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The Top 3 Do’s and Don’ts When Broadband ISP Engineers Visit

Saturday, Aug 28th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 25,840
engineer looking up

Over the years we’ve reported a lot on UK consumer experiences with broadband engineers, both good and bad alike. So just for fun we thought it might be interesting to ask a bunch of engineers from different operators what were the top 3 things they really appreciated, and 3 they don’t, when visiting customers.

Most people already know that missed appointments, poor or ineffective install / repair work and delayed visits tend to be some of the biggest gripes from the consumer side of the fence (some of these issues may improve as a result of Ofcom’s new Automatic Compensation scheme). But few people ever look from the engineer’s point of view, and we were keen to get a different perspective.

In response, we spent several weeks last year gathering feedback from different engineers, which hailed from various network operators (we’ve chosen not to name them as our feedback was gathered in confidence with the individuals, rather than the companies) and this ultimately resulted in our top three do’s and don’ts list below (based around the context of an engineer visiting your home).

Take note that most of the feedback we received for this actually pre-dates the COVID-19 protocols, thus this summary should be considered as only relevant to an environment that isn’t being affected by a global pandemic.

The Top 3 Things Engineers Appreciate

1) A friendly greeting and general politeness.

Just because they’re there to do a job doesn’t mean to say you should disengage social norms, although sadly some people do. Often this happens because a prior engineer, who was most likely a completely different person, didn’t resolve the problem and so the second engineer gets the rough end of the stick for something they didn’t have a hand in.

So try to stay polite, even when complaining, as telecoms networks are complex and some jobs will invariably not be an easy fix. Moaning at the operator’s complaints team is usually far better than venting anger at an engineer directly, although an experienced engineer will be well versed in knowing how to diffuse difficult situations.

Likewise, most engineers agreed that being offered a drink was a particularly welcome gesture as part of any greeting, which again is a fairly normal social practice when somebody visits your home.

2) Give a clear fault description and good access.

Sometimes engineers get called out based on a very limited fault description. Suffice to say that the more detail a customer can offer about the fault, as well as where to find the necessary sockets and devices in your home, the better. Engineers may also wish to know where your electricity supply box (consumer unit) is, in case they need to switch one of the circuits off during their work for safety.

Where possible (elderly people may find this too difficult) it’s also wise to ensure that any location where the engineer may need to work is clear of clutter and furniture. Often people will fail to do this and quite a bit of time thus ends up being wasted as bits and pieces are moved aside, which may impact other customers further down the line through delayed visits.

3) Customers being home for the agreed date / time.

Admittedly, engineers have taken plenty of justifiable flak over the years for missed appointments or only spending a few seconds at the door before leaving to declare a missed appointment (i.e. blaming the customer). The latter situation is particularly annoying if you’re present inside, albeit in the middle of a poo (we’ve all been there!), or have a mobility problem and need longer to reach the door (note: video doorbells come in handy).

Nevertheless, it’s also true to say that many engineers do turn up when agreed, ring the bell, knock on the door and may even wait around for several minutes. Unfortunately, if the customer is not home then that can create a problem (being present to answer the door is a big help).

The good news is that some operators are introducing improvements to customer communication, such as via automated text messages that inform you of precisely when an engineer is expected to visit. Hopefully, as such systems mature, then problems like this will eventually become less of an issue.

The Top 3 Things Engineers Don’t Appreciate

1) Customers silently watching over their shoulder.

It’s easy to understand why people may have safety and security concerns when somebody is working on their property, which is why we all instinctively like to keep a close eye on any work being done (trust must be earned). Engineers naturally expect a bit of scrutiny and a few questions, it’s part of their job, but standing silently over their shoulders like a vampire for the whole time won’t make that work go any faster and is more likely to result in mistakes (i.e. stressful and distracting).

If you can, try to give them a bit of space to work but stay nearby if you wish and try not to question absolutely everything they do unless you want them to be present for a lot longer than needed (i.e. some tasks may be complicated or event dangerous and require lots of concentration).

2) Customers lecturing engineers about their job.

Being questioned on absolutely everything you do is one thing, but on the flip side so too is having a customer – one who doesn’t understand the work – lecture you, incorrectly, on how they think you should be doing it. The advice given directly above may be relevant here.

3) Not being offered a drink.

We found a lot of division on this point (we’ve already raised it once before), but it did come up more than most, and so we’ve included it here too. Generally the offer of a drink is considered to be part of polite British culture, although quite a few engineers felt as if it was irrelevant (i.e. their job is to make the customer happy), but equally a good number of others saw it as a negative if they weren’t offered one.

One last point we should add is that good engineers will usually ask about taking off their boots in your house, particularly if there’s no danger in their work environment, although we have found that some engineers will just walk in without even asking. In this culture, it is polite to enquire about footwear upon entering somebody’s home (few people like having their clean floors stepped on by dirty work boots).

