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Extremely Poor Customer Service

jamieallan
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Extremely Poor Customer Service

We've been customers of Plusnet for more than 5 years and in that time we've had 3 significant faults - so on the whole the majority of time our FTTC broadband just worked. However during the times faults have arisen Plusnets inability to manage and handle faults has now left me looking for another service provider. Let me first explain I spent more than 35 years in the datacommunications and IT business so I know a thing or two about datacomms. I was at one time BT's datacomms manager for the west of Scotland.

My issues this time started on the evening of 9th July when I noticed a large number of failed internet page loadings and very slow page fills - I'm on a photography forum and I could have painted the images in the time they took to load at times - at other times things were fine. I tried Edge/Chrome/Firefox and all gave similar responses. I checked the BT Wholesale speed test and everything was fine - approx 55M download and 7.5M upload. I tried Ookla/Uswitch/Which speedtest sites(to name but a few) and they all came back with responses where my upload speed stayed constant at 7.5M but my download was extremely erratic - from 0.5M to 55M - on all 3 sites. So I called plusnet support and spoke to an agent to whom I explained my findings and suggested the fault lay in the network - not on my local loop as the BTW results were always good and consistent. The agent said they finished up in 10 minutes but could I run an extended BTW diagnostics test and he'd pick up on it next day. I checked the fault over the following 5 days but nothing was added to it online and my service appeared to have returned to normal. On 23 July my broadband exhibited the same symptoms so I logged onto my account and also contacted plusnet by phone. I quoted the original fault number, stating no updates had ever been applied and the agent raised a new fault. Fast forward to today and I called again as my service completely dropped out at 8am. By the time I got through my broadband was up and I could see no updates had been made to my fault from 23 July. The agent started by asking me to do all the rudimentary checks despite the fact I'd given her the history. She then said she'd get tech support to call me. I told her I needed leave the house at 9am. As I was leaving at 09:02 the phone rang and it was the tech support agent. I hastily explained the issue and he said there was a fault on the local line. I pointed out to him if that was the case how come I got 55M download on BTW tests since they test the local loop but got as little as 0.5M when testing further out to internet speed test sites. He simply reiterated he'd found a local line fault and he needed to put it out to BTOpenreach. I pointed out to him that this will be the third time this has been done in the years we've been with plusnet and there has never been a fault found and my results point to the fault being not on the customer side of the exchange connection but the other side as it goes into the plusnet network. He simply reiterated he'd found a line fault and would put the fault out to Openreach. This smacks like simple delaying tactics by plusnet. I asked for a method of registering a complaint and he said he'd mail how to do so to me. That was 3 hours ago and still no sign. I'll be voting with my feet - they obviously don't want my business.

44 REPLIES 44
Plusnet Help Team
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

 

Hi @jamieallan,

 

Thanks for getting in touch and for bringing this to our attention.

 

Firstly, I absolutely agree that the timescale for the period between 23/07/18 and 01/08/18 is longer than I'd expect for a fault to be progressed to our suppliers - please accept my apologies for the delay in getting this resolved. I'll investigate this internally and feedback internally as appropriate.

 

Secondly, when the fault was raised on 23/07/18 a fault was found externally with your broadband service - although this was not actioned as I'd expect, I can see clearly from your fault ticket here that this was definitely flagged as an external issue.

 

When my colleague picked up the fault on 01/08/18 and performed more detailed diagnostics it became apparent that a 'Battery contact' fault  is present on the phone line element of your connection. As you will know from your previous experience, this is an external fault which relates to the physical cabling/infrastructure that delivers your telephony service. Battery contact faults regularly cause either frequent disconnection or intermittent speed issues (or both).

 

I appreciate how the repetition of the checks may seem like a delay tactic but I can assure you that this purely down to agent error rather than a desire to elongate your downtime. Given that we refund you for your downtime, it would be counterproductive and financially detrimental to ourselves to deliberately prolong your fault resolution.

