Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Talk Talk Broadband Problem

Been meaning to write this update, but things happened fast and I was away visiting family.

Last Thursday we were contacted by Talk Talk customer services, a very helpful person called Susan. She advised that the broadband service would go live on Thursday 31/8 and the relevant documentation and equipment would be sent out soon.

As luck would have it, I was visiting Mum in Liverpool this weekend and the broadband modem arrived on Saturday morning. Only slight problem was that it was addressed to the right address but the wrong person. Fortunately, Mum's postie is a conscientious bloke and rang the bell to double-check if it was for her.

I waited until Tuesday to see if the Username and password would arrive, but no such luck. So I decided to do as much of the installation as possible before leaving, thinking it would make Mum's job easier later in the week. The installation process was relatively smooth and I think even the most technically challenged person would be able to get through it.

The only slight hiccup was a failure to install the modem drivers first time, but a second attempt worked perfectly. Then, to my surprise, the modem actually managed to connect to the broadband service and it was clear the line was active for ADSL. So I called an automated helpline to retrieve the missing username and password and with a bit of trial and error, it is all working fine.

What trial and error? Well the helpline reads out in a nice female voice the password, which is case sensitive. But it doesn't tell you which letters are upper or lower, nor did it make any attempt, perhaps through use of the phonetic alphabet, to clarify potentially confusing letters. The only problem we had was an "n" or was it an "m"? "November" or "Mike" would have made it much easier.

So 18 weeks almost to the day to get the "free" service up and running. I haven't told Mum about all the complaints online about the actual quality of the service now it is working - we'll just see how that pans out.

Universal Music backs ad-funded download service

The online music world has changed again this week with the planned launch of a new music download service called SpiralFrog. This new service will offer totally legal music downloads for free and will monetise the service through advertising. It will be fascinating to watch the reaction of other major labels and services like iTunes. Not forgetting how this will impact in other areas such as movie and game downloads.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Mobile Blogging

As you can see from the photos below, I have been playing with a new toy, Sony Ericsson K800i. This fantastic new 3G phone came with a link to blogger pre-installed. Just take a picture with the awesome 3 megapixel camera and select "Publish to Blog" - add a title and caption and within 30 seconds your visual masterpiece is live on the net. I have to say all the friends I have shown it to were blown away that you could do it so easily - hats off to Sony Ericsson and Blogger for making it so easy to use!

Its Summer, but doesnt feel like it on top of Mount Snowdon

1065m above sea level

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Out on the town with the boys

Barry, Shaun and Mike at the Fiveways pub in Liverpool

Sophie and her Nana

In Liverpool this weekend staying with my mum.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Daniel joining in with all the fun

As soon as Daniel saw the picture of Sophie he had to have one too


Testing this mobile blogging thing


Sophie looking very happy to see her daddy :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Click on my Google link pleeeeze

Just noticed that my Google Ad Sense ad at the top of this page is an ad for "Free Broadband" and guess who the lucky company bidding for this term is? You guessed it Talk Talk!

So click on the link pleeze and I will at least get some cash out of them

Irony, I love it...

The Ever Increasing Power of Bloggers

Working in the internet world is fascinating, watching new technologies, new ideas being born, growing, in most cases receiving broad adoption and occasionally crashing and burning.

Today I was reminded how powerful the internet generally has become and specifically the impact blogging can have. It is sad to see that some people, who really really need to know what it can do, are failing miserably to understand it's potential and in this case the part blogging can play in demanding and receiving accountability from out public servants.

What on earth am I rambling on about? Well it's simple, an experienced blogger and erstwhile colleague of mine, Tim Ireland is a waging a war of words with his local MP Anne Milton and the alleged actions of some of her campaign staff. I am not even going to try and explain further, just direct you over to Tim's site Bloggerheads.

Before you go, I will wish Tim well in his battle, it looks like right is on his side and I will watch with interest for news of a by-election in Guildford.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Update on Talk Talk Broadband Problem

After writing the previous posting about the problems mum is having getting Talk talk Broadband, I decided to email my blog to an old business contact of mine at Carphone Warehouse. I knew it wasn't his job, but asked him to forward it onto one of his colleagues who maybe able to help. He responded very quickly on Friday, telling me had sent on my email to the MD of Talk Talk Broadband - excellent.

