Call centre staff shouldn't have to deal with angry and frustrated customers armed only with headphones and empathy when what they need are cattle prods to get the company to actually do something.
The letter was my final last-ditch attempt to pierce the armour of the “customer service” system set up by the company. It was a last resort after eight-months worth of phone calls without a resolution to what I thought was a pretty simple problem.
Call centres have earned the reputation of being the sweatshops of the electronic age. Theoretically they are meant to “co-create value for the customer and the organisation”. What they actually do, is pit the two least powerful groups in the equation - call centre staff and customers – against each other. At the end of this company’s 0800 number there was always a polite, helpful and even sympathetic person who could only refer the problem, not fix it.
Here's the letter ...
What do I expect from my electricity supplier? Mmmmm … let’s see.
• Electricity - obviously.
• To be charged a reasonable tariff.
• Efficient responses to queries I make about my account or the company’s services.
• To be billed at agreed-upon intervals at an agreed-upon tariff.
• Bills which are easy to understand and reflect the true state of my account.
This doesn’t seem too much to expect does it?
And how well does your company rate against this modest list of expectations? Really, really, badly that’s how!
When I moved to my current address, I contracted your company to supply my electricity. At the same time I arranged a direct debit to pay my monthly account. So far, so simple.
In August, I made the mistake of requesting the installation of a “Night Saver” meter. This was an economy measure (much-promoted in your brochure) as a way to save consumption and money on electricity by supplying power to the hot water tank only during off-peak hours, and at a reduced tariff.
In November, after a leisurely three months, the meter was finally installed. When I say leisurely, I mean you were taking it easy. I, on the other hand, was very busy: ringing you at regular intervals to remind you of your promise to put in the meter, then playing an elaborate game of phone tag with the independent contractor who was meant to install it.
When the meter was finally installed, I sat back expecting a slightly reduced power bill which would be paid by the existing direct debit arrangement. Silly me.
The hot water tank kept on simmering 24 hours a day. I rang you to let you know. I told you that the meter didn’t seem to be working properly. You said not to worry.
I rang you again because you had stopped sending me any power bills. There hadn’t been any direct debits from my bank account to your company either. I was worried that I would be falling behind with my account. You said not to worry. You said my account was up-to-date.
So I didn’t worry. Well, until early February anyway. By this stage I was absolutely sure that my account must be in arrears because there had been no debits from my account for three months. I rang you about this. You said not to worry. You would send me a bill.
By late February you still hadn’t sent me a bill. I rang you again. You said not to worry. A bill would be sent and would fix the whole thing.
This time you did send me a bill. Hallelujah! However, it showed zero usage of the Night Saver meter and therefore all power was being charged at the regular tariff not the Night Saver tariff. I rang your company to advise of the error. You said not to worry. You would issue a new bill to fix the whole thing.
You did send a bill this time. And another. And then another one. I rang you each time a bill arrived to point out that the hot water tank was still feasting on power day and night and that maybe the Night Saver meter wasn’t working properly. Also, the Night Saver tariff didn’t appear on the bill and there had still been no direct debits from my bank account. You said not to worry. The next bill would fix everything.
It’s now April. The good news is that my direct debit has lurched into life again. The bad news is that the bills I am receiving seem to be produced by a random invoice output device and I can’t make sense of their variations. In desperation I ambushed the meter reader last week and asked him about that Night Saver meter. He said it isn’t working.
Each time I phone your customer service department I often wait half an hour to speak to a human being. Then I have to explain “the story so far” before I can launch into my explaining the current situation. This is infuriating, particularly when some of my calls are begging you to send me an account and pointing out that you’re not receiving payment from me.
And now I have to write to you as well, although why I think ink on paper will make any difference, I don’t know.
Please. Fix. This. Problem.