If you look on the very snazzy new sidebar we now have to navigate to the review that suits you, reader, you'll see a fair few related to Broadband and TV company talktalk.
Back last year, I was asked to test their service out- including their much hyped fast unlimited broadband, Youview service and on demand TV and phone line- for 18 months. It should have continued until February next year.
Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly this hasn't been the case.
I would have continued with the task until February despite the utter farce its been as if I'm tasked with something I'll see it through.
Sadly, from the start. I was left unimpressed with their admin skills.
The task was originally meant to include more bloggers but many left early on due to finding the service lacking. I also found it quite farcical that talktalk had to placate us bloggers in the beginning before the scheme even went live down to errors setting it up which saw the project put back several times.
Being a seasoned blogger, I put this down to teething problems and didn't feel concerned. After all, it was a big thing to set up bloggers all over the country all in the space of two months.
We went live with little issue with the broadband in early August last year.
No, the net was not as fast as they advertise, but then, what net provider can actually achieve the advertised speeds anyway? That's why most will have a handy small print at the bottom suggesting these speeds are possible, and not definite.
The TV via Youview took more effort to work out though. Due to some crosswires and misinformation, it sat in its box until November as we had been told it wouldn't be able to run off the net alone and we'd need a TV aerial, which we didn't have in our old home. We had told talktalk this, but didn't get very much help or guidance. I also was unable to sign in to the Accounts setting online down to my information being input incorrectly, and I'm still yet to be able to do anything with this down to the error.
We finally managed to sort out a part working Youview in November, but found it quite clunky a system and pretty unreliable. Some of the promised features didn't work, like certain on demand channels and the record function. It would very often freeze and scramble too, which meant rebooting, which on occasion failed to work. The one redeeming feature for the kids was the host of kids channels available at a cheap and cheerful price. For me, it was being able to watch 4oD on my TV set rather than my laptop screen.
Sadly, without warning, 4oD disappeared overnight- twitter was rife with people as baffled as me- and in its first show of not really listening or caring about its customers point of view, talktalk never explained.
Then, for reasons still unclear, youview changed its entire interface with lots of fanfare, promising a better system and more on demand from Sky.
Except the new interface, rather than being a great addition was utterly unusable and removed even more popular features from its users. For instance, if you just wanted to screen channels live, previously you went into Guide and did just that. If you wanted to be able to pause and rewind a channel- say if you needed a loo break halfway through a good programme- you choose Youview on demand.
The new interface removed this. Now, you had to screen it live, you couldn't pause or rewind, unless you watched, say, BBCiPlayer or one of the other TV players.
As for the Sky On Demand service, well, I found it very disappointing. Rather than being like Skys own on demand- with a whole host of TV back catalogue and box sets meaning you no longer had to wait for the box set and pay out £15+ - the youview version was lacklustre and had a mere few episodes of a few popular TV series.
Not being much of a TV watcher (luckily), I was more concerned with being online and writing this blog and its fellow Lazy Girl blogs.
Which was all going well until May this year.
We moved house, and told talktalk in good time we would be moving and where to. We were given a date for two weeks from the move to wait for the net to go live, and despite feeling like I'd lost a limb, I managed quite well, safe in the knowledge that my trusty talktalk would be up and running.
Except it didn't go live on the day promised. With no explanation at all.
I rely on my telephone due to making appointments and chasing up others for Littlest. I was also trying to sort out school places, doctors surgeries and the like. Good job I had my mobile!
Despite waiting for the go live date and seeing it go by, the net didn't appear or the phone line or the TV until 2 days after. Not that terrible of course, but when you consider I had to telephone talktalk to find out what was happening on a pay as you go mobile to a premium rate number, it was rather costly.
That's the other issue with talktalk. Other companies, including Virgin who I was with previously, offer customers a freephone number to call from. Talktalk don't, using either 0870 or 0845 numbers across the entire service. And they don't offer to call you back. Even if you ask them to, explaining you are using a mobile, only twice have I ever been told they would and only once did they actually follow through and call back.
