The 4 Cardinal Sins of Customer Service, as demonstrated by BT

A few weeks ago I decided to review my broadband, home phone supplied by Virgin, and Sky TV package. With the onslaught of BT advertising to link in with their launch of BT Sport and after doing some detailed research I decided to transfer with BT as my sole supplier of my TV, phone and broadband, services.  What has followed since has been the most appalling case of customer service I have ever experienced. As a marketer the most important part for service industries is to ensure you are a customer centric organisation, and this is delivered through your brand, culture, values and most importantly your customer service.

The only good out of this it that it has given me the material to write about the 4 cardinal sins of appalling customer service as perfectly demonstrated by BT, these are;

1-    Failed promises. I now have atleast 10 examples where BT have failed to deliver what they promised, from saying it would be straightforward to install, to telling me the money I am owed could be refunded to my bank account, which they weren’t capable of doing.

2-    Pass the parcel. Where do I start? On 4 occasions I have been passed to 4 different departments, I have been to India and back more times than I care to mention. I am a parcel in the BT machine but as of yet there is no sign of me getting the packet of Haribo’s at the end of the game (I think it’s a game to BT that is).

3-    Accountability. On two occasions I have had a BT person refuse to give me their name, and yet they ask me again and again and again to confirm all my details, before I know it they will be asking me to confirm my waist size. On one call the BT person agreed to call me back the next day, and left me his email address, but…. yes you guessed it no call back, and no returns to my emails.

4-    Don’t continually apologise to me. If I had £1 for every time some-one at BT had apologised to me it would almost add up to the £141 refund BT owe me. I do not want apologies I want action and ownership to get this sorted, and I do not want to be transferred yet again.

So what are my conclusions? Excellent customer service is seen as a given these days, and yet we still get many examples of things going wrong. I think we can accept to a degree that although things will go wrong, the most important element is to acknowledge this and get on and deal with it with clear ownership and accountability. I have read with interest a marketer (Gavin Patterson) has just taken over as CEO of BT, I can only hope he instills some basics around customer service.

As I write this, I have been promised my refund by Monday, if it does turn up it will be the only thing BT have got right, so unsurprisingly, I’m not holding my breath.

A few numbers from this whole debacle

1 – Number of times BT failed to turned up to install their services

1- Number of times BT turned up out of the blue to install their services, and yes we were out

2-    The number of calls I have had from BT this week wanting to arrange installation despite me cancelling two weeks ago

7- The days I was left without phone or brand band coverage, (have you tried living without broadband these days!!) fortunately Virgin came to the rescue and managed to re-install within hours

9 – The hours of my life wasted on the phone to BT so far

25 – The number of people I have spoken to at BT with no-one taking ownership

16000 – A guestimate on the miles I have travelled on phone call transfers

100,000,000 – The number of pounds BT have put aside to promote its new sports channel as reported in Media Week 10th May

141 – The pounds BT still owe me as a refund (as of 4th Sept).


Combinate Marketing help businesses build simple, effective and measurable marketing plans. This includes working with customers of your business to ensure you continually strive to deliver exceptional customer service. For an informal chat about how we could help please contact me (James) on 07936 884457, or email me at