So much for TechCity if BT can't install a simple phone line in 78 days

It goes without saying that there is a great deal of activity in the tech startup world these days, whether you think it’s a bubble or not. At the same time governments all over the world are realising that with economies in dire straits, anything which shows hypergrowth like technology is to be encouraged. Little wonder then that Chile is doing StartupChile, Berlin is white hot right now and the UK government is fanning the flames under an organic tech cluster in the East of London. So what’s the one thing you don’t need in a “TechCity“? How about no basic phone lines, maybe? [See update below]

We’ve already documented the delays BT Openreach is capable of when being asked, in simple terms, to connect a central London building up to a fibre broadband connection. We even put a countdown clock on them to get it sorted out.

Now word reaches us that Shutl, a company with significant VC investment and which is threatening to become one of the hottest startups in the UK is simply trying to get… a phone line.

You see, Shutl needs phones to operate its customer service function which acts as the intermediary between retailers, couriers and shoppers when things don’t go quite to plan. It is a critical part of keeping Shutl’s customer experience rocking and making their proposition compelling to retailers.

Shut decided in May to switch ISDN provider to BT when it moved into a new bigger office in Scrutton Street, slap bang in the heart of “Silicon Roundabout”, designated part of the UK government’s Tech City initiative in East London.

The previous tenant already had BT ISDN at the location and BT proposed this as the solution to avoid disruption. In June they scheduled a switchover date for 7th July with their previous provider and BT. They set their DDI range to forward to mobiles in case there was any delay in the handover, expecting possibly a couple hours.

But 21 days later Shutl still has no phones. That makes it now 78 days and counting from the order being placed.

From 7th July BT has been providing… an engaged tone.

After 10 days of constant chasing they were told it would be another 10 days to get an Openreach appointment. Then it all went quiet. Regular chasing did nothing. As founder and CEO Tom Allason says: “I don’t even understand why an Openreach engineer needs to attend our office… we already have a BT line, that was why we went with them.”

Shutl set up an outsourced call centre to take customer service calls and have its teams using mobiles for outbound calls. The cost of the call centre alone will likely exceed £15,000.

“The bottom line is that we are a small startup, BT has put our business in serious jeopardy. Had we less capital this could have killed us. It is absolutely shocking. I recently attended a breakfast at Downing Street where Tim O’sullivan pledged BT’s support for TechCity & London’s emerging tech startup scene. This is completely at odds with the service we are receiving,” Allason told us.

‘High Level Esalations’ contacts at BT have offered extra mobiles and internet dongles.

So, about that Tech City….

[Update]: The phones have now been installed properly – magically, a day after this post…