BT’s social failure drives customers away

You'll know that consumer facing organisations are investing shed loads in social media. Right? But how intelligent is this investment? Are they even getting the basics right?

Thinking or just acting?

This is the number one differentiator in my book between the success stories and the also-rans. There are those who truly 'think' social. They have reviewed operations from the ground up in light of the age of social media. Every aspect of business is reviewed systematically through the lens of social media, and strategy is developed on this basis. And whilst they are to be celebrated, this post is about one company that has visibly #failed in my eyes in recent weeks.

BT's woeful social inadequacy

BT Ireland logo (2005 - Present)
Image via Wikipedia

BT is the UK's number 1 Internet Service Provider, yet a May 2011 upgrade to the firmware of its customers' home routers left Linux users unable to connect to it.

And in case you didn't know, Android, the world's fastest growing operating system for Smartphones, is based on Linux. So BT does not currently provide me Internet service for my Android phone, leaving me and other customers in my position having to use the more expensive 3G data networks than home broadband. Disgraceful.

But this isn't a blog about ISPs. This is a blog about social media and customer relationships and business performance. Enter BT's support forum (at

The specific post about this technical fault runs to 20 pages already, and was going nowhere fast. No resolution from BT. So I took to Twitter and moaned a bit, and ended up in conversation with Dinah Greek, a journalist for ComputerActive, one of the UK's most popular computer and Internet related consumer publications. To its credit, BT was also monitoring Twitter (and I had helpfully hashtagged #BT and the name of its router #homehub). To its discredit, all @btcare could do was point me to the 20-page thread where no help from BT was forthcoming. And then go silent.

And this is where it gets completely bonkers. If I'm being kind, it's where one gets taken back in time to a pre-social age where support forums were the be-all and end-all of interacting with customers online.

You see I posted my frustrations to the support community, thanked Dinah for helping us resolve this problem and invited readers of the thread to get in touch with her. I provided her email address as she had invited me to do via a public Twitter exchange.

The next thing I know, that part of my contribution is deleted by an admin, and I was furious. Another member of the forum pointed out the deletion, and then guess what?... the admin deleted that too!! Unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like this since the pre-social dark ages. In another post to the thread, I then pointed the BT admins to the Tweet in which Dinah had given me permission to publish her email address to the forum, and this post got deleted too. Double gobsmackers Batman.

I then receive an email pointing me to the "private messages" left for me by the community's admin. Here's the main parts of these messages:

Hi psheld,

I wanted to let you know that I have edited your recent post in the thread about the Ubuntu [Linux] isssue. The elements I have removed break section 7.1e of our Terms of Use:

7.1 You agree not to use the Site (or any part of it) to:

e) solicit participation in public discussion, debate, comment or activity outside this Site;


I also want to let you know that discussion of moderator actions is also not allowed on our boards as perm term 6.3h -

h) Discussions of moderator actions on the boards. If you need to comment on a moderator action, please private message any administrator/moderator;


I know this is a frustrating issue for you, but we are aware and working towards implementing a fix. Any updates regarding timescales for this will be posted on the thread.

You are welcome to post in the community, but please bear in mind the terms and guidelines for any future posts.

Thanks for your help with this. Kerry

So social media BT-style requires that one not solicit public discussion or debate or activity beyond BT's website. And you're not allowed to discuss BT's partipation in this conversation either. Wow, sounds like one of those repressive regimes we're seeing so much of on the news of late (without wishing to be flippant about what such regimes must be like).

How long will BT's customers put up with this behaviour? I for one have decided not to participate on this community ever again (apart from one last cheeky post linking here, until it's deleted that is), and to change my ISP as soon as my current contract expires.

So rather than culture great customer relations, BT's social media policy has had quite the opposite effect. Well done.

3 thoughts on “BT’s social failure drives customers away

  1. It's shocking. I am not going to make any excuses for BT and don't even get me started on their network quality, but this highlights another issue that social customer relations often has a challenge in scaling: hence the action rather than thought that you have alluded to.

  2. Thanks Ged, and thanks to everyone who has RTd my corresponding tweets. I received a call from BT this afternoon to arrange a call with Warren Buckley, BT's Managing Director of Customer Service. Will let you know how it goes.

  3. Nice article. Have you ever tried posting at tumblr, they will deleite your whole blog in its entirety if you use a tag word that is in their ban list for anything financial related or money related, very socialist/communist centric. They claim to be anti spam and anti commercial but there were articles on how to make money with them, how on earth that is possible I have no idea, is it senseless and junk content on there anyway, no one with any respect or common sense could use that site for anything serious other than for posting silly little posts with photos.

    A total waste of resources energy wise and more.

    Only in Europe would the public be forced to finance a private company and receive no benefits back. That is us in the UK paying for BT to rollout fibre tha tisnt even real fibre. Real fibre is at Tb/ps or at least Gb/ps.

    Of course the fast and reliable services are reserved for the elite and businesses in this country. We are able to get up to 7terabits per second if you are the correct organisation or business. The point being BT still ar enot rolling out real fibre that in its nature has no limitations for speed or distance. Only a perverted form of fibre would you get from the UK from a company like BT. We are still light years behind third world countries in terms of technological advancement and infrastructure. (a little exagerration but true) The technology exists but still is not being used, yet we have other neighbouring countries that provide this to all Internet users. We want REAL FIBRE.

    To be honest I could not care for social community support, it is a very cheap way to fob off people that pay for a service but are not delivered one. It saves the companies only a few million or hundred thousand a year but they still prefer social networking community support than actual real support. It is actually possible to get some support from BT though, unlike companies that make it far more difficult, such as Microsoft and Skype that has no support at all, not even for business customers. It annoys me intensly to visit a website contact page only to find that after going through all troubleshootingng, common FAQs, etc that no actual support or contact exists, they may as well not even bother having a website. Multi billion aire companies operating this way is an indicator of what is all wrong in this world. Why we tolerate it is because there is no real competition and we have no choice, we have no democracy for that matter either but that is another thing. What we generally have is either a monopoly or corporatist relations with government from multinations that achieve the same things for their agenda.

    Why are tax payers forced to pay for BT Infinity and rollout of broadband in rural areas....remind me again why BT do not have to invest into their own infrastructure, why can we not now own it?

    Why has law passed to allow the government permit private water companies to also steal our water pipes from our own private land, we live in insane times! The law allowed the private water companies pass owership of water pipes found in private property from private individuals to the company. How do we tolerate this maddness! If this is not outright blatent open corporatism what is.

    Sorry if this is not as specifically related to your post but I think it is related to the same area of support and customer service.

What do you think?...