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BT Openreach CEO Claims “Strong” UK Customer Service Improvements

Monday, July 18th, 2016 (3:05 pm) - Score 2,072

Openreach, which is responsible for maintaining BT’s national UK phone and broadband network, takes a lot of flak from both ISPs and consumers alike for customer service failings (missed appointments, service delays etc.). But today Clive Selley, CEO of BTOR, has claimed to be turning things around.

Some readers may recall that Ofcom’s last Fixed Access Market Review (FAMR) in 2013-14 forced BTOpenreach to make a number of improvements to their operations (here), such as requiring faster service provisions and forcing the telecoms giant to publish regular performance reports (example).

Mind you many ISPs were still far from happy and last year Sky Broadband complained that over 90% of new line installations, which require an Openreach engineer to attend, were taking 10 calendar days or longer and almost one in ten installations requires longer than 30 days. Sky also hammered Openreach over missed appointments, failed jobs, fault rates and other related issues.

In keeping with that Ofcom’s recent Strategic Review has proposed to introduce even tougher minimum service requirements, which they believe will push Openreach into repairing faults and installing new lines at an even faster pace (here). But Openreach’s boss has today hit back by showing that they’ve already improved a lot since reporting began in 2014.

Openreach’s Key Improvement Highlights

* Engineers fix 84% of faults within two working days – compared to just 67% when reporting began two years ago.

* 93% of new lines are installed on time.

* The average time to get an appointment has been cut from 11 to 7 days.

* Openreach has reduced the number of appointments its engineers miss by more than a third in just 3 months and is on track to halve missed appointments this year.

* Openreach claims to be exceeding all of the 60 service measures set by the regulator Ofcom and they view these objectives as a minimum, rather than a target. Plus they are “determined to continue exceeding them as the thresholds get tougher each year“.

* Openreach is aiming to halve the number of missed appointments it is responsible for – from 5% to just 2.5% – by the end of March 2017, and has an ambition to reduce them even further after that.

Overall Openreach is responsible for installing and repairing around 30 million UK telephone and broadband lines, and its engineers complete more than 175,000 separate jobs each week in exchanges and at street cabinets, as well as those that require a customer appointment. Engineers are also becoming more skilled, with enhanced training to gives them the ability to tackle a wider variety of jobs and problems.

Openreach claims to have hired more than 5,000 new engineers over the last three years, and they’re currently in the middle of a recruitment drive that will see another 1,000 engineers and more than 200 apprentices join the company before May 2017. On top of that they’re also investing “50% more into proactive network maintenance“, which is designed to identify vulnerabilities and prevent faults from occurring.

The business has also established a case management team to “step in, prioritise and resolve problems for customers who have experienced two or more missed or unsuccessful appointments,” which is nice.

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said:

“Improving the service that we provide to customers, is my number one priority. These latest figures show we’re making real progress and we’re well on the way to hitting my target of halving missed appointments to two and a half percent within a year.

Everyone at Openreach recognises there’s more to do, but these are encouraging signs that our investments and focus are having a positive effect. We’re recruiting 1,000 engineers this year, and by simplifying the way we work and giving our people the training and tools they need, we will achieve even better outcomes. I’m particularly pleased that we’ve managed to repair faults faster than this time last year, despite the wettest June on record.”

The timing of Openreach’s announcement is no doubt intended to focus minds as Ofcom gears up to publish the final statement on their Strategic Review, which is still threatening to split Openreach from BT’s control if the operator fails to agree to a series of big changes.

At present the biggest stumbling block is still the question of Governance, with Ofcom seeking more independence of the group from BT’s control. The regulator wants Openreach to be able to take its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy. The new management would also be required to “serve all wholesale customers equally, and consult them on its investment plans.”

However BT is known to be deeply unhappy with the idea of becoming a “ring-fenced, ‘wholly-owned subsidiary’ of BT Group, with its own purpose and board members” and some even speculate that they might prefer being split to that idea, although we have our doubts about that.

Never the less BT’s current plan to invest in rolling out ultrafast 300-500Mbps G.fast and 1000Mbps FTTP broadband technology to 12 million UK premises by 2020 is largely dependent upon Ofcom’s decision. On the flip side, BT’s rivals claim that splitting Openreach would attract more investment and make a national FTTP/H network more plausible (this isn’t likely to go much beyond 60-70% coverage).

We’re expecting to learn the outcome of Ofcom’s Strategic Review within the next few weeks, although we’d still be willing to bet that BT and Ofcom will be able to achieve sort of voluntary agreement. But that’s by no means a solid certainty.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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25 Responses
  1. Matt says:

    Not seen this improved service myself still had wait nearly a month for someone to even come look at a problem on the line. They did end up fixing it in the end but took them 2 months.

