Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 17/7/2006 We get a lot of phone calls that go something like this: "Hi! I'm from Pushit PR!
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Monday 17/7/2006

We get a lot of phone calls that go something like this: "Hi! I'm from Pushit PR! Did you know that 70 percent of UK companies have no trained macaws on their premises, even though they are very good at configuring firewalls? It's a major security oversight. There's a survey from Markit Research Inc of 300 companies which shows this."

"Really? Who paid for the research?"

"Er, the Macaw Breeders Association of Great Britain..."

Ding. Thanks, but no thanks. Now and again there's a good story attached, but by and large you get what you pay for, whether it's market research or analyst reports.

Things are a bit more complex with BT's claims to be the number one ISP, courtesy of a report from Epitiro, a company that does Internet performance monitoring. Although BT is a client and therefore does have a commercial relationship with Epitiro, the same's true of many other ISPs — and the figures on which BT bases its claim are from Epitiro's central monitoring system on which it bases its business. So the figures have a good chance of being correct.

But BT's not commonly on anyone's list of favourite ISPs. Everyone — and sometimes, I think that really does mean everyone — has a billing, customer-service or fault story connected with the company, and that's been the way for ages. It's particularly fun, I'm told, to try and move your DSL connection when you move house, and to synchronise the process with the moving of the phone service. The sheer number of things that can and do go wrong, most of which seem to be connected with some world-class cluelessness by BT salespeople, is impressive. Things like changing the name of the owner of a phone-line trigger a broadband disconnection, or an offer to "sort out the broadband" quietly moves you from your current ISP to BT-Yahoo.

Another friend of mine always checks his phone bill, and for around two years has found at least one error per quarter. It's got to the point that they just wearily wave the refund through when he makes his quarterly call. Would he recommend BT to anyone? You get a hollow laugh if you ask.

It doesn't matter whether BT Internet does best on speed tests. It does matter if they're a pleasant company to deal with, that knows what it's doing and provides a reliable service. The core tech might be fine, but if it takes forever to get it installed or a fault fixed that's no help.

As a result, BT will find that its claims to be super-duper falls on stony ground. We just don't believe it, not because we think that BT bought the result it wanted but because the information is almost irrelevant. Everyone knows better. Even the macaws.

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