Stepping back in time

My neighbour recently had a fence put up. I admired it as I cycled past. About two hours later once I’d got home, realised my phone didn’t work, and spent hours on the phone to BT, I wanted to burn it down. My neighbour had done such a thorough job in erecting his fence he’d cut through the phone line to the rest of the village.

Not to worry, BT said, it’ll be fixed within three days. That was three working days so gave them until the following Wednesday. Nothing happened. I’d forlornly pick up the phone in the hope that I’d be greeted with more than silence. I wasn’t. Ringing BT was pointless. I did discover if you ring in the morning you get a British call centre. Call after lunch it’s Indian. But whoever I called just said it was going to be fixed in a couple of days, only with a different accent.

By the Friday, our ninth day with no phone I rang BT and was told the engineers were working on it. I walked down the road to be greeted by… absolutely nothing. When I suggested BT must have invisible engineers, the woman in India agreed with me. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so irritating. Fully wound up, I emailed Warren Buckley, BT’s MD for customer service. He, or whoever answers his emails, replied within minutes and astonishingly things started to move at a slightly less glacial pace.

The problem was the physical line is run by BT Openreach, a separate company to BT. And although I was supposedly being helped by BT’s executive engineering team, Openreach just lied to them too. It was farcical. Eventually they started work 13 days after the initial break. Service was finally restored two days later.

So what have I learnt following my 15 days with no phone line? Three things: If you want action, don’t bother calling Mumbai or wherever BT’s call centre is, go straight to the top man. Don’t believe Openreach; they talk nonsense. And life without the Internet was bizarrely relaxing.

I had to go to my mother’s house to get internet access during the day for my work. And as I could do nothing in the evenings, all I had as a pastime was watching TV. No Amazon, no eBay, no story research. In fact just like life used to be when there were red telephone boxes everywhere.


About James Foxall

My 25-year career has been built on writing words that audiences want to read. Those words have been clear, concise, and imbued with the personality of the organisation they were shaped for. They’ve appeared in specialist magazines and national newspapers as well as marketing materials for commercial organisations. I was motoring editor at the News of the World for seven years and I still write a regular column for the Daily Telegraph. More recently as companies become publishers I’ve transferred my editorial skills to commercial organisations. My entire career has been in the automotive industry; my passion for effective communication is still rivalled only by my love of cars and motor sport. View all posts by James Foxall

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