    1. FibreFred says:

      Well I won’t believe it until I see a change on Trustpilot 😀 😀 😀

  2. karl says:

    Their retail division continues to have growing complaints (higher now than in 2014), so hard to believe this fairytale.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      This is about Openreach, not BT Retail.

    2. karl says:

      Indeed what i mentioned was BT Retail. id like to see the complaints from Ofcom about the Openreach division back in 2014 and compare those to 2016 also. I suspect it would not be too dissimilar story. The issues are likely deep routed in the organisation as a whole. We consumers and other ISPs are likely doomed to put up with them until they implode on thereself as Ofcom seem to always be a push over.

    3. FibreFred says:


      The article isn’t about retail, as you’ve been told

    4. fastman says:

      what a surprise !!!

    5. karl says:

      Dunno what you mean i freely admit i was talking about BT Retail in both posts. I then surmise Openreachs service record is likely just as bad. With some merit i may add given the new news items today.

  3. dragoneast says:

    Sorry, but i think this “independent board” is so much hot air.

    OK, it keeps the lawyers and the accountants busy, but any Board has fiduciary duties to the company and the shareholders who are basically interested in, money. (Which since they pay our pensions and investment returns is no bad thing). They’re no wizards with access to the legendary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The constrains on OR, as any other utility, are money, cashflow, regulation, its staff and the technology. Short of getting Jesus Christ on the Board turning water into wine (not whine, please note) or I suppose copper into fibre all of a sudden would be the equivalent modern miracle, what exactly is this supposed to change except the faces in the magic mirror? It’ll please the readers of the comics, I suppose. And give the politicians something else to talk about, as if they needed something. Does the water taste different or is the electricity or the gas more powerful? If so I haven’t noticed. I’ve worked for many bosses, some of them even talked a good game; their effect on day to day business: pretty well zilch. Fine words, as granny used to say, butter no parsnips, nor anything else. But, as is the modern way, change has become the substitute for progress.

    1. GNewton says:

      “copper into fibre” is not a miracle, it has already happened in many countries. However, the laws of physics are different in the UK where fibre comes through copper, thanks to ASA 🙂

    2. dragoneast says:

      Well, if you’ve found the way to turn copper into fibre “just like that” by a snap of your fingers and without spending any money, please let us all know about it. I won’t hold my breath. Get snapping those fingers though. We’re all waiting.

    3. Apolloa says:

      I think you’ve totally forgotten the fact that the tax payer pays Open Reach from its taxes as well as charges from ISPs for Open Reach to do its job, so yeah EVERYONE has a right to complain about their shocking service, I worked for a major ISP for over nine years and Open Reach are the cause of many many problems and complaints. So I don’t believe for a second they’ve improved anything.

    4. GNewton says:

      @Apolloa: “So I don’t believe for a second they’ve improved anything.”

      This seems to be in agreement with what customer’s have posted about Openreach on


  4. Philip sampson says:

    Just a shame open reach customer service is dreadful saying there a spare port in our cabinet then it some how not free had go on a waiting list not good enough!

    1. Ignition says:

      The port could’ve been faulty when tested.

  5. fastman says:

    could also be that some one else ordered as well
    how long has cab been avaialbee

  6. Wise Old Owl says:

    They want to sort out their FTTP provisioning and repair its shockingly bad. Clive Selley of BTO also needs to go and talk to CP’s directly around the country, spend a day with their service and support teams to see first hand just how much they have improved. Now that would be real customer service.

    1. fastman says:

      what do you think he Does ?

  7. AG says:

    Fact check Fail: It wasn’t the wettest June on record.

    1. karl says:

      Why let truths get in the way of blaming something else 😀 BT mantra 101

  8. Bill says:

    I would like to see the regulator impose charges on Openreach for missing appointments.

    After all, if the customer misses an appointment they are normally liable to pay a “missed appointment” charge.

    Hardly fair…. is Openreach engineer time more valuable than the customer’s? Especially if the customer has taken time off work?

  9. Stephen says:

    I know of 3 friends & family around Aberdeenshire who have been waiting weeks/months to have either their broadband fixed or a new house connected.
    I don’t understand how if a houses old occupants had a phoneline and broadband, how on earth does it take 2 months to connect up the new occupants?

    1. fastman says:

      so that depends on What / When / Where the developer told openreach it was building and when and also what / When how many plots any one of that missing could massive impact the ability to provide service

    2. Stephen says:

      Sorry I don’t think I explained that very well.
      If someone is renting a house and that house has a broadband connection, then that person moves out and a new person moves in, how can that take 2 months to connect up the new person. None of the infastructure has changed so what could cause such a big delay?

  10. Paul says:

    Shame there is no phone number to help disabled people to comunate!

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