Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The endless frustrations of a would-be TalkTalk customer

I want a service with TalkTalk. That can't be too hard can it? I mean, none of these telecoms companies have got great reputations but if you ring up and offer them money they're at least good at first right? Hmm, maybe not.

I've recently moved house from one part of south Lincolnshire to another and was previously a TalkTalk customer at my old house. I asked to transfer my old service (basic phone and broadband) to this house and was told that it would take a couple of weeks. I'm not sure exactly why it takes them so long but, still, I settled on knowing that my old service would end on July 1 and begin at the new place on July 13.

Or so I thought.

Before that date arrived I had a call to say that there had been a problem with my order - TalkTalk's fault so they say - so it would have to be cancelled and re-placed. Not ideal since I'd already been waiting but still these things happen.

I got transferred to a helpful - and hopeful - sounding chap in the sales department. When I explained that it I was disappointed since it was my intention to upgrade to fibre broadband once my line was active he went away, spoke to someone else, and came back and said that not only could he get my service active on July 19 he would also put the fibre order through there and then to save me any further inconvenience. He booked the engineer for July 31 and promised me 6 months free of the 'basic phone and broadband' part of my bill.

All sounds fair enough I thought still, at this point, naively believing that they would be keen to sort it out and take my money.

One thing though - what if the problem that caused my initial order to cancel resurfaced?

It's ok he said - they should be able to fix it for the 19th but, as an absolute last resort, the engineer on the 31st would definitely get us a service, with a new line installed if necessary. That sounded a little worrying - the 31st was a decent way away after all - but it was a confident promise. On those terms I agreed and signed up.

Then things went strangely quiet. No emails or letters as per normal when you take an order with one of these companies. Keen to check there wasn't another problem I rang up on July 17. I got through to a very friendly lady who checked my account and confirmed that everything was fine and I was still due to go live. Phew.

On the 19th I dutifully plugged in my phone and modem, finally ready to resume my basic service. But nothing. I began to get concerned and rang TalkTalk.

The 1st person I spoke to said that the 19th had been cancelled and my order was due to go through on the 31st. She said that because I'd ordered fibre the two had to go through together.

So hang on, that sales patter about saving me time and putting both orders through together? Was that just a fib to get me to sign up? Who knows. This woman had one stock answer to my questions and wasn't prepared to budge from robot mode into a human conversation.

I asked to speak to someone else and, when put through, was told that my 'go live' date was indeed cancelled almost as soon as it had gone through. So why no call, email or letter? He said that the company had issues with how they handled the process from placing an order to delivering it and apologised.

He said my July 31 date was also cancelled because of a fault with my line but that my basic service would go live on July 24. So another wait. But how did I know this would actually happen? Don't worry, he said. He'd checked and the order for that had "perfectly gone through already, there are no issues with it".

I know those were his exact words because I took them down in trusty shorthand (100wpm certificate available to view on request) because by now I was fed up with getting conflicting views every time I called. Oh and that's every time I called on my mobile phone at my expense of course.

Then followed a fibre modem and letter. Progress at last. I mean they wouldn't send out kit and then not get a service live for you to use it with right?! The letter said July 31 but this was talking about fibre so I crossed everything and hoped the definitive promise would come true.

So onwards and upwards to the 24th. But once again not a sausage of a dialling tone when I plugged in. Not even a pesky chipolata. This is of course the date that has 'perfectly gone through'.

I rang the next day (having left it til then in case by some miracle it whirred into action overnight). What had happened to July 24? They told me, once again, that it all had to happen together on the 31st. So that was 2-2 in the game between the 'it goes live in stages' and the 'it has to happen at once' camps. It's a match that sounds like more fun than I was having.

So, given that the last chap said July 24 had 'perfectly gone through' but that July 31 had been cancelled what chance had I got of getting a service on that date? A date, if you remember (apologies if I've bored you but this is vaguely cathartic!), that would be when I'd get a service as a 'last resort' even if it meant a new line. By now I'd take a fibre line plugged directly into my head if it meant an end to this sorry saga... So, to ease my increasing frustrations, the woman's exact words (again taken down in shorthand so permissible in court): "I can guarantee it will be activated on the 31st". A guarantee? Well, I had to take that.

On the 31st came a brief ray of sunshine. A call from an engineer to tell me he'd send a colleague that afternoon. At last. Might today be the day?!