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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39 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Yorkshire Teabag says:

    As a comms engineer not being offered a drink always sticks with me when visiting customers. It’s definitely impolite to be ignored especially in offices when the tea run happens often!

    1. Avatar photo SM says:

      Guessing from the name, a cup of Yorkshire tea in your case?

    2. Avatar photo Sherry says:

      In our home its PG Tips or nowt!!

    3. Avatar photo mel says:

      Could always try to drop a subtle hint if you don’t get offered a drink, I sometimes forget to offer one if I’m not thirsty myself, and haven’t since covid as I’d assume drinks and snacks would be declined.

      Many years ago my father used to brew real ale, decent stuff from scratch, not those horrid kits, and I would often offer tea, OR a small half pint (so they’d still be safe to drive) to tradesmen, which used to go down well with them :).

    4. Avatar photo AQX says:

      I’ve not had many engineer visits but I’ve never actually offered them a drink. I honestly thought they weren’t interested as different brands of tea/coffee aren’t to everyone’s likes that I just assumed it would ruin their mood if they were offered something, looked forward to it only to be disappointed at the fact it tasted like shit.
      I never realised how ignorant/rude it was.

  2. Avatar photo s says:

    I think it might help Openreach engineers a bit if they didn’t have to do pointless visits due to there seemingly not being another way to get messages passed on without going through CP->ISP->Customer->Engineer->DCoE…

  3. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Yes, but from a safeguard pov I always stick about because at the end of the day its still a stranger in your home or workplace, Should anything happen you can say you whitnessed it. It’s not about watching them do their job, Although I find it personally interesting to learn and watch ha!

    The drink thing.. See I would but since Covid I haven’t because of that.

    1. Avatar photo RandomName2687 says:

      Being in the same room will not be an annoyance, and will be expected by the majority of us engineers. It’s those who will, often quite literally, be standing half a foot away and looking over our shoulder for the entire duration that cause an an irritation. Half of it’s about personal space and the other about focusing on doing the job correctly, easily miss little things when you’re distracted by the person sat closer than the wife gets in bed.

      For anyone who is interested in learning a little, most will be happy enough to show you. Just ask first is a good one

  4. Avatar photo Bismarck says:

    Just give me a compensation for the worst broadband in the whole Europe. I guess they will still carry on with ADSL installation for hundred years in this country. Just open the wallet and don’t care what service you get.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      Yep, nail on the head there!

    2. Avatar photo T says:

      Absolutely deluded you like.

  5. Avatar photo Shaun McDonald says:

    The drink thing is an odd one it’s so rate that anyone does want a drink I’ve got to the point of wondering what’s the point in asking.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Pre-covid I’d say that 50% of those tradespeople I asked would answer in the affirmative when offered a drink, but due to COVID19 it’s often recommended not to offer one, and for the tradespeople not to accept if offered.

    2. Avatar photo Paul M says:

      I still offer one. If I have an unopened biscuit packet I’ll offer a biscuit too so they can see they’re truly fresh.
      Sometimes they’ll turn it down but accept one later.
      I think it’s polite and nice to ask even when it’s likely to be refused.

    3. Avatar photo Patrick Mac Sweeney says:

      A mug/bucket of coffee (must be either Douwe Egberts or Kenco) always goes down a treat. A bacon sandwich or similar will always be welcome, too.

  6. Avatar photo CableGuy says:

    Quite interesting to read. Being a Telecomms Engineer myself being offered a drink is neither here nor there and with Covid our place advised us at the very beginning of the pandemic to politely refuse but it’s never been one to bother me.

    The big one for me is shoe covers, whether it’s carpet or laminate I’ll always wear them, I see it as I’d want this done at my own home so I’ll do it at others, just a good respectful thing to do and a lot of customers appreciate it.

    It is always weird when someone does watch over you like a hawk but never talks, that for me can make me feel uncomfortable at times especially if they’re not socially enclined and you’ve got someone watching over you hardly saying a word but each to their own, as long as I can do my job and put the best fix in place then happy days

  7. Avatar photo Yantog says:

    Typical uk, you are there to do a job and you are getting paid. Its up to the customer if they want to offer you a drink or not. So typical of of the way things have turned out in the uk, always wanting extra, always wanting the customer to do any extra work possible. Grow up and stop being lazy. If any of you have ever worked or lived in another country you would realise how pathetic this article sounds.

    1. Avatar photo James says:

      It’s called being polite and considerate. And in Scotland it’s normal, Yes they might be there to do a job but in the end they are still human and should be treated as one.

      You sound like someone who looks down on working class people, disgusting!

    2. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      If you had ever worked or lived in another country you’d know that attitudes are very different.

