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Bell Canada: Incompetence or Culture of Evil?

August 18, 2009

Bell conversation

Dealing with Bell Canada’s customer support, as any Bell client would tell you, is an exercise in frustration. That frustration starts off the moment you call them and realize you need to deal with Emily, a computer who’s job it is to remove any positive vibes you’re feeling by the time you reach a human.

By the way, you can avoid talking to Emily by not talking. Don’t cough, don’t breathe loudly (She’ll think you’re saying something and ask you to repeat it) and just hold the line. Emily will assume you’re 80 years old and on a rotary dial telephone and patch you through to a human.

So today, when calling Bell again to ask why I’m still being charged for a home phone line that was cancelled in April, I had reached my wit’s end. Here’s one question I asked at the height of my frustration.

Bell Customer Service takes a stab at answering a question

Well played, Bell Customer Service Rep, well played.

Obviously, I don’t have any hard stats to present here, just anecdotal evidence. I have heard from Rogers reps that half of people switching over from Bell complain of getting charged for service after cancellation dates. When I mention Bell’s name to anyone in conversation, I get the same response time and time again. I never see that kind of vitriol when discussing Rogers or Videotron.

Bell hasn’t made any progress in improving their reputation, despite many claims of making customer service a priority, and quarterly results show the company is bleeding subscribers in both home and mobile phone service. Unfortunately for Bell, I suspect the problem here isn’t simply a Keystone Cops corps of customer service reps. The problem with Bell runs much higher up the ladder. There is a culture at the company which values short term stats above long term customer satisfaction, and it’s going to take much more than clichéd ad slogans to change that.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Gilles permalink
    August 21, 2009 1:37 PM

    What bad experience precisely did you have with Bell customer support? In six years with Sympatico I called three or four times and the tech representative solved my problem quickly… In fact, I guest it was their problem, since I use a Macintosh and the techs I talked to always seem surprised Apple even exists… But that’s another debate.

    • Richard permalink
      August 27, 2009 12:59 PM

      I have only dealt with Bell on the Express Vu side, and I must say that I have NEVER experienced poorer custom service in my lifetime.

      I had issues with Bell since day 1, and a few months ago i put my foot down and cancel my account ($90 a month) because of customer service only.

      Not only that, but Bell owed me almost $200 dollars in credits. Even after I canceled my account the headaches didn’t end. I had to call 3 separate times in order to request my credit, then to follow up to make sure i was getting it, and then again in order to have them release the check to get to me. Every agent you speak to a Bell Express vu will give you a different story and will not have the same answer.

      Did you know that if you purchase a paper view event in HD that you don’t get the standard definition channel? So if the weather is bad and your HD signal gets cut out you are completely screwed. Thats right, that happened to me on a few occasions for UFC fights and Bell told me that I had to purchase the event for Standard definition also. Not only that, but since I purchased the event in HD, it wont work on my SD receivers in the house. To be honest, I don’t even want to talk about it anymore because the frustration level is too much.

      When i called Bell to cancel my account they tried to offer me some great discounts where I would save close to 40 %, and I wasn’t even tempted. I’m stuck now with Videotron and their shitty Guide and channel line up so I watch far less TV, but the truth is Bell doesn’t deserve my business and they can eat shit for all I care. I”d rather watch less TV and not have to deal with the idiots at BEV.

  2. Nick permalink
    August 23, 2009 10:30 PM

    What is lacking is hard facts and statistics. I’m not even sure any have been made regarding the big telecom companies in Canada. What I do know, as both a Bell ISP/Phone and Rogers (mobile) customer, is that they’re both arrogant.

    I’d say Rogers has to be the most inconsistent when it comes to billing. After switching to them from Fido, I can tell the difference. I’m on a corporate plan (which probably annoys them) and I’ve routinely had excessive charges on my bill. The only suggestion I can make, is when you complain to them, state the facts and then raise hell like a hornet’s nest in a closed room. At the end of the day, you will get what you want.

    I’d suggest the same for Bell. The annoying kicker is that silly voice recognition demand at the beginning of a service call (this must annoy seniors to no end).

    I don’t have many suggestions except to learn how to argue effectively with both of them, and show them that customer is always right. Show them what a great service you thought it was, and how crappy it became. Ask them why you shouldn’t switch right there and right now? If they don’t switch you to a higher level support or try to make you a deal, and if you’re that frustrated, threaten to switch.

