When did Customer Service get so Inflexible & Loyalty so Unrewarded?

by Katie on August 23, 2013

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It really isn’t my intention to get into ranty mode on a Friday but its seems that BT can wind up even the calmest of souls. Tweet about BT and just see the amount of responses that you get from fellow sufferers who have tried to remain loyal but end up thwarted, dismayed and frustrated with the service or generally, overpaying for the (lack of) broadband service. Call is sheer business stupidity* (*read as inflexibility)  but it appears that customer loyalty is not valued in this day and age and what business can afford to throw that away?. It isn’t only a BT thing but there we are. In Cameron’s Britain with the business ethos to go the extra mile and champion retail fairness and transparency, it seems that for big businesses, the opposite is true. The customer can bloody well lump it and put up with it.

The trend appears to be for businesses and their competitors to form a ‘collective’ oligopoly and match each others deals – Re phone companies, all espousing lengthy contracts and trying to hook NEW customers. Loyalty is not rewarded despite what they claim.

And what IS this with 18 month contracts telecommunications people? I’m looking at you too, O2. We’re still in an unstable economy where people may hit redundancy, unemployment, sell their homes, move to other locations for work (even internationally) or even die! Personally, I don’t know what I’m doing in the next 18 days never mind months. Unrealistic lengthy contracts have no benefit to the consumer and are becoming an industry standard where there is no alternative. Offered simply to impart higher cost deals over a longer period, making the deal appear more attractive than it is until the customer sits down and works it out. Just like furniture retailing. And that’s not a good thing. Telecommunications providers are becoming the new buy-it-on-the-never-never.

MY STORY (so far)

I’ve been a loyal BT customer for more than 20+ years. With the increasing usage of broadband service for web, blog posts, research etc and the glut of marketing information appearing through my door *(more of that later) re BT Infinity, I thought I’d look into this new wizzy broadband speed & service. I should say, the main instigator was the fact that BT constantly keeps charging me for going over my current BT broadband package bandwidth. (Hello! As this has been happening for over a year, perhaps someone could have advised me to increase this instead of milking me for additional monies monthly?). Frustrated with the more than twice daily unplugging and re-booting of my 5 year old modem as the broadband disappears, I eventually succumbed to the dreaded 2-3 hour wrangle that involves updating or leaving any broadband service.

And here’s the rub. I asked about the 6 month Free Totally Unlimited Broadband package via BT’s customer service area quoting the numerous leaflets sent to my home. NB. This is only for new NOT upgraded (ie. loyal) consumers. Note the irony, here. Loyalty goes unrewarded and there is zero flexibility from a business that provides a service. Plus, importantly, *I still haven’t managed to locate the small print where it states this on the marketing information, which is beginning to feel a tad in the realms of the dreaded P.P.I. claims.

Secondly, despite the fact I’m paying more now for a very weak and stunted broadband service than I would do for the spangly new Broadband Infinity, to get access to this service,  I have to take out a new 18 month contract. Are you seeing where I’m going with this? There’s a Catch 22 where loyalty is not rewarded and actually forcing a consumer to another brand/service provider for better deals with initial 6 month free periods.

I asked, could I perhaps have a 12 month contract?  “No. The Infinity Broadband only offers 18 month contracts.” This is repeated constantly till yours truly,  BT consumer, almost tears out hair with frustration whilst trying to reason.  Me: Yes, but I’m paying more now and I’m out of contract and trying to remain loyal to BT. Plus, you have all my data for years and can see I’m overpaying for a service that isn’t suitable? THEM: “To take advantage of the new BT Infinity, you would have to take out a new 18 month contract. AAAGHHH!  Me: “So what’s in it for me, then, if you’re inflexible (and I’m being reasonable)? What’s to stop me from upping and leaving to a competitor and taking advantage of their ‘new customer’ packages? Nothing it appears.

I’m writing this readers, to champion consumer rights and to highlight that consumer loyalty is not rewarded by big businesses in communications, banking & energy whilst ‘flipping’ to competitors is. Ludicrous, as a marketer I know that it costs 3 x as much to a business to gain new customers as to retain existing. This story also serves to highlight that a huge business’s inflexibility may well be their downfall. Us loyal consumers, we have LONG memories. Or is British business becoming all about driving down service to the lowest minimum over the longest period while exacerbating consumers? The message is clear  – put up and shut up.

Just maybe UK CEOs should take my words of frustration and warning and take heed. Value your loyal consumers. Current rigidity is causing them  to ‘flip’ (out).

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