BT apologises for poor ADSL rollout

But is an apology enough to pacify furious customers?

BTopenworld issued an apology Wednesday to all the customers still waiting for ADSL installation following a raft of criticism over the way the telco is rolling out its broadband technology.

The ZDNet mailroom has been heaving with complaints from readers who are fed up with delays and poor customer service. At the beginning of the month BT responded to the criticism, promising a two-pronged improvement strategy. This involved the hiring of US ADSL consultants to identify and rectify the problems and setting up a new system to handle the huge volume of orders.

However BT admits there will be no "quick fixes" and the operational support systems will not be fully operational until December 2001. In response BTopenworld holds up its hands and apologises.

"We are sorry that installations have taken longer than expected. We apologise to our prospective customers for the delay and inconvenience this has caused," said a BTopenworld spokesman. Promising to improve customer service, BTopenworld plans to quadruple the number of helpdesk staff, introduce a new freephone "service issues" line and set up a more efficient way of handling customer calls. "Above all we will continue to be honest and upfront with customers," the spokesman concludes.

Ovum analyst Tim Johnson is not surprised by the amount of complaints and believes there is a multitude of problems BT has to overcome in order to smooth out the glitches in its ADSL rollout. He lists a shortage of engineers, problems with the configuration of customers' PCs, bad wiring in homes, poor quality of existing telephone lines and problems with the service once installed as being major issues.

Whether BT's apology will be enough to pacify irate customers remains unclear, but there is no doubt about the level of anger among users. Andrew Carter from Bracknell describes the telco as "all stations south of useless" following his fiasco with installation. Given an installation date before the line had been tested, blinded with science about "nanofarad capacitance" making it unfeasible, 27 phone calls later Mr Carter still does not have ADSL.

Stephen Simmons purchased ADSL via Easynet and is not happy about downtime on the service. "It would seem that BT is somewhat arrogant in its handling of this service and their dealings with third parties such as Easynet," he writes. Ian Foot is "extremely unhappy" with the way BT has rolled out ADSL and the price he has to pay for the service. He intends to hotfoot it to another supplier once the local loop is unbundled. "I will be dropping them immediately as I do not like them ripping me off in this manner," he writes.

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Most of the time getting ADSL installed is not a technology test; it's a bureaucracy test. The more Guy Kewney discovered about it, the more his hair stood on end! If you're trying to get a domestic link, using Universal Serial Bus, or a business line from an outside ISP, or non-NAT services, then frankly, Guy thinks -- BT's apology isn't near good enough. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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