It’s been an odd week not being able to pick up the phone and having a chat with Georgie because she has had no phone line.
I returned from my weekend in Wales and saw her tweets about there being an electrical fault and that an engineer wouldn’t get to the small village of Charlton Musgrove until Thursday. Thursday??? What kind of customer service is that? I don’t know if you are familiar with Charlton Musgrove? Well it’s tiny. Georgie said in one of her tweets that there were residents who had no access to mobile telecommunications or motor vehicles and couldn’t just dash out and phone to report their fault, so I made contact with BT 151 who advised me to phone BT Openreach on Monday at 7am and report the whole village was out. I also phoned the police to advise them that a whole village was without telephones and could they pay passing attention.
Monday 7am. Mr BT Openreach said that Mr BT 151 was wrong and that each customer had to phone their phone provider and tell them they had no phone. Those phone providers would then advise BT Openreach and it would all be logged. Again I explained that it wasn’t the case of just jumping in the car to find a good place to phone from a mobile as some of them were old and frail with no mobile phones or vehicles. Mr BT Openreach said that even though I had given him the postcode and the name of the village that was not enough to report the fault as each customer has to phone their phone provider themselves. Are you getting frustrated yet? I thanked Mr BT Openreach for his time and fired off an email to the Chief Exec.
Being a Solutioneer I also phoned BBC Somerset to ask them to put out an alert that phone lines were down in Charlton Musgrove and could they advise their listeners that there was a problem. Thanks for the shout out BBC Somerset! I settled down and rang BT HQ and was put through to a very nice man called Stuart, who listened to what I had to say who explained that yes sadly it was up to the individual customers to phone their providers and their providers would call BT Openreach. Whilst this wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear as it was coming from someone in HQ it had to be right! I asked him to provide me with all the phone companies and their phone numbers. He said that was doable but it would take him 1o minutes or so and do you know what? Within 10 minutes or so I had a text saying he had tried to call but couldn’t get through (irony) and here were all the numbers.
Have you ever tried to get through to a phone provider? Well I wasn’t going to be on hold for 15 minutes each time so I tweeted them and wasn’t that surprised to only get a few responses. Each response said their customer needs to report their fault and no I can’t report a fault for a certain postcode in certain village.
I phoned the Town Council and Somerset County Council to advise them if they had not already heard. I spoke to a very nice lady called Sally who was appreciative of my efforts. Then I got a phone call from the Exec office and could I call him back which I did but he was away from his desk. I spoke to Sally again and she told me that the MP was on the case. Clearly he didn’t think it was acceptable for a whole village to be phoneless for the best part of a week and knowing the make up of his constituents he would know the vulnerabilities of them.
I eventually spoke to Mr Exec the next day and he was very apologetic at not being available the previous day. I told him I was disappointed that Mr BT 151 had given me the advice to call Mr BT Openreach and that Mr BT Openreach had told me that Mr BT 151 gave me the wrong advice, I told him that I was disillusioned with BT not being able to get out for the best part of a week to look at their equipment and I told him I was annoyed that despite reporting a whole village without a working phoneline Mr BT Openreach didn’t consider this to be a major incident.
Mr Exec said that this was being looked into and in reality Mr BT Openreach should have dealt with my request as it was a whole village afftected and therefore a major incident, I said it was a critical incident but we parted on good terms and I nicely suggested that some additional training was given to each department about what the other departments do. Cheeky I know!
The reason why I got so het up about this was because I know how much older & gentlefolk rely on their telephone for communication and how frightening it is to need to use the telephone and the phone doesn’t work. Just imagine if they had needed to dial 999, or someone urgently needed to contact them.
I was able to report a fault from the comfort of my own home but what is the contingency plan? Surely someone at BT should have seen that a whole village was out? Surely someone from BT should have taken on board that a phone call saying the whole village was out would invoke some kind of disaster recovery plan.
I hope that things change.
Do one thing for me and any older gentlefolk you might care about. Ask them who their phone providers are and make a note of the fault line number and account number so that if you can’t get hold of your older & gentlefolk then at least you will be able to get hold of their phone providers who will then contact Mr BT Openreach, because until something changes there is no way of reporting a major incident.