Is Customer Service Hell a UK problem?

I’m finding it quite difficult to breathe right now. My hands are shaking, my vision’s blurred and I feel like wanting to end it all. I’ve just got off the phone with my broadband supplier’s customer service department.

I don’t want to turn this into a specific bitch about them, although I’m more than happy for you to know that it’s Tiscali who took up 50 minutes of my afternoon, transferred me six times, had me call back three and then told me my account had been inexplicably cancelled several weeks ago. But it’s a bigger problem than Tiscali – having done a quick straw poll in the office, I found only one person who had their broadband moved between addresses successfully first time (BT, since you ask).

Do these companies not have processes? If I was a broadband supplier, I’d assume that eventually one of my customers would move house, and I’d work out a plan for what to do in that eventuality.

And I’ve got a broken iPod. I sent it to be fixed, and it returned decidedly non-fixed. So I called their customer services and spent another 45 minutes for them to establish it was probably a problem with one of the files on my computer. After using the online diagnostic tools, I hit help, which took me to a dark corner of the internet, reserved for support stuff. And that page told me that clicking help would take me to a help page. Except it didn’t. It took me to a page telling me that clicking help would take me to a help page. Can we say ‘FAIL’?

This isn’t just a bitch at Apple and Tiscali, I promise. It’s more to do with the fact that customer support is SO woeful in the tech industry. You talk to people who don’t understand the product they’re troubleshooting. There’s no clear remit for different departments, so you get caught in the endless circle of transferring between them. Online support isn’t sufficient, and when your problem is inevitably not fixed online, there’s no indication as to how you go about talking to a real person.

I don’t know if it’s a UK-based problem. Maybe in North America you call someone, explain the problem to them and then they let you get off the phone whilst they sort it out for you. Maybe then they drop you a quick email saying ‘hey, thanks for the call – sorry we screwed up. But we’ve fixed it now, and since it was our fault in the first place, we’ve credited your account. And sent some brownies’.

So, I’m sorry, readers. I’m sorry that you’ve borne the brunt of my frustration. But let something good come out of this, yes? Say no to crappy customer service. Stop buying the products. Unsubscribe. Find someone better to relieve you of your hard earned money.

Because you’re worth it.

Susi Weaser is the editor of Shiny Shiny, and is sick of moronic customer service

Susi Weaser


  • Agree with Be being a great exception. Found them to be fantastic when setting up my broadband (including talking me through a problem I had with getting it all working), and also good when I cancelled it (due to moving).
    Not as cheap as some but well worth it.

  • I’m with Tiscali. After an initial signing up series of fiascos, I’m still with Tiscali. They’re pretty cheap (£13 a month) and the service is fine as long as you don’t have to call their 0871 number!

  • Don’t even go there with Tiscali they should be on watchdog ever day they just don’t care who they hurt. I too have been left shaking with anger 6 months on my woes with them have still not been sorted and don’t say leave them it was leaving them that started it all in the first place.

  • I used to be with Pipex, who are/were Tiscali, who use to be GX Networks, who used to be another, and they bought Nildram, and some others, and kept changing their name. And so it goes on. Pipex, with all their names and takeovers’ were awful at issuing the MAC code so I could leave them (don’t even ask about domains and email as that is via CIX). I transferred to Zen Internet, who are not the cheapest in the world, but they offer decent helpline guys, endless troubleshooting/update mails, Apple Mac support etc. And they don’t faff about changing their name every bloody year.
    Believe me, transferring domains and providers is WORSE than actually moving house.

  • Cosby – weirdly enough, I signed up with them yesterday, and so far, they’ve been great. I’ve already had 3 texts updating me on the status, and they’re going to connect me tomorrow! Hope this service lasts!

  • To add insult to injury you were probaly having to call them on their expensive premium rate 0871 customer service number.

  • I recently moved broadband provider from BT to O2. BT messed up my first request for a MAC code and then told me the first person had given me the wrong instructions. The second person gave me the code immediately. I rang O2 and they were amazing. I remembered them from a few years back as being awful, but they do seem to have got things together. I gave them the MAC code, they set up the transfer and kept me informed by text EVERY step of the way. The broadband transferred exactly when they said it would, router turned up on time etc. They’ve been excellent. Good customer service is out there, shame it’s not more common place.

  • I’m currently having almost an identical experience on the other side of the world (NZ) and being sent to local and offshore call centres including North America.

    They are all rubbish and although I hate getting so cross with people on the phone they don’t do much to even give the impression that they are listening or helping.

  • Ha ha not just UK guess where we are sending the help desks now ? Bangalore :)

    I worked in a support centre for 3 years and all I can say is ” pay peanuts get monkeys”

  • I think customer service is getting worse, not better. Weird, vbecause you’d think they’d want to keep hold of our business!

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