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News : BT Shareholders Rebuke Board over Customer Service Failings
July 16, 2014 -- BT chief executive Gavin Patterson faced angry calls from shareholders to improve the company’s customer service operation at the its AGM yesterday.
Retail investors lined up to denounce how the company responds to technical faults and billing problems in ways they variously branded "impossible", "utterly useless" and "not good enough".
The brickbats flew towards the BT board after Mr Patterson admitted the company had failed to meet its targets this year for improving the rate at which its staff resolve problems at the first time of asking.
He said: "It has gone up one and a half percentage points in the last 12 months but that is not as much as we wanted, it’s not what we set out to do at the beginning of the year. So that is disappointing."
In mitigation, Mr Patterson cited the storms and floods over winter that brought down telegraph lines and damaged exchange equipment in the south of England, causing a long repair backlog. He also admitted "self-inflicted" wounds, however, when BT customer services failed to meet demand for its new sports television channels last summer.
Mr Patterson, who was facing the BT AGM as chief executive for the first time, denied suggestions that customer service was suffering as a result of the company’s heavy spending on football rights to challenge BSkyB in the pay-TV market. He promised matters will improve over the next year with backing from the board in making customer service BT’s "number one priority".
More call centre staff will be brought on shore from centres in India, more engineers are being hired and internal technology and communication between departments is being improved, BT told shareholders.
The latest figures from the communications regulator, Ofcom, showed BT was the most-complained-about pay-TV provider in the first three months of the year. It came second to EE in broadband complaints.
Sir Michael Rake, BT’s chairman, repeatedly apologised as shareholders stood to air individual and broader customer service grievances. Sir Michael said: "Progress has been made, but it’s not enough."
He brushed off questions about allegations of BT involvement in military and government surveillance programmes, based on documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Sir Michael said the use of BT services by governments was purely a political matter.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Involve Staff
More Editorial From BT
BT is provider of communications services and solutions for everybody in the UK and for corporate customers in the rest of Europe, with global reach through partnerships. BT provides services for all UK customers, network services and solutions for communication companies, worldwide business solutions, internet services, and advanced research and technology.
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014