 

I can see that the fault has now been raised to our suppliers and that the ETA for the fault resolution is contained on the ticket I've linked above. I also note that my colleague has included the link to raise a fault online on that ticket as he promised. Obviously, I'm more than happy to deal with the service aspect of this issue to save you the additional steps of raising a complaint via a different route (it would be dealt with in the same way, either way).

 

As soon as the engineer has attended the external fault we'll be able to revisit this and provide a resolution to both the technical and service aspects of your contact.

 

Feel free to keep in touch in the interim and let us know if there's anything else you need.

 

Best wishes,

 

Dave

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 Dave G
 Plusnet Help Team
jamieallan
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Dave,

Thank you for your response.

Can I ask why the fault I raised on 9 July was closed with no apparent action taken?

I must say I'm extremely sceptical about the fault reason as described by yourselves. I explained to both staff I spoke to on 23 July and 1 August the tests I had run. I set up 2 Chrome sessions. On the first I ran the BTW test and immediately after this finished, on the second session I ran an Ookla speed test. I did this multiple times switching between the two sessions immediately each time. I took screen scrapes of 4 consecutive tests to each site - 8 in all. This was done within a 10 minute timeframe so each test was within a minute or so of the previous. All 4 BTW tests gave similar results with a 55-57M download speed and 7.5 -7.9M upload speed. The 4 tests to Ookla were all over the place with downloads of 0.56, 16, 0.6 and 8M. The upload speed was consistent with the BTW results at 7.5 - 7.9M. I tried this same test to Uswitch and Which and they gave very similar results. I also did this with both Edge and Firefox - similar results.

If my local loop tests using BTW have always been consistent at 55M download how can it be a local loop line issue? If my uploads to any test site(BTW or Ookla) are consistent - how can it be a local loop line fault? If there is a battery contact on the local line how does it not affect the BTW test? Unless technology has changed significantly my understanding of the BTW test is that it runs between my device and the Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) in my local exchange. If this is correct and the BTW tests have always been consistent yet my access to internet sites hasn't how can it be a local line fault? It just doesn't add up. We had similar issues back in May/June/July 2016 and Openreach staff were dispatched to my house and they performed loop tests using digital comms testers and nothing was ever found to be at fault on the local loop. 

 

I should add that at no time during this have we had issues with our telephony service.

Superuser
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Hi @jamieallan,

A warm welcome to the forums.

If my local loop tests using BTW have always been consistent at 55M download how can it be a local loop line issue? If my uploads to any test site(BTW or Ookla) are consistent - how can it be a local loop line fault? If there is a battery contact on the local line how does it not affect the BTW test? Unless technology has changed significantly my understanding of the BTW test is that it runs between my device and the Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) in my local exchange. If this is correct and the BTW tests have always been consistent yet my access to internet sites hasn't how can it be a local line fault? It just doesn't add up.

If you presume that the local loop problem is static, then your argument stands … if (as so many are) it is intermittent then there's a more than fair chance that at times you will not see speed test issues.

As I understand it, the BTw speed tests are premises to their speed test server (wherever that is) not just to the DSLAM.  It is note worthy that with the exception of MSIE and Win 10 Edge, the results delivered for the BTw speed test using other (deficient) browsers cannot be relied upon to be accurate.

If the BT POTS test system reports a line issue, there is zero point looking for something else somewhere else until that reports clear.  Dampness in joints, abraded OH wires can all cause intermittent faults … which can be there when tested, not found when inspected (therefore not repaired), only to reappear a few days later.

I am sure that from your experience of managing telecoms and networks you are well aware of the challenges investigating reported faults sometime after the fault condition was observed.

I hope that the BTOR boots on the ground are able to find and repair the fault detected by BTOR's own test equipment as reported by Plusnet very soon for you.  Until such fault is identified and rectified, sadly you can not expect to see a dependable improvement in the service.

