Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Is there nothing Google can't do?
I've been driven up the wall by British gas over recent months. A quick summary of events: 1. They sent me incorrect bills. In the case of the gas bill, it had the wrong tariff and did not include a credit of £129. In the case of the electricity bill, it had the wrong tariff. 2. I called on 10th July. They said that there was a computer problem, confirmed that the tariffs had been set up incorrectly, and said it would be sort out and they would send a revised bill. 3. No revised bills arrived. They sent me a reminder. 4. I called. I went through the whole thing again and was told again that it would be taken care of. 5. No revised bills arrived. They sent me a rather insulting “red reminder”. 6. I called again and they assured me that no further threatening letters would be sent and that the matter would be resolved. They asked me to send a copy of the tariffs (apparently they don't know what they are) to their amusingly entitled “Customer Care Team”, which I did. 7 I (stupidly, in retrospect) posted a letter with the tariffs enclosed. 8. No revised bills were received, of course, a few days ago I came home to find notices of disconnection. 9. I called their ridiculous customer “service” number, only to be told that (as usual) all of the representatives were busy and that I would have to wait 30 minutes (at my own expense) to speak to someone. Since I had no alternative but to tolerate this appalling state of affairs, I had no choice but to sit with a phone against my ear—when I had considerably better things to do—for 59 minutes. Correct: I waited 1 hour to talk to a customer “service” representative, who said that he couldn’t hear me properly because of a bad line but would call me back right away. Which, naturally, he did not. 10. I called back and spoke to someone who said that there was nothing she could do but have a manager call me back in the morning. Naturally, they didn't call. 11. I called back to get a fax number os that I could send a letter detailing the problems together with (another) copy of the tariffs. They gave me a fax number which of course turned out to be incorrect. 12. I called back next morning and and a woman told me that my account was not on the right tariff (which I knew), that the letter I had sent would take at least a month to process, and that she could not stop the disconnection process. 13. I asked her to transfer me to the debt department, where the phone rang continuously for several minutes without being picked up. 14. I called back and spoke to someone who gave me another fax number which, like many of the other British Gas numbers, is never answered. At this point, I decided that I was wasting my time calling "Customer Service" and that since my electricity and gas were going to be cut off I'd better do something. I turned to the mightiest weapon in any modern person's armoury... Google. Bif! I googled and found that customer services are based in Manchester. I called directory enquiries and got the number. That got me through to a reception desk. The person on the desk said that there were no fax machines in the customer service department. I said that I had an important letter to get through to them and the person on the desk gave me the e-mail address of someone in the department. Bam! The address was in a particular format firstname.lastname@example.org so I googled "head of customer services" and go straight through to a page with the relevant clown featured GETTING AN AWARD FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE!! I guessed (correctly) the e-mail address and I sent the contents of the letter as an e-mail. Pow! Since the e-mail didn't bounce, I knew I was on to something. I googled the name on the bottom of the letter threatening to disconnect me and deduced the e-mail address. I send an e-mail with the same complaints (and slightly more invective). Blam! Within a few minutes I had a call back from a nice lady who sorted out the problem. Moral of this story: if one of the faceless and unaccountable fat cats discovers a message in their inbox, they will get someone to do something about it. Don't waste your time calling their disgraceful customer "service" number.