Ballad of Barclaycard

Katherine’s a good friend of mine, and we were recently talking about the effect of disengagement on customer service. Katherine told me the tale of her ongoing Barclaycard experience. I shan’t go into all the details, but the story is a catalogue of lost paperwork, waiting for the contact centre to answer, failed promises on call backs, and a breakdown of trust. At one point while Barclaycard were searching for (another) lost debit mandate, Katherine was advised by them to pay her monthly credit card bills twice, just to make sure she didn’t incur any debit interest! As far as I know – the matter is not yet resolved.

Regular readers may know that when I recently heard of a similar story involving BT, a short song helped a friend and BT customer to a swifter resolution. Who knows what will happen this time? Are you listening Barclaycard?

Verse 1:

I sent you my debit mandate, and you lost it

I sent another, then another, to be sure

Then you said that I should pay you twice

While you try to find it

So I won’t incur any interest

Are you sure?


I’m lost in the call centre of incompetence

You’re a big company can it really be that hard

I’m asking you to reinstate my debit mandate

I’m going off you very quickly Barclaycard

Verse 2:

Now the months go by and still you keep me waiting

I pay you manually, don’t trust you any more

I dread to think what you are doing to my credit rating

With all these errors, it’s probably gone through the floor


I’m lost in the call centre of incompetence

You’re a big company can it really be that hard

I’m asking you to reinstate my debit mandate

I’m going off you very quickly Barclaycard

Stop Doing Dumb Things Awards – The Odd One Out Round

OK contestants, a little fun for you now. Which of these is the odd one out?

1 – Ocado

2 – South Eastern Trains

3 – Boris Johnson

4 – BT

The answer is – Boris Johnson, he’s the only one not busy doing dumb things to customers and people this week.

Boris was at BASE London yesterday talking about exciting plans for cycling in London, new lower emission buses, and a sustainable Olympics for 2012 and beyond. He’s an interesting and entertaining speaker who is clearly passionate about developing London as a sustainable city. Good work.

The others?

Ocado has previously made a big noise about how 100% of their fleet of delivery vans all run on environmentally friendly diesel. That is until a photographer spotted the vans filling up on regular diesel and sent the evidence to The Independent newspaper. “Yes it’s true that in London our vans do use regular diesel”, a spokesperson for the company confessed when confronted. Well just say so then eh? Transparency pays, credibility dented.

Southeastern Trains has been spotted selling first class tickets for a train service without first class seating. A £9.90 premium on the London to Dover Priory buys you….well nothing as it turns out, as there is no first class service on the train! Although there is a slower train with first class seating which takes you from London to the coast in almost an hour longer. You couldn’t make it up. The story expands in embarrassing detail here, the attempted justification for this dumb things is hilarious–firstclass-seats-1983916.html

BT are in the news this week. Staff were asked by their union to vote on a strike over their latest pay offer. The pay offer is 2%. BT’s CEO is “showing restraint” by opting for a pay rise of 2% himself. That will see his salary go up to £867,000. Well done. Do the same as the workers, we like that. So, I wonder when BT will announce a staff bonus for all employees in excess of 100% of salary? Yup, Mr Livingston is “showing restraint” by trousering a £1.2m bonus at the same time as insisting that staff be satisfied with a 2% rise in pay. Of course there will be arguments that bonuses are not the same as pay rises, we get that. But in the league of do as I say, not as I do, this dumb thing tops the lot.  And please, don’t get me started on service. I wonder how my mate who had to endure 8 days without broadband service as BT struggled to deliver a repair service feels about this?

So – that’s the awards handed out, or is it? If you’ve spotted anyone doing dumb things to customers this week, please let us know.

Poor Customer Service? Time for a Song!

BT Broadband Song Tombstone
BT Broadband Song Tombstone

As many of you know, I was recently inspired to write a song about the lamentable customer service BT was providing to Darren, one of their broadband customers. The song proved to be a big hit, attracting much more attention than I anticipated. According to the BT customer service team, it also helped Darren in his quest to get his service restored (though he had to endure nine days without service first). The good people at BT Care got in touch – firstly to say:

Just posted a comment on your video about your friend’s broadband problem. We would love to get this sorted for him, could you ask him to drop @BTCare a tweet or send an email with details of the problem and we will get on to it ASAP. If you ask him to put YouTube in the title of the email I will know it is him.

I would really like to get this sorted for him. Thanks

Then after they had been in touch with their customer and started to sort things out they contacted me again:

It looks like we have been in touch with your friend and are getting things sorted for him. Thanks so much for your help with this.

I really appreciated the way BT Care engaged with me – good work.

Their reaction was a marked contrast to Ian Livingston, BT group CEO. He saw the video and called me three times in one day to remonstrate with me about the song. He was aggressive towards me and made veiled threats of legal action. The song was tongue in cheek – and I don’t think there was anything in it that warranted BT taking legal action. I discussed the matter with friends and the general agreement was ‘the song served its purpose – maybe you should take it down?’

Judging by the way Ian Livingston had reacted I had clearly caused offence, albeit unintentionally. As my friends said, the purpose of the song was to help Darren, so to that extent, mission accomplished. I removed the video from Youtube.

Ian Livingston contacted me again the following day asking

Can you let me know what you decided to do about it all as I can¹t see anything?

I replied confirming I’d already taken the video down. He responded again – here are some of his final words to me (and though I clearly wound him up I was at the time a BT customer and shareholder):


Your song had nothing to do with Darren getting sorted.  It was picked up before we saw your song. I had got it from his email to me which as I dealt with almost immediately as I do with all customer emails despite the assertions in your song….Customer complaints have reduced by 50% over the last 18 months so perhaps we are making some progress and the RFT (edit – right first time) programme is delivering although we have more to do….For someone who prides themselves in engagement skills, you clearly struggle.