However, you're now thinking, well, if you pay for the Customer Line, surely those manning it are skilled, polite individuals who sort your issue out swiftly.
Not in my experience, and believe me, I have had more than my share of experience in the last few months.
For starters, even getting through to an actual human is hard on its own. First they make you go through a automated service which you tell your issue to. However, most times it mishears, or directs your call- back to the start- even if it has understood. Then, they expect you if you have issues to run a diagnostic test, not easy if your net is off. If that's the case, they do it while you're on the line- remembering this is via a premium rate number, and in some cases if they feel there's nothing wrong you have to start the whole thing again.
Its little wonder I gave up on more than one occasion and why I have put nearly £200 on my mobile since June.
Since the net went back on, its actually been more off than on. In fact, its so bad that its been almost impossible to blog since June, meaning two of my blogs have been put on indefinite hiatus, I have lost out on several blogging opportunities, and my new project- a Sunday live radiocast- has been packed away for the foreseeable future. Not only has it cost me in mobile bills, its cost me in blogging terms too.
The phone line is scratchy too, full of feedback. And that's without the 3am calls from their service team from when we first alerted them to a problem with the service. Despite being repeatedly told they don't feel there is an issue, since we told them of our experience and got silence from them on the customer line, they ring at 3am, 4am sometimes earlier to the point we have had to turn our ringer off at night. This has been put down to them testing the line, except why they must do it at 3am onwards is baffling to me, and appalling for the amount of times its woken up the children, especially considering nights are hard enough down to Littlest's health.
As for the net, you are lucky if it doesn't switch off every two minutes. After 7pm most nights I resort to my trusty mobile and its 4G. Youtube is not an option as it refuses and drops out. Its so bad that it takes longer for it to switch itself back on than its on for most days. Just today, its been off at least 10 times and its midday.
Did talktalk believe me? No. They didn't, in fact they were quite rude on more than one occasion and I dread even speaking to them.
The main issue with the Customer Team is the language barrier. Its been outsourced, so anytime I tried to explain I was a blogger, testing the service for 18 months, at best I got a baffled response and at worst was called a liar!
Then came a breakthrough, when I spoke to one team member who said they could indeed send an engineer to me.
Except they wanted £60 upfront. They would also expect £120 for fixing it. So, £180 all together. I laughed as I thought it was a joke. I was then pressured by the agent to give my card details to set it up, being told if I wasn't in, they would charge me regardless, and couldn't give a definite time or date, just that it would be booked for a fortnight.
So, I'm expected, when testing and reporting back as a promotion, to pay £180, via my card on a telephone line which was unsecure, and to an outsourced call centre, with no date and time, and wait for them to show up and sort it out for a fortnight? I declined.
The thing is, I was right to.
Talktalk have, like most companies a forum for customers. They ask customers experiencing issues to head here and see if they can sort their own issues out with the help of other customers. Yes, that means you pay anything upwards of £40 a month to them, and they expect you to sort out each other's problems!
Do they read their forum? I very much doubt that, as it is simply full of not very flattering information from very angry customers.
Apparently, you can be quoted anything from £40 (which is the correct amount) to £75 from these agents to set the appointments up. It does question why they ask for extra? Where does this go? And its actually BT who request the second amount, not talktalk, who simply outsource from the outsourced call centre to them, and they are expected to contact you and request payment.
I'm savvy enough to have questioned what I was told by this employee, but its doubtful that everyone does. Especially older customers who are unsure of how the net works in the first place.
I then had a call from a manager at the end of July, who promised to organise an engineer free due to all the issues we'd had and said at the time "its not made us look good if you're reviewing our service and you can't use it". He told us that he would sort someone out and text a date, promising it would be for after we came home from Camp Bestival. (which is about the only time, in a field, in the middle of the countryside that I've had excellent internet since we moved. And no, its not run off talktalk).