I should add that at no time during this have we had issues with our telephony service

The VDSL service works at much higher frequencies than the POTS (telephony service) and therefore can be impacted by line faults which have little or no impact on voice operations but will cause havoc with the xDSL data services.  Ironically xDSL can limp along if one leg of the pair is disconnected - though there is not dial tone (the line appears dead) xDSL can continue to function adequately though severely degraded.

jamieallan
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Townman,

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

It's always difficult in having a conversation and imparting exact detail via a keyboard but just to clarify a few things. What I did was set up two simultaneous browser sessions. In session 1 I connected to BTW and ran the test there, I then grabbed a screen scrape of the result and save it. As soon as this was finished I switched to session 2 and ran a test to Ookla. Again I grabbed a screen scrape I went back to session 1 and repeated the BTW test, then onto session 2 etc. I did this 4 times. I did this for MS10 Edge, Firefox and Chrome each at different times to ensure that particular browser was the only application running. I also performed the same tests to uSwitch and to the Which speed tests sites. So all in all I ran 72 tests.  If I consistently get the results I describe within a very short period of time of switching between test sites then I think I'm justified in my query as to why the BTW tests are not affected. I'd also point out that at no time using any browser or to any test site has the upload speed shown any great deviation. If Ookla/uSwitch/Which  is reporting a download speed of 0.5M and an upload speed of 7.5M on the same test run(and consistently) then I'm sure you'll agree that a strange result to ascribe to a local loops issue. 

I think I'm correct in my assertion that the BTW test is to the DSLAM. As I stated we had a problem in 2016 that ran through May/June/July of that year and BTO eventually sent out a special faults investigator to my home to check the service. As we'd worked for BT at the same time we had mutual acquaintances and so he was quite happy to describe in detail his testing to the DSLAM. That occasion revealed no issue locally. I think(though cannot verify) that the results of the tests are stored on BT servers but not the test itself.

As far as reference to my telephony service I added that comment simply in advance of anyone asking the question. I appreciate the difference in frequencies used. Part of the present fault symptoms was completed loss of broadband the other morning. The first thing I do in these circumstances is pick up my landline phone and call my mobile.

Here are a couple of screenshots taken about 1 minute apart. As you can see the Ookla download shows 0.6M but the upload is 7.9M - that's a pretty strange result considering the download/upload tests are only a minute apart. It is also consistent.

 

Superuser
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Some useful references...

  1. https://kitz.co.uk/adsl/btwperformancetest.htm Kitz the font of sound knowledge somewhat suggests that the BTw Speed test is as I suggested to a reference server somewhere in the core of the BT Wholesale infrastructure.  I suspect that this page is a bit mature, but it clearly references 3 speed test servers … which I read as ruling out a router to DSLAM predicated boundary.  It therefore implies that the BTw speed test does encompass the SVLAN utilisation
  2. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-find-a-reliable-network-speed-test/ discusses the (up to 10x) variability between different speed test services...

Many experts claim HTML5-based speed tests are more accurate than tests that use Java and Adobe Flash. Others point out that multithread tests such as those used by Ookla (Speedtest.net and branded by many ISPs) don't represent real-world network traffic as well as single-thread tests

It is worth taking a look at the Think Broadband speed test.  Whatever whilst there is a reputed fault on the POTS service, BTw are not going to look elsewhere for issues.

Plusnet Help Team
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Can I ask why the fault I raised on 9 July was closed with no apparent action taken?

From reading this ticket on the 9th July, the adviser sent you an email with relevant checks to do before we can progress this as a fault. It's possible that line tests weren't finding an issue at that point of time.

 

I'm afraid that I can only really reiterate @RandallFlagg's response that line tests are failing with a potential fault so this needs to be looked at by an engineer as it is likely to be the underlying cause for the connection problems you're experiencing.

 

All we see when we tested the line is:

Battery Contact - LN (Fault located in local network)

A battery contact can cause a whole range of issues from intermittent speed problems, disconnections, noise on the line including data transfer problems where there's no definite symptom of a fault.

It's worth noting that the location of a fault along with the description is always only estimated until an engineer goes out to investigate further. As such we duly reported this through to our suppliers for further investigation. 

Also worth noting that while line tests fail, our suppliers will not accept a broadband fault. By that I mean that we won't be able to raise one in the first instance even if we tried to.