      In the UK, for instance, it’s polite to tread tradespeople coming into your home with respect rather than as slaves. They are human beings and, if things go awry, they will be far more willing to go that extra mile if you don’t treat them like something you’d wipe off your shoe.

      You appear to confuse ‘customer’ with ‘slaveowner’.

    3. Avatar photo Pip says:

      If you build a rapport with the customer and vice versa, offer a brew or just be nice. Guess what? You probably won’t get a TRC! Being nice costs nothing and can actually save you money. If you’re a bit off or downright rude and the fault is within your property expect a charge.

    4. Avatar photo U.K All Day says:

      “Typical U.K” ? Yep, you`re correct old bean, what a totally spiffing thing to say, chocks away old chap !

      CORRECT, It IS typical of the “U.K” to go that extra mile, to be polite, welcome people into their homes and offer them a freindly cuppa and a biccy. Maybe you could learn somthing from us instead of being so salty.

  8. Avatar photo Paul M says:

    I always treat visiting tradespeople with redirect and politeness and offer a drink.
    Not only is it good you should be towards others, they usually do better work too.

  9. Avatar photo Darc says:

    Since I’ve never drink a cup of tea or coffee in my life(don’t like the taste) i never remember to offer one to a trade person. Mine you our last can of coffee turned green so that may not be a bad thing.

  10. Avatar photo Steve royce says:

    One of biggest issues is the customer not having had a good explanation by there ISP as to what needs to happen to carry out the work, especially on FTTP provision, engineers now have to secure ladders to buildings using eyebolts, and carry out long and visible cable runs, it would help if customers were better prepared and briefed by there ISP

    1. Avatar photo Shaq says:

      Hit the nail on the head there mate, gets really annoying when I show up to a provision and the customer has no prior information from the CP, they are still under the impression it comes through the phone socket and are usually shocked when I tell them there will be drilling and cables run around

  11. Avatar photo . says:

    With any tradesman, if they won’t take their shoes off or wear shoe protectors then guess what, no drink offered!

  12. Avatar photo R W Freeman says:

    I am a tradesman (electrician) yes it is uncomfortable with someone over your shoulder when you have to squeeze past then to get tools etc.. As for shoes.. If I bang my toe on a table leg and end up with a bad fracture or sprain… Will company pay my wages… No. health and safety says keep your shoes on.. Soe protectors not alway strong enough and not supplied by some company’s. Drink.. Yes please.. No harm in the offer.. You can always refuse….

  13. Avatar photo CarlT says:

    I always offer a drink and, if I’m delighted with the job, I’ll offer them a couple of beers to take back with them.

    People often aren’t paid anywhere near enough for what’s expected of them so happy to thank them with more than just words.

    1. Avatar photo Bimsb6 says:

      Top bloke , personally i appreciate being offered a drink , and a customer asking on me ringing ahead what i prefer tea or coffee sets the mood for the job before i even get there .

  14. Avatar photo Telecom Eng says:

    Personally I don’t mind people watching over the shoulder – if you just explain what you are doing as you do it then it fills the awkward silence after the weather talk.

    I never accepted drinks after having a few bad experiences. Thank them for the offer and decline… we pass plenty of shops in a day and can bring a flask.

    I would ask:

    1. Lock the dog away – even if it can talk – we dont need to deal with animals. After postmen, telecom engineers are the second most frequent victims of dog bites.

    2. Ensure where we will work is clear – not just furniture but dirt too. Nobody wants wet knees when they kneel on the carpet….

    3. Open a window – if you are home sick please don’t make me a vector to my or other customers families. Strong odors of damp or coffee etc are best avoided.

    Irate customer, boring talk etc is all part of handling customers. I only had to leave 3 or 4 customers in 25 years because of their aggression – most are fine once you drain the swamp and show empathy. And things are far better now thanks to advertising and expectations being set closer to reality.

  15. Avatar photo Head of customer services says:

    Customers. Thank god i no longer go in people’s houses but over the years i’ve seen it all. Customers that get out of bed to let you in , then go back to bed and leave you to it. Customers taking drugs. Customers selling drugs. Customers getting additional lines in for sex , err lines . Customers being arrested mid job. On the flip side, customers that are so stuck up and posh they have to communicate with you via a third person. MP’s customers, famous customers. Secret customers ( usually embassies) .Customers that randomly go out for a while mid job . Customers that try and wing it on an appointment , their at work and leave there underage child in to meet you. Don’t mind the savage dog customers . Customers that ask you to have a quick look at the boiler or something else totally unrelated. Customers that refuse to let you in as they were expecting ‘talktalk’ lol ‘your not leaving until its fixed’ customers. Customers that pick up
    the landline 25 times throughout the job ‘ it’s not working’ ‘it’s not working’. The TV’s stopped working customers . Your signing into reception, you’ve been in the building 6 seconds ‘Everything’s gone off, what have you done’ customers . It was working before you got here customers. I’ll never go with BT customers .

