BT tells inquiries staff to get tough

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The Independent Online
BT, which last year made pounds 3.2bn in pre-tax profits, has issued an internal memorandum to operators instructing them to get tough over rebates to customers.

In the past, staff at directory inquiries would always offer subscribers their money back if they were unable to give sufficient information to track down a number.

Solicitous operators would also volunteer rebates if a caller had previously dialled a wrong number - whether or not it had been supplied by BT.

From now on you will have to ask for - or preferrably demand - your money back. And even if you do, you might not get it. Operators have been ordered not to waste time searching for numbers where there is insufficient information.

A request for the number of David Jones of Cardiff, for instance, will now get short shrift.

Since the memo was sent out by BT managers, callers are now likely to receive, in the jargon of the telecoms business, a "hard turn-back".

A spokesman for BT said the policy was prompted by a drive to "reduce the number of inappropriate credits" offered to customers in an attempt to bring their policies in line with the attitude of the dozen or so other telephone businesses now operating in Britain.

The company also wanted to cut down on the amount of time each operator spent with any customer. They are meant to deal with each inquiry in under 29 seconds and BT wants them improve their productivity even further.

Officials at the Communication Workers Union believe that the 3,000 operators working for directory inquiries at 47 centres could be the subject of more abuse than usual for adopting the new jpolicy.

Sally Bridge, national officer of the union, said: "This will do nothing for customer satisfaction which BT says it is always striving for, but it will almost certainly increase the number of complaints with which my members have to deal."

Rory Hegarty of the National Consumer Council, said: "How on earth will customers know they are entitled to a rebate if BT doesn't tell them. This is penny pinching of the worst kind."