  3. Peter permalink
    August 25, 2009 9:03 AM

    I subscribed to Bell’s Expressvu HD service in May of 2008. By december, I had already called 16 times (that’s more than twice a month) for various problems with the bill (missing channels, bizarre charges, promotional credits not being applied, etc…), one of which was that they continued to charge me the monthly rental fee for the old receivers that I had returned when I received the HD PVR. The customer service rep would go through the usual “please let me investigate the issue sir” routine and come back to the line and say – “OK. a credit has been applied to your account, and the charges should no longer appear.” Sure enough, I’d get my next bill, and what do you know! The credits did not appear, and I was charged an additional 2 rentals for the current month. It took seven months to get the problem fixed. I had a 2 year contract for Expressvu, but luckily moved to a new condo in December which didn’t allow satellite dishes on the building. I was able to get out of the contract without having to pay the cancellation fee. Now if only Videotron would improve their HD and specialty channel offerings, I’d be as happy as a pig in…

    • eliasmakos permalink*
      August 25, 2009 11:58 PM

      Question Peter: Did Bell try to verify that you were indeed moving to a condo that didn’t allow satellite dishes? Or did they take your word for it? That would be a neat way of getting out of a Bell TV contract. As for me, I’ll let you know on September 14 if Bell has finally stopped charging me for my home phone cancelled in April.

      • Peter permalink
        August 28, 2009 8:32 AM

        Elias: I kept my landline and internet with Bell. Sure enough though, on the next bill I received, the cancellation fee was charged. I called, and told them that they had already agreed to allow us out of the contract free of charge. The initial rep of course didn’t mention that I had to provide proof. What this new guy asked for when I told him I had moved to a condo that didn’t allow dishes was proof of my new address. I found this exceptionally weird since I had already trasferred my internet and landline to the new address and therefore had given them all of my new information. I double checked and he said, – “…that’s correct. You can simply send us any bill you receive in the mail with your new address on it.” So, a day later, I made a photocopy of my Bell telephone bill and sent it in… I thought that was pretty clever. I received a phone call a couple of weeks later from a man named Jacques from the Loyalty dept. [I will never forget his name because in my many years of dealing with Bell, he was the only person with whom I spoke who had any common sense, and knew how to actually listen to and hear what the customer was saying.] He explained that the bill I sent in didn’t have any mention of the fact that dishes were not allowed. I told him that I realized that, but the rep I had spoken to insisted that it was more than adequate. He simply said -” I see. Well, that’s problem Peter. We’ll get this charge off of your account immediately. No need to send me anything else. Have a nice day.” No -“How would you rate my service to you today?” or “Would you be interested in adding TV once again to further increase your bundle savings”, or any objections, cross-selling, or idiocy of any kind. My next bill was in perfect order. If only Bell had a few more ‘Jacques’, they’d retain a heck of alot more customers…

  4. kell permalink
    March 29, 2010 3:30 AM

    I bought a bell pay as you go cell phone. The guy at walmart said about a half hour activation and set up time. What a joke! 5 hours later i finally get a number(site was down from network being busy) and i get nothing but busy signal. Moreover Bell is able to send me text message telling me how to set up voice mail. To the online customer support my number doesnt exist. This was supposed to be fast because im leaving town tomorrow and the phone was for the kids” emergency phone. I hate Bell already

  5. Jeffrey Marshall permalink
    January 21, 2011 6:39 PM

    Let me tell you a recent tale of woe. After no less than 32 years with Bell Canada, I recently terminated my service in favour of a cable carrier offering VOiP. Why did I do this?
    32 Years ago, Bell was a monopoly very highly controlled by the CRTC. They associated with other provincial carriers, as a monopoly, through the Stentnor Group. Back then, Bell was very well-behaved, had excellent customer service, had excellent technical service, and charged premium rates. But we had exceptional customer service.

    Fast forward 20 Years. It is now 2000. The internet is the craze, cell phones are the craze, satellite TV and the wonderful universe of 1000 channels are the craze. Bell has resisted deregulation for many years, and, finally, seeing the writing on the wall, used their holding company, BCE, to divest of a number of ‘unprofitable’ businesses. The Stetnor Alliance is broken up, and deregulation is underway. Bell has realigned their businesses into Bell Mobility, Sympatico, and Bell (phone service). They have restructured so one company cannot talk to the other, and customers now have to talk to three different entities. Being fledgling in the Internet business, Bell has a competency problem. But, Sympatico is a decent little service, somewhat behind in technology, but solid, with good customer service. So is Bell Mobility.

    Fast forward a couple more years. BCE has figured out how to acquire, at an arm’s length from Bell, a number of its competitors in the Internet business, in the Satellite TV Business, and, because it owns the infrastructure (telephone lines), is able to keep competitors out of the phone business. Enter VoIP. This new technology poses a threat to Bell’s consolidated position. What does it do? Well, rather than do what normal businesses do, COMPETE, it decides to ‘milk’ its subscriber base by cutting back customer service and outsourcing it, outsourcing its datacenters for billing and for internet support, and, generally, cutting all costs of operation to the bone, while ‘milking’ subscribers with sub-standard service on all its main product fronts (Mobility, Phone, and Satellite TV), while it takes the proceeds and goes on a drunken spending orgy to acquire the likes of CTV, CHUM Radio and TV, and other media, so that it has, once again, vertically integrated and created a new monopoloy – one that controls the CONTENT.