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 Anoush Mortazavi
 Plusnet Help Team
jamieallan
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Firstly I'd like to reply regarding the fault I raised on 9 July. When I spoke to your agent on 9 July he told me that the helpdesk was about to close(it was 21:50 by the time I'd been on hold then got to this part of the conversation) and he asked me to run the extende BTW tests and he'd pick up on it the following day. I did that but there is no entry in the fault call log/Question ID after my initial call was reported - absolutely nothing. I foolishly assumed that as my service was working correctly the following day he had indeed did something. It would appear there are no logs of whether he did or didn't do anything - is that correct?

 

With regard the fault I have been experiencing since 23 July (which I'm assuming now is the same problem since nothing appears to have been done on 9 July) I still find it extremely odd that this can be being put down to a local line issue yet at no time during all my testing did the upload speed drop to the levels seen on the download tests. Since it's the same piece of copper wire for both that does not make sense. 

There has been an update to the fault log as of 16:55 today to say that 'The broadband fault has been closed by the supplier. Should problems re-occur, please restart the Broadband Fault Checker.' What does that mean? Have they found a fault? Have they fixed a fault? The lack of information is extremely poor. 

 

Further - for your information the BT Distribution Point(DP) for my local area happens to be a pole in my back garden only accessible through a locked gate to my back garden or through my house. There has been no BT presence here at any time recently. I appreciate they could have been working at the roadside cabinet where the FTTC but that's just down the road and I've seen no activity there either.

Plusnet Help Team
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Firstly I'd like to reply regarding the fault I raised on 9 July. When I spoke to your agent on 9 July he told me that the helpdesk was about to close(it was 21:50 by the time I'd been on hold then got to this part of the conversation) and he asked me to run the extende BTW tests and he'd pick up on it the following day. I did that but there is no entry in the fault call log/Question ID after my initial call was reported - absolutely nothing. I foolishly assumed that as my service was working correctly the following day he had indeed did something. It would appear there are no logs of whether he did or didn't do anything - is that correct?

All the notes the adviser left is contained within that ticket that you can see.

I'm sorry that the adviser didn't follow up as promised, I'll pass feedback on about that.

 

With regard the fault I have been experiencing since 23 July (which I'm assuming now is the same problem since nothing appears to have been done on 9 July) I still find it extremely odd that this can be being put down to a local line issue yet at no time during all my testing did the upload speed drop to the levels seen on the download tests. Since it's the same piece of copper wire for both that does not make sense. 

It sounds odd but unfortunately as I've advised above we can't do anything more at the moment, than what we've already done. We've simply tested your line, detected a fault and reported it through to our suppliers accordingly.

 

There has been an update to the fault log as of 16:55 today to say that 'The broadband fault has been closed by the supplier. Should problems re-occur, please restart the Broadband Fault Checker.' What does that mean? Have they found a fault? Have they fixed a fault? The lack of information is extremely poor. 

I'd ignore that. This is just an automated message indicating that our broadband suppliers BTwholesale have closed the fault report as it timed out in their systems. As line tests have failed this is raised directly with Openreach.

The estimated response time we've been advised of is by 03/08/18 17:00:00. We can't chase until this time has passed.

 

Further - for your information the BT Distribution Point(DP) for my local area happens to be a pole in my back garden only accessible through a locked gate to my back garden or through my house. There has been no BT presence here at any time recently. I appreciate they could have been working at the roadside cabinet where the FTTC but that's just down the road and I've seen no activity there either.

From what I can see the fault report with Openreach hasn't gone to the stage of "Past point Of No Return" yet so it's likely an engineer hasn't picked up the job. When it goes into that stage that means an engineer is assigned.

I appreciate this isn't something you can see but as above we've passed on to you the estimated response time.

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 Anoush Mortazavi
 Plusnet Help Team
Superuser
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Since it's the same piece of copper wire for both that does not make sense

Upload uses a lower frequency spectrum than that used for download.  Therefore the impact of a given fault can be different for upload / download performance as you are seeing.

Whatever, the key issue here is that whatever might have been the case back on the 9th July, today line tests report a POTS fault - BTw are not going to allow exploration of a broadband performance issue whilst that identified issue remains unexamined. It is possible that it has no bearing as you suggest, it is also that it has every bearing on your experience.  BT rules are that an ISP cannot progress to WBC issue investigation in the presence of a potential POTS issue.