Sadly, this date and text never arrived, and nor did an Engineer. I had enough at this stage, and paid for an engineer of my own to sort the net out. It was all running fine for weeks, no thanks to talktalk.
|My net speed test today- 61% slower than the UK average|
So, its a simple case of complain right? Wrong. Despite assurances from their CEO who promised he wanted to "own my issue" (I'm not kidding) and "blue sky think what we can do to make me happy again with talktalk" (again, not kidding), he has done precisely nothing, and the last I heard he was sorting an engineer visit which has again failed to materialise.
So, I did what most of us do and went to twitter to their twitter team, explaining my issues. I expected a good level of response, as I said I had had enough of the service being so terrible and never getting anywhere with their staff or promises that I was considering taking my business elsewhere.
Their response? Did they apologise, or ask me to reconsider or offer help? No, they sent me a bt.ly link, which I assumed, as it was with a tweet saying this may help was going to indeed sort it out once and for all. When I clicked this link, it was for customers wanting to leave.
Whether they intended it or not, this made me feel like they were shrugging their shoulders and saying "well, bugger off then if you don't like us".
As for the promised unlimited broadband and no caps. Its completely untrue. Despite the net being fixed, it goes on and off and slows down constantly if we use it and the TV together, and refuses to work most days if we used it alot the day before. I have continued to have to pre-write posts on Office and then copy paste when I get a window of net to work with. It has been reset and reset time and again by us- not talktalk.
The icing on the cake? I have now incurred a £36 bank charge on my personal account, which I was asked to give only as an identification means at the start of the programme.
Talktalk had, without warning me at all, tried to remove a sum of cash from my account for my "bill". The first I knew was when my bank wrote me about the charge incurred.
I again had to go through the rigmarole of trying their call centre, three times in fact. The first time I was cut off when I mentioned being a tester for talktalk. The second told me I was lying about my address details and then gave me a number to call to "deal" with it, which turned out not to be in use.
I finally, lucky me, spoke to someone after finding the 0845 number myself who told me I had used up a "credit" given to me. I had no idea what this credit was, and have never heard about it until this week. I was told, and he agreed I was meant to be continuing the test until 8th February. He was baffled and could see why I'd be angry, putting me on hold to speak to a manager.
Well, bar credit card guy, she was one of the rudest ones yet. Again, I was called a liar about my address, I was told I did know about the terms, and I was a normal customer. I would have this debt put on my credit file, and would be chased for it. She said I did know about the credit due to bills- but I've never had any.
The reason the other guy called me a liar about my address? Due to talktalk failing to update from my old address since May, so no doubt letters have gone to whoever is now living in my old house. Yet another situation I am yet to find out the consequences of no doubt.
She refused to explain, and suggested she would hand me over to a CEO, who would call me within 3 to 5 days. When I said, enough is enough, get them to call me within 48 hours, she sneered that she would not make that possible due to me "owing" their company!
I am now waiting for the net to switch off for good. I am not paying for this again, I have probably used up most of this credit on premium rate numbers to their useless staff, and frankly, its not something I was ever told about in the start.
I have also started to get phone calls from their collection team too.
All together, I would never in a million years recommend talktalk, purely as, the second you are no longer a new customer, if something goes wrong, you are left high and dry, ringing a premium rate number and getting nowhere.
I have had to pay out £75 for an engineer of my own, plus £200+ on topping up my mobile, and a further £36 in bank charges down to this sudden insistence in billing me.
Frankly, if I'm testing the service and promoting it, and get treated like dirt and have no help from their team, God knows what actual paying customers get for their money. With phone calls and add ons, customers are paying anything over £40 just for the Broadband and TV package as it comes, plus £5 to £15 a month on top for their extra channels like the kids TV channel package or an entertainment package. When coupled with the poor service, and the premium rate number you are expected to ring time and again to sort out the slightest issue, its simply not worth it.
Talktalk needs to actually listen to customers and offer a decent level of customer care if they expect them to pay high costs to call. Sadly, from my experience, this is simply not the case.