile in the next few months. It seems to have become a bit of a lost art.