    And don’t think Bell has given up on its monopolistic attitude. Do some research, for example, and find out who is the REAL provider, for instance, in the mobility business – who provides the backbone for President’s Choice, and Virgin Mobile, by example? Yes, Bell. And you thought you had competitive options?

    Now, let me tell you the story of what happened when I decided, finally, to leave Bell. My local cable provider has been working heavily in our area to upgrade its infrastructure, so it can provide improved cable service, VOD, Local and Long Distance Phone Service, and Internet Service. They are not associated with Bell, although I suspect they have to lease internet backbone trunks from Bell.

    They have been offering me deals for months, to switch my landline phone, and internet, and consolidate with my cable account. In the meantime, I have been reluctant to leave Bell, as I have a historic fondness for them. Nevertheless, I could no longer stomach the sub-standard Internet Service they were providing me through Sympatico, and they had arbitrarily increased my Internet subscription rate twice in the last two years (over 15% increase), which wiped out any economic savings from being ‘bundled’ with Bell. That, and an e-mail service that was impossible to use, and an Internet Provider who was absolutely dis-interested in helping me with my technical issues, really killed the value proposition.

    Enter the competition – they offer me a consolidated land phone service, internet service and cable service. Their offer was not terribly outstanding, but I had had a much better customer service record with the cable provider over a 10 year relationship, and it was obvious that they were investing in service and technology.

    I couldn’t even get Bell to look at a bad exterior wire, which was causing all sorts of static on my landline – they insisted the problem was inside, and would charge for service calls. This, notwithstanding all my interior wiring had been upgraded and installed by professionals. Bell would not consider the possibility that the casing on their exterior wire was cracked, and letting in moisture, and causing the static on my line. The problem was mine, and they would help, at a cost.

    I resign myself to make the switch. In November, I order the switch to be made, effective end of January. The cable provider takes on the job of notifying Bell, and my service is to be disconnected on January 28.

    Did Bell react to try and save the account? No. Not until I called to terminate my Internet account. When I called to order disconnection, I was asked a multitude of questions, including the ‘why’ I was disconnecting. I was then told I was being transferred to an agent who would process my disconnection order. I waited ten minutes on the line, and then was faced with a new agent who asked me all the same information over again, including the reasons.

    He would not process my disconnection order. Rather, he aggressively tried to ‘terrorize’ me with the prospect of reduced reliability (remember, internet transmission is primarily sent after the first few hops by the National Fibre Optic Backbone – Bell infrastructure) of phone service. When I explained the decision was made, he then tried to ‘bribe’ me with a highly reduced rate for Internet (“you are on an old package – our new packages are significantly cheaper”). When questioned as to why Bell had not communicated with me to offer me the more economical service in the first instance, his reply was that my claim was ridiculous – Bell sends me mail regularly to apprise me of these offers, and it was up to me to contact them to review the account.

    In the ‘old’ days, Bell considered me a Preferred Customer, and, up until 2002, I regularly received calls from a Marketing Rep, who had all my usage statistics and would recommend cost-saving services. That had long ended, and the only offers I had received from Bell were useless offers for ‘new subscriptions’. I asked when the new services had come into effect, and whether Bell was prepared to credit me, or rebate, the difference. That question yielded no response, rather, a change of subject and moved back to ‘terror’. When terror yielded no wavering on my part, the switch came back to bribery, and an offer was made to eliminate Long Distance charges for 1500 minutes a month, anywhere in North America. (I had been paying $10 a month for at least 7 years for the benefit of 1000 minutes cross-Canada). Again, the question about rebating the past period, and again, a switch back to ‘terror’ about the inefficiency of Cable, and the quality of Bell’s new Fibre Optic system. (not in MY neighbourhood, for now and for the foreseeable future – I still have leaky old copper exterior wires causing interference on my phone line, and bumping my DSL service off line).

    The Agent would not process my cancellation order, until I finally said, “Look, if I had thought the relationship was worth salvaging, I would have called the Customer Loyalty Centre ages ago. My order is placed with the cable company, and it is effective January 28. Please cancel my service.”

    As a final stab, he indicated that my contract called for 30 days’ notice. That means I will continue to pay for my Bell Sympatico service, for 22 days’ beyond the date that my Phone Line, and DSL service will be terminated. The agent had no answer for how Sympatico would plan to offer me its service until the termination date. That ultimately means, 22 extra days of revenue to Bell, with no cost of service at all.

