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More useless customer service

This month’s A Mammoth Undertaking prize for insensitive customer service goes to……. cue drumroll……

The telephone land-line was, like all our utilities, in Christopher’s name. So this time last year I spoke to BT, explained that he was dead, and got it moved into my name. So far, so good – no dramas, and all the paper bills have been correctly addressed to me since.

But at some point over the years, Chris must have signed up online to That did not transfer over to me when I notified BT of his death, even though it is attached to the same phone number, account number and address. He (or rather, his email account) keeps getting emails from BT,  telling him that his bill is available to look at online.

This time last week, I’d finally had enough. I filled in a web-based complaint form, giving them all my details and saying “I told you a year ago that my husband Christopher Booth had died. You changed the account to my name – at least for paper bills. But you have not updated the online account. You are still sending emails addressed “Dear Christopher” and the mybt account is still in his name. This is extremely upsetting. Please change it ALL to my name.”

To give them their due, they got back to me within two days. But the reply was distinctly less than helpful – it boiled down to “I need to advise you that I cannot change the name on your on line account. Only the account holder can make these changes to their on line account.”

You can guess what that means, can’t you? Yes, I had to log in as Christopher with his username and password. The username was straightforward, but of course I didn’t have a clue about the password. Funny that. Anyone would think that as he was dead it might be difficult for me to actually ask him – but that doesn’t seem to have occurred to BT. So I had to get the password reset – which involved answering a security question which Christopher had set up. Fortunately he’d chosen one to which I knew the answer – so it wasn’t even particularly secure. If it had been something more obscure I’d not have been able to do so.

A year ago, I accepted these nuisances as just part of the general crap one has to deal with when one is bereaved. But I’m not feeling so charitable now. I think its absolutely unforgivable that major companies have such appalling procedures in place to deal with the death of one of their customers. The online stuff is the worst – they really don’t seem to have thought through the ramifications of passwords and so-called security questions when the account holder is no longer around to answer them. I at least am self-confident (some might even say bolshie) enough to make a fuss. But I feel very sorry for more vulnerable people who have to deal with all this extra aggravation at an already extremely difficult time.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Sally B | 6 September 2011 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed the invective here. When my father died he had sent off some form to the DSS and forgotten to sign it. I had a stupid conversation with a woman who said that his claim could go ahead, even though he was dead, and she actually said that I wouldn’t need to get him to sign !

  2. Gillian | 6 September 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Hello Sally. Ridiculous isn’t it?

  3. Richard P | 6 September 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gillian,
    Sorry you’ve had more annoyances from service providers.
    Perhaps if you find anyone particularly inept to deal with, you could suggest that they organize some focus groups to identify better ways of serving their deceased customers?
    All the best,

  4. Hugh W | 12 September 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I think it is just a UK service (ha ha) industry thing. I have just sorted out a problem with my Family Tree software where they had managed to put me on to an American rather than British subscription. I rang the toll free 0800 number and was transferred to a lovely woman in the USA who sorted it all out, refunded some money and apologised for taking 5 minutes to sort it out.

    I like the garden works as well and I hope future archaeologists are properly confused. Did you use a small urn?

    Best wishes