Need a number fast? Not when BT answers

BRITISH TELECOM has sent its staff on a training course on how to put the phone down on customers who ask too many difficult questions.

In an attempt to cut down the average handling time for an enquiry from 30 to 25 seconds, operators have been told to rebuff enquirers who do not provide a full address or who want a search of the entire country.

In future, callers who ask questions such as "I want the number for John Smith in Birmingham" will find their call abruptly terminated. They will, however, still be charged. The service was free until 1990, but calls to 192 now cost 25p each.

Calls by The Independent to directory enquiries revealed frustration as normal.

The enquiry, for an organisation called the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners, was met by a polite lady prepared to spend over four minutes on her keyboard.

However, she didn't have any luck, even though the organisation in Crowborough, Sussex, is listed in the directory. A second call for a private number seemed to show the new rules were working well:t

"Mark speaking what name do you want, please?"

"Clark." "And the address?"

"Er, I haven't got the exact address. He lives near Cambridge I think." "I need the address." "His initial is R."

After precisely 20 seconds, we were cut off, and advised"please hold on if you require further assistance.

After a few seconds, Mark was back: "How can I help?"

"I seemed to get cut off." "You weren't cut off, I just need the address."

"It's very near Cambridge."

"There are two pages of R Clarks near Cambridge". After two minutes 10 seconds Mark lost patience and we were cast into the outer darkness.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL)

£30 - 40k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / ...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Operations Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is the single governing and regul...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufa...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935