No. Of course it wasn't. I should've learned by now.

The engineer did indeed attend but couldn't even get a dialling tone on my line. Someone else would have to come to fix the fault.

So I called TalkTalk. When could the fault be fixed? How much longer may I have to wait? Would I be charged for a service I haven't had since July 1?

They said I'd have to wait up to 48 hours before they received the engineers report but that I wouldn't be charged or that I'd be reimbursed. They'd ring me to tell me when they knew.

Then, two days later, with no phone call for warning, an engineer arrived. He duly fixed the fault and, hey presto, we had basic phone and internet. Hallelujah! He couldn't fix the fibre - that wasn't his bag - so I called TalkTalk to ask. They said I'd have to wait 48 hours (this was 48 hours) and call back.

But, I could cope with that for now. I had a basic service. I could update my phone, get on Internet banking, sort out my bills and of course - tweet, watch YouTube and browse to my heart's content without another 'you have used your allowance' text message. Euphoria!

Except by the time I returned from a trip to Nottingham (Forest won, my luck must have turned!) the Internet and phone was down. Surely not? Not after just one day? If we slept on it it might've been one of those overnight caused by storm things right? Sadly we clutched at that straw but awoke to no phone and Internet again.

I called TalkTalk. They said I'd have to wait for 48 hours for an engineer's report. Erm, what? From when? The booked engineer date of July 31? Friday's out of the blue visit? From today?

She didn't know and I was losing the will to carry on banging my already bruised head into this relentless brick wall of false promises and endless string of fruitless phone calls. In the end she told me they would have an answer on Monday or early on Tuesday. Did she just make that up to get rid of me? It felt that way but I was getting nowhere so went along with it.

So, Tuesday morning (today!). What's the latest please TalkTalk? Note that I again ring them. I've never once had an unprompted call to keep me informed of the progress of my 'order' - if we can still call it that.

You'll have to wait 48 hours they say. Why? What for? Have they had an engineer's report? If not, have they not chased this up for me? When am I going to get a service? The lady said I'd have to wait 48 hours for an update. Sorry, not good enough, I thought. I'd waited as patiently as possible but there are limits surely?

I asked to speak to a manager. The lady said she would try to transfer me. She couldn't. The manager was busy but she'd get them to ring me back. It'd be today. At least that'd save me hanging on. Was there anything else she could help me with? Erm, I've got no service, you can't tell me why I haven't or when I will get a service...other than that I'm fine. I guess it's in the coaching manual but seriously was that the right time to ask that question?!

I began to think on and decided not to wait. I wanted to speak to someone in the complaints department. Surely there's someone out there who can give me a proper explanation and, when listening to my tale above, can realise they've been pretty woeful so far and ought to pull out a few stops to keep me on board as a customer?

This time they rang me back. But, after placing me on hold - I hate that music! - they said they noted that a manager was due to call me. They apologised - they always do - and said the manager would answer my questions. I explained that if they couldn't at least give a basic answer I'd have to consider cancelling and they said they'd make a further note that I was waiting for a call and promised that answers would be forthcoming.

That was at about 1030-1045. By 6.30pm I'd not had a call from the manager. I rang myself, was put on hold and cut off as I was being transferred. I waited a minute for a call back - thinking they would try to get me back - but tried again. I was cut off again.

At that point I felt the need to blog. Well, after a donut (you drove me to that TalkTalk!).

So I'm still waiting. I'm thoroughly fed up of ringing TalkTalk and getting different non-answers from robot people. Don't get me wrong, they're always pleasant but the trouble is they're inept. I'd gladly swap the niceties for a blast of Malcolm Tucker at his sweary worst if it was at least an efficient Tucker who knew how to fix a fibre broadband line up.

I'm sure other people have similar experiences. And I know it's not just TalkTalk. Too many companies have pathetic customer service. They spend all their money on flash adverts and TV rights while ignoring the need for a working service (yes that's a dig at you BT).

The trouble is the net has become so important. Of course I want to watch Alan Partridge trailers, tweet 'banter' and comment on friends' Facebook photos but these days you need it for checking bank statements, paying bills, shopping for the best deals and doing extra work at home at weekends when you're busy. Maybe in the future the Internet will have to be like the gas and electric which will keep running at a house when you go?

Whatever happens though, if you are reading this TalkTalk I'm STILL waiting for my call...

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