It is somewhat fortunate in a situation like this, that you have your voice and data service provided by the same supplier.  I've seen far too many issues where these services are provided separately leading to the user being stuck between CPs / ISPs passing problems such as this back and forth - one unable to do anything - the other being unwilling to do anything for they perceive no impact of the fault on voice services.

jamieallan
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Townman,

To be honest I get the impression you are a bit of an apologist for plusnet. The facts of my current issues are:-

1. I raised a fault on 9 July that was subsequently closed with no detail as to whether any action was taken.

2. I raised another fault based on the same symptoms on 23 July which was then parked until I complained on 1 August on this forum.

It is now 21:51 on 3 August

As of now the fault call last entry at 16:55 yesterday reads :-

'The Question 179448570 has been released from hold and sent back to BOT - Phone Faults - Logged

Your fault Ticket has now been taken off hold. 

This has now been forwarded to the relevant support team. We will carry on investigating your problem and your open fault will be updated as soon as more information is available.'

 

There have been no BTopenreach staff attend the local DP.

 

It took 15 seconds to open this page so god only knows how long or if this response will be posted. I tried the Ookla speed test and it timed out. 

Your statement regarding upload/download frequency difference explaining the results is pure conjecture - and a long stretch at that.

So as far as 'being fortunate' I think you are having a laugh. 

Similarly the ongoing TV advertising of Plusnet 'We'll Do You Proud' should surely be followed by 'We're Having a Laugh' I know they are at my expense.

 

Superuser
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Certainly no appoligist - just a realist about how things work - some of which we might not like. At the moment there’s an identified line fault what was in the past is in the past and will not fix today’s issues. You might well believe that this is not a local loop issue, but until the indicated fault is investigated and rectified BT are not going to look at a WBC fault report. Having worked in their house I’m sure you’ll recognise the one step at a time approach they apply to everything ... which ultimately makes the U.K. telecoms industry so darned broken.
jamieallan
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

It is now day 12 of this fault(or day 26 if you assume the original fault was never addressed) and the last update by an actual human in plusnet was at 09:18 on Wednesday 1st August. There have been 2 automated scripts since at 16:55 on Thursday 2 August telling me the supplier had closed the broadband fault and then that the ticket had been taken off hold and sent to plusnet BOT - I presume Broadband Ops Team? I put a comment on the fault ticket last night asking what's happening - still no response. I tried calling again this morning only to be informed that the call wait time is in excess of 20 minutes. Is this really a communications company?

 

If anyone from plusnet is reading this can they please respond with some useful information and forget the expressions of apology or blaming 3rd parties. Just do something to fix it.

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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

@jamieallan  As an ex-BT engineer, I would back what @Townman is saying.

 

Looking at this thread as a whole, I think it's highly likely that the battery contact is a separate issue to your speed problem. The fact that it's causing no issues with telephony is neither here nor there - it exists - and therefore must be dealt with first.

Once you have a clean copper pair the broadband problem can be dealt with, but not before. That's just the way it works.

To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.
jamieallan
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Re: Extremely Poor Customer Service

Well after another 36 minutes on the telephone to plusnet support - 21 of which were music on hold - I've been told that BT missed their target of dealing with this fault and can give no detail as to when they will get to it. I asked the question of the plusnet support agent what the escalation procedure is now and he said there is none. Plusnet will not chase BT and will simply wait till BT get back to them. None of this has been put on the fault ticket - the last human entry on that is still last Wednesday at 09:18.

Meanwhile the issue with my broadband intermittent speed problem (which I am certain has nothing to do with a local line battery contact problem) is not even being looked at. That may be just the way it works as far as you are concerned but can't you see that simply accepting that it's just the way it works is to allow this shoddy customer service? I'm a customer of plusnet but plusnet simply pass the buck to BT and don't even try to put pressure on them to perform to their contract requirements. So the only one who suffers is the customer - and plusnet appear to not give a care. So much for customer service.