Learning from the big firms’ mistakes… or what good freelancers can teach BT.

As I may have mentioned a couple of times, we have recently moved house. It’s a cliche that this is one of the most stressful things you can do, but it’s certainly been true in our case.

As a freelancer, I have been fascinated and appalled in equal measure by the total disregard big firms have shown for customer service; in contrast, the smaller removals company we went with stood out in the opposite direction. They were thorough, friendly and helpful, which made a pleasant change.

I have long-since regretted falling for the line that it would be easier and more efficient to use our estate agent’s in-house conveyancing service. As our sale went through, we had an endless series of delays and miscommunications, even between different teams within the same firm. Information wasn’t passed on, deadlines came and went, nobody thought to check up that documents, however important, once sent had actually been received, and so on…

We survived the experience, and managed to move, largely thanks to one dedicated individual at our sellers’ agency, who repeatedly went above and beyond to get things done, even where it wasn’t strictly her job to do so.

Now, we are at the mercy of BT, trying to get broadband set up in our new house. This ought to be straightforward, yet somehow it is still dragging on weeks after we moved in. And nobody can apparently give us a straight answer about what is going on. We can’t get to speak to anybody apart from call centre staff in India. They are lovely, and unfailingly polite, but completely unaware of the situation on the ground in the UK and can only repeat what they are told by the technical teams – a series of changing stories about faults on the exchange, mistakes when the order was first put through, etc etc – and issue a series of promises of “updates” in a couple ofdays time. And it takes endless automated menus, and hold music before you even get that far. There is no way of contacting anybody in actual authority. And meanwhile, BT are taking our money, not providing the service we’re paying for, and depriving me of the means to make my own living. I have no idea how long it will take to resolve this situation and no confidence that anything is actually being done.

So as not just to be ranting, what can we freelancers learn from the big firms’ mistakes? And what could they learn from us, the removers, or the one helpful estate agent?

1 Be available and responsive! Make it possible for clients to contact you. Seems obvious, but apparently, it isn’t.
2 Be up front with clients about any issues ahead of time. Likewise.
3 People and firms who provide good customer service are remembered in a much better light than those who don’t…
4 If you care about your work it really does show!

If I were to model myself on the lawyers we’ve dealt with, never mind the stunningly incompetent BT, I wouldn’t last long in business. It’s incredible that these things need saying. The way we have been, and are still being, fobbed off is a disgrace. But hey, if I want tips on customer service now, I can start by thinking “what would BT do?” – and then do the opposite.

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About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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One Response to Learning from the big firms’ mistakes… or what good freelancers can teach BT.

  1. I sympathise, Rachel! We had a similar saga when we moved down from Scotland 12 years ago. A joyrider had crashed into and obliterated the telegraph pole outside our house out in the sticks and we were without phone or internet for 3 weeks, with very limited mobile connection to boot. It was a nightmare and BT obviously haven’t smartened up their act since then. Hold on in there and make sure you write and complain once you’re all up and running again – they need to be hit where it hurts (in their pockets) and if claiming compensation is one way of doing that, perhaps that’s what it will take? Hope it all gets sorted soon.

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