He went onto say "Unfortunately we are in a situation where demand is far outweighing supply leading to our customer service problems. We are getting this sorted but finding and opening new call centres takes time. Apologies for the inconvenience caused."

Great to see some people at CW can respond quickly - thanks Ady.

So what has happened recently?

On Monday I got a less than helpful response from the Broadband Support team:


Dear Mr Mutton,

Thank you for your email.

Sorry for the delay in response.

upon checking, the order that we placed rejected as the system claimed that the post code does not match up with BT's database. Thuis is unusual as we used the same details to order the line rental for you, hence I have passed the account details to a department who will investigate this. If you do not hear any further details within the next ten working days, please contact customer services for an update.

If you have any general queries, please call customer services on 0870 444 1820.

For technical queries, please contact broadband technical support on 0871 226 7146 or email Calls to this number are charged at 10 pence per minute (call charges may vary from mobile phones and other telecom operators).

Both of these numbers can become busy during peak periods and TalkTalk apologises for any inconvenience caused by the delays.


  • Bad grammar and spelling
  • No specific contact details for the "department" now dealing with it
  • No easy method of follow up - for example I can tell them that the property is new and the postcode is also recently allocated, so they are probably using an old database

What I am most cross about is the fact that nobody bothered to contact my mum when the order was "rejected".

Then today, Wednesday, Mum called and told me about a report on BBC Breakfast News all about Talk Talk - you can read the article and watch the video here

The storm is gathering, I suggest Mr Dunstone starts looking for shelter...more soon.

Friday, August 18, 2006

You Get What You Pay For

It's time for a bit of a rant today about companies who think they have got a winning proposition but haven't really thought it through and can't deliver on the promise. My favourite one from history has to be Hoover's free Flights offer which reportedly cost the business of $50m over several years of litigation.

But today my rant is about Talk Talk from Carphone Warehouse and the free broadband offer they launched earlier this year. I'm a heavy user of broadband at home and currently use BT as my provider partly because I was working at yahoo when they launched BT yahoo and we got a discount, partly through apathy about the hassle of changing, but mostly because I have never had a single bad day of service and working in the internet biz requiring a reliable connection, this has been invaluable.

My mother however is a light internet user with an old PC of mine, still using dial-up, but already a customer of the Talk Talk phone service. So when the free broadband offer was launched she snapped up the opportunity and signed up. That was 23 April 2006. Since then she has had only one (1) communication from Talk Talk, advising her that her expected go live date was end of July 2006. Ok so that was a bit of a shock, but on the face of it, it looked like TT was being cautious and not promising quick service due to the rapid take-up of the offer. The letter also said that the broadband modem etc would turn up about ten days prior to Go live.

So the months rolled past and my mum forgot about it until early July when she started to look expectantly for her broadband equipment to arrive (she also started to make sure that I was available to visit her and set it all up when it arrived). July moved ever on and no equipment, so she thought she would try to ring customer service and find out what has happened (note, Mum still has not fully embraced the internet so at this point had not tried to email or use the web to contact TT).

Just for interest, I looked up the definition of Customer Service in Wikipedia:

"Customer service is the provision of labour and other resources, for the purpose of increasing the value that buyers receive from their purchases and from the processes leading up to the purchase"

It goes on to say:

"Strategic advantage through customer service
A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve. Customer service can be such a difference. It is very difficult to control, and therefore difficult to imitate. It is difficult to control because of its variability. The level of service may vary greatly between two providers in the same organization. It may also vary from one moment to another, even as delivered by the same provider. The difficulty is compounded in multi-unit operations: in addition to variability within units, there is also variability among units.

That is both the challenge and the opportunity. The consistent delivery of superior service requires the careful design and execution of a whole system of activities that includes people, capital, technology, and processes. The few companies that can manage this system do stand out, and are sought out. This is the foundation of their sustainable competitive advantage"

To me the definition would be a bit less complex - "Customer Service means you pick up the bloody phone, listen to your customers and resolve their issues in a polite, efficient manner."