    Yea, it’s safe to say, i don’t miss customers .

    1. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      Then there’s the “My line’s just gone down, what have you done?” customer’s customer. Me, when Openreach were working on the property across the lane (that had been down for a few days). In fact, he’d got it back on by the time I stormed across, but wasn’t it a bit rude not to let me know before he did it? The fact I’d lost service for 3 days a couple of years earlier after some eejit stole my pair the Friday afternoon before a bank holiday weekend might have affected my attitude a tad, though.

  16. Avatar photo Mic says:

    The first thing I ever say to any utility/repair is tea / coffee, and do you want red or brown on your bacon sandwich. Then I make a joke about not being polite and saying hello to them first as thats not as important as the first questions. It’s helped me get better internet speeds (dude swapped a few thing in the cabinet) and Id like to think I’m remembered for the right reasons. I must admit I’m the one who watches things but because of interest and I could never deal with the public like these people.have to. I’d be fired straight away. I don’t tell them what to do. I make sure I can help route cables and clip them down, I’ll throw their rubbish away. It’s nothing to me, it’s the difference of getting g to their next job in tome for them. If something can’t be sorted then I call customer services and make sure they record me telling them the engineer tried everythingg they could.

  17. Avatar photo Chris says:

    Having previously worked for Openreach, we were actively taught not to remove our boots for safety reasons and were asked to use over shoes instead.

  18. Avatar photo Chris G says:

    I don’t think the person coming round to install your broadband is university educated, with an engineering degree and a member of the Engineering Council. Please just call them technicians as it does a disservice to all the highly educated and experienced electrical, civil and mechanical engineers.

    1. Avatar photo SimpleMinds says:

      Highly educated doesn’t mean experienced.
      Speaking as a “highly educated and experienced” civil engineer myself, I can assure you that the snobbery you possess for a title is not carried throughout the industry.
      Engineers in telecoms have been called such since their beginning, and they do complete engineering tasks in their relevant field. Maybe you should go out with them at some point and see the works they do beyond the in home faulting and green box work that the average joe ever sees.

      Disclaimer: I’m biased due to a close friend being a “technician”

    2. Avatar photo Tony says:

      I know a few people who’ve prefixed the with Royal for many years who take great offence at being spoken down to by someone who gets on their high horse about the use of the term Engineer.

  19. Avatar photo Paul Jameson says:

    Something we can all do is to keep our internal wiring up to date. If you have xdsl (internet via the phone cable), Please ensure you have a master filter or a hard wired pots splitter. It removes wiring and jack issues.

    Keep your phone wiring Up to date. Many Telcos are going to a voip based lines. It’s easier to grab a spare pair from an ethernet cable to add a 2nd jack rather than having to work out what goes where with legacy wiring.

    Lastly if you have fiber installed, get the tech to complete Integrated wiring. A phone socket is placed near the modem/ONT, with a cable backfeeding to a phone hub/internal wiring.

    Just because it works and the house was built in the early 1980’s doesn’t mean you will get a good broadband speed from it. I think this may have to be rewired.

    I have been the meat in the sandwich between the tech (refusing to give service, due to the customer saying that nothing is wrong with the wiring.

    All providers don’t supply all the same services, or are they available to each home in the country.

  20. Avatar photo WorldNomad says:

    I am going to take a different tone to Yantog above, but frankly speaking the whole thing about offering a drink never really crossed my mind. The only thing I drink outside tap water is milk with my breakfast (no tea, no coffee, no alcohol), and since I seldom invite anyone home and only recently moved in and busy settling down, getting supplies for guests is not something that is on the back of my mind. I do not even see the need to replace the kettle left behind by the previous tenant that looks disgusting inside (I am doing a favour not serving anyone anything from that!). So am I suppose to go and grab some tea, and coffee and buy a new kettle so that I can offer a cuppa? Should I also go and get some biscuit / cake, because in the off-chance that I do have some guest, I would probably prepare some snack too.

    I do believe in treating whoever hired to do a job with politeness and courtesy, but as a working professional here to do a job, not some kind of servant, but nor a “guest of the house”. That is how -I- would expect to be treated when -I- am hired to do a job.

    Ultimately I am influenced by my years of living in a country where I am still the customer even though it is my home, and while it doesn’t mean that I can act like a king, it would actually be bizarre (even by the engineer) if the customer was to be the one to offer something to the person doing the work. It is a country where staff would chase you down the street if you try to tip them, and people are expected to provide the best service possible because it is their job; not because they will get tipped or because they are offered a cuppa.

    Just going to put this down as a clash of custom.

Comments are closed

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