    Bell, it took 32 years to lose me. How long do you think it will take to get me back? My annual Bell combined-services bill was in the order of $2400 (internet, phone, mobility). Right now, all you have left is my Mobility Service, which gets you about 1/2 of that. With 13 million land line subscribers, you probably don’t care. You certainly didn’t care about giving me value for my money. How many customers will you have to lose, before you DO start caring?

    Please feel free to syndicate this blog anywhere you want. The more people know, the better choices they will make with the information.

    By the way, I am sending a copy of this blog to the Bell Executive Offices in Montreal. Maybe it will help them to direct their accountants to stop squeezing every penny out of their recurring revenue, to satisfy BCE shareholders, and to start providing satisfactory allocations to customer service.

    The company should follow the wisdom of its CEO, Stephane Boisvert. The following is an article he wrote on customer retention:
    http://www.bell.ca/enterprise/EntNews_newsletter_September_2009_3.page

  6. Randall permalink
    March 27, 2012 7:33 PM

    I would like to warn people that I am very suspicious that Bell has purposely put my VOIP number on some kind of SPAM list of phone numbers because since forwarding my old phone number from Bell to my new VOIP provider, I have been swamped with all sorts of sales calls and a new one now that’s just showing up as ‘anonymous’ but when you pick it up, there’s nobody on the line so it’s automated for sure. So here is my story.

    After being with Bell for 35 years, I started having trouble with the actual physical land line connection outside my house which caused an annoying crackling sound that would get so bad on a windy day, you couldn’t even have a conversation. I called Bell and of course, as in Jeff Marshall’s letter (see previous letter above), Bell kept trying to say it was probably in the house but I knew it wasn’t as I re-did all the lines in the house myself and it even crackled when I connected a phone right to the terminals entering the house, so I told them no, it’s NOT in the house so they sent a kid out to check the line. The kid climbs the pole and I’m standing below and I hear him call his supervisor for help and he says ‘This is really old school, I’ve never seen anything like it, there’s a rubber flap with two hold down fasteners and it’s all rusty’, now I knew this because I had seen other Bell guys working on it years back and BTW, my neighbor also had phone problems so the box up the pole is really old and should have just damned well been changed — but would Bell replace it? No way, the kid messed around and said that if it still didn’t work I should call Bell and ask them to change the box. So it seemed a ‘little’ better and then of course after a few hours it was back to crackling like mad so I just thought ‘I’ve frigging had it with Bell’ I had called them before about various problems and had got the run around so I heard about VOIP phones and quickly made the switch. Yeehaww, no more crackly line and it’s under $10 a month! But not so quickly hot shot, Ma Bell ain’t gonna letting you off the hook that easily.

    So here I was about 3 weeks after breaking up with Bell using my new my new VOIP phone which was working great but there was ONE annoying call that I kept getting, it was Ma Bell and she obviously wanted us to get back together. I would ignore their calls (ha ha! Finally the tables were turned ;-) but I got sick of them calling and finally took the call one day – BAD MOVE! The guy asked me why I had quit and I told him the story of the noisy line and how they wouldn’t fix it and had threatened to charge me a $100 if it turned out to be a problem in the house etc. etc. He didn’t comment but tried to make me ‘deals’ to get me to come back. (Why don’t they give you this kind of attention in the first place BEFORE you leave them??) Anyhow, long story short, we get to the end of our conversation and he asks “So are you SURE you don’t want to come back” and I assure him NO, to which he asks me again and I reply ‘NO’ and then we say goodbye and I SWEAR, THAT evening, I started getting all sorts of annoying sales calls and stupid messages from Indonesia and God knows where else so I am POSITIVE even though I can’t prove it that Bell is pulling a kind of Mafia/Sopranos move on anyone who breaks off with them in hopes that you’ll eventually just get so tired of being harassed that you’ll go back to them but after them pulling this stunt, there is NO WAY in the WORLD I would ever go back to them. I will change my number over and over if I have to but I will NEVER go back and I can only hope that some idiot from Bell reads that. HARASSMENT only makes people MORE angrier with you BELL !!

    Anyhow, I apologize for the long rant but I just wanted to share this because if it’s happening to me it’s happening to many others and if so I would love to hear about it as it would 100% confirm my suspicions and people should know about it if it’s true. If so, Bell is using harassment and antagonism as a business practice. I can’t say I would be surprised if this turns out to be the case as I’m sure they’re getting desperate and they’re a corporation so they don’t have to be accountable to anyone except their shareholders. It’s customers are no better than cattle to Bell.

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