This is what happens when you call Talk talk Customer Service:

  • Nice chatty welcome message
  • List of options, you need option 2
  • List of options, you need option 2
  • List of options, you need option 5
  • Friendly female voice says that all operators are busy so please call back later
  • The line is disconnected

That's right, that's all you get.

No offer to leave message
No information about the company website
No way of staying on hold
Basically we're too busy go away

The other thing to note is that Customer service number is an 0870 number, i.e. chargeable and rarely included in any "free minutes" call package. But don't worry about that, go to Say No to 0870 and you can find the 0800 phone number for Talk Talk customer service - 0800 0855900.

With no luck on the phone, Mum decides to pop into a CW store and enquire. The response was something like "Oh we have been inundated, we can't tell you when you will get it, we've got no idea"

So I decide to get involved and went to the Talk Talk website. It's easy to get order status and today, 18 August, 2006 it shows the Go Live date to be end of July - hmm no red flags here, you would expect somebody to be worrying about the service.

So I start hunting around the website for interesting snippets of poor customer service:

  • On this page all about tracking your order it says "We'll also update you regularly by email, and as we roll out free broadband 1 across the UK we'll publish updates here on our website."
  • It goes on to say: "Our online order checker gives you the very latest information about your order. Please don't call us unless there is another problem, as our advisors won't have any more information than you can see online."
  • My favourite bit is: "Although our engineers are working night and day, there'll be some customers we can't connect immediately, and for a few people it could be several weeks. Whatever happens, we promise to connect you as soon as possible."
  • And wait for it: "I don't want to wait any more. When you join we give you an estimated "go live" date for your broadband. If there's a serious delay and you're still not connected after this date, please contact Customer Services. If you decide to cancel before we've had a chance to connect you, there may be a cancellation charge."

So, in summary, "We will get you live as soon as possible, but it could be several weeks (16 weeks so far), we will keep you advised regularly by email (nothing) and if there is a delay, you can call us (but nobody will answer), but if you get fed up waiting we may charge you for the privilege of having wasted all those months.

And then do a quick search on the net about the actual quality of service when it (hopefully) eventually goes live - like these people on the Consumer Action Group website and you come to the conclusion that was my title - You get What You Pay For.

Personally I am glad I don't own any share in Carphone Warehouse, because I think they have yet to reap what they have sown, but it is coming, just wait and see.

p.s. Two other facts - there is no phone number for customer services on the TT website and Ofcom - the telecoms industry regulator - doesn't investigate individual complaints, but if enough people complain, they will investigate the company - you can do that here - I did :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Social Networking

I've been doing a fair bit of work recently looking at social networks, several start-ups that I can't name (yet) and it's been fascinating seeing the different approaches to this new phenomenon.

And then I realised that it isn't really new, it's just been given a fantastic new lease of life via the internet and via so called "web 2.0" tools. It's never been easier to keep in contact with disparate groups of people and sites have been created and evolved to serve niche markets. Here are some of the ones I belong to:

Friends Reunited - Main use for this is my old school friends from Liverpool, most of whom I discovered I wanted to know what they were up to, where they were living, jobs, families etc. - but there was nobody there that I had really missed and they have all faded away into non contact again

Yahoo Groups - The first type of social network I can remember. I belong to several groups - one is a collection of people who all love Science Fiction and Hitch Hikers Guide to the galaxy in particular. We originally met in the SF Forum on CompuServe back in the mid 90's and amazingly we still go through spurts of activity and messaging and the occasional meeting. The last unfortunately was to go see the HH movie, not a pleasant experience. Stay Hoopy guys. The other important group for me is "Ex_Amazon" started by me to keep in contact with the amazing people that I worked with in the first few years when was launched. In fact it's the main reason for this post today - we are getting together tonight for a few beers - first time in a couple of years, will be interesting to see how people have moved on.

LinkedIn - This is my main business network, with over 200 contacts to my name. It's proven very useful for me as a consultant, both bringing me work and also helping me forge new contacts leading to more business. Of all these sites, this is the one I currently use most often.

I have also joined other sites like MySpace, LifeLogger, Flickr etc., but I can't say I am really active with any of them.

Just like the long awaited interaction between yahoo IM, AOL and MSN, I wonder when these different networks will start to talk to each other and share data. A Trillian for social networking, not there's a thought, where is my VC phonebook...