TalkTalk, customer service and how to suck at the internet

So this is going to be one of those typical "I have a blog, and so I'm going to complain about things" post right? Well yes, but I'm not normally one to write something like this, however I'm extremely fed up of dealing with it.

TalkTalk provides my parent's internet connection, and to be quite frank they're shockingly bad at it. The connection is often glacially slow (they were unable to use iPlayer until a couple of months ago because TalkTalk had some cap that they'd forgotten about, but thats another story) and once every couple of months the connection will simply die. My parent's home is in a fairly rural area, so I'm not expecting a lighting fast connection, however I do expect at least 100% uptime - it's not the middle of nowhere. Now of course, there'd be no problem if TalkTalk were able to fix this quickly and efficiently but - this is a telecomms company - they can't.

Here's what happened just the other day (and I had a mini Twitter rant about it): The connection is down for an hour or so, so my Dad rings up TalkTalk to get it sorted. He's put on hold for about 30 minutes while they "run some tests". No idea why they can't note down his number, run the tests and call him back - actually that's not true, I do know, TalkTalk is charging something like 30p a minute. Anyway, once he gets put back onto an actual person he's told that there's no problem with the connection at all. We've had no internet connection for about 2 hours by this point - it's definitely NOT WORKING! The call centre then has the cheek to ask for £120 to call out a BT engineer (who they're blaming for the problem) - £120 for a problem with their service, that we're paying for! TalkTalk seem to think that by constantly blaming BT for the problem, they can get away with it. And of course, if you ring BT they'll simply blame TalkTalk...

Anyway, my Dad gives up at this point and phones back later. TalkTalk has no record about the previous phone call... He goes through the whole "running tests" thing for the second time, and is again told that he has to pay for a BT callout (though it costs less this time weirdly). Okay, fine, we'll get a BT engineer out. When can he come? "Oh not until Tuesday" TUESDAY?!? THAT'S 4 DAYS AWAY!

Luckily for my parents the problem fixed itself on Sunday, so my Dad wasn't left high and dry (he runs his business from home). I'm simply amazed that TalkTalk treated us so badly - the total denial that there was any problem, the cheek of charging £120 for a problem with their service, the complete lack of records (they were asking about our router - a router which was provided by TalkTalk only a few months ago), not being able to send an engineer for 4 days. It's quite incredible that they can get away with this, so that's why I decided to call them on it in this blog.

I emailed my Dad about this post and he came up with a few questions for TalkTalk:

  • When phoning to register a fault, why is it necessary to be held on the line for at least 30 minutes each time while they go on and off line for several minutes at a time, "running tests". i.e. why can't they just note down the fault, allow me to hang up and then call back when they have something to say. If an engineer is required then that can be arranged then.
  • Why does it take 4 days to get an engineer to call from first reporting the fault?
  • Do they not have a policy of refunds & compensation while services are discontinued? Their call centres don't seem to know and suggest calling a different number.
  • Their call centre operatives don't seem to care or believe it's TalkTalk's responsibility when a fault occurs. They seem more concerned at getting my agreement to pay BT's engineers call out fee should the fault be caused within the house than accepting that the problem is at their end. My contract is with TalkTalk, not BT, so why do they give the impression that it's not TalkTalk's problem.
  • Why don't they keep a database of previous calls and a record of caller's equipment etc - every time you need to go through a whole series of questions giving the same answer every time. For instance, what router am I using? Well if they looked at their records they would see that it's the one they supplied a few months ago, the last time I had problems with the broadband.

For the record, my parents are probably now going to switch to BT. Good job TalkTalk...

UPDATE (20/09/2011): My dad emailed me an update which I've posted below

"TalkTalk engineer turned up this morning (interestingly he quoted £50 if they found a fault in our house). As I knew all along, there wasn't as we have renewed all the telephone wiring, sockets and router already only for BT to point out that the fault all along was at TalkTalk's end due to the speed being throttled on some computer somewhere.

So having established that there is no fault at our end, the TalkTalk engineer has escalated the fault to a higher level (admitting that the BT engineer should have been called out in the first place!)

This is all despite the broadband coming back on on Sunday!"