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BTopenworld accused of call centre incompetence

Staff on the BTopenworld helplines are misinformed and unhelpful, according to dissatisfied BT customers
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

BTopenworld is in the dock again for using underpaid and inadequately-trained staff to manage its customer service helplines.

Disgruntled BTopenworld Anytime customers who were kicked off the unmetered narrowband package a couple of weeks ago onto a significantly less reliable service, say they have been unable to get competent advice on how to resolve their connection problems.

"One person I spoke to didn't have a clue what I was talking about -- the staff are unbelievably misinformed," said Michael Grierson, a ZDNet UK News reader. "Another customer who phoned BT with a connection problem was told to change his graphics card -- I've never heard such nonsense before."

BTopenworld outsources its call centre work to Client Logic and Manpower. "It's a prerequisite that staff are active Internet users -- we're not saying experts -- but we do need them to use the Internet on a regular basis," said a spokesman at BTopenworld. BT representatives liaise with the call centres to brief them on the latest Internet service packages available, but admit that they too have received customer complaints about the level of experience possessed by helpline staff.

"We shouldn't be in a position where customers are being left with no way forward -- that's not the way that we would want the helpdesk to deal with customers," said the BTopenworld spokesman.

But BT claims that customer dissatisfaction with the calibre of helpline staff is more an issue for the outsourcing company. "They are their employees, and the pay-levels are set by them," the spokesman added.

The Internet forum hosted by btopenwoe.org.uk is one of many plagued with complaints by BTopenworld call centre staff about their inadequate working conditions. A job advertisement obtained by ZDNet News reveals that helpline operators are paid £4 an hour -- ten pence below the minimum wage -- and are forced to work a 42-hour week, including Saturdays.

One Manpower employee writes: "Although all that stuff about being underpaid, very stressed (who wouldn't be dealing with the constant problems BTopenworld is having without having any power to do anything about it), low morale etc which is 100 percent true, most of us really do want you to get connected, Web pages etc, so that we can do the job we are there to do and not be some kind of apology line listening to call after call about how you have to get your emails or your business will suffer."

BTopenworld is satisfied that it is offering the right level of support to call centre staff, but says that it would consider reviewing it's standards and procedures if a large number of unhappy staff come forward.

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