British Gas - it's not just me!!!
Stephen Fry famously used Twitter to get some much needed customer service love from Sony recently, proving that for celebrities at least Twitter is an invaluable CRM tool. So I was cheered this week by the suffering of TV presenter Maggie Philbin at the hands of those champions of customer dis-service, British Gas. There's no discrimination with British Gas - unlike Sony, they just treat us all like dirt!
Bank Holiday Monday and Maggie P posts the sad tweet: "I am having dream bank holiday waiting for Brit Gas engineer. 'Sometime between 12 and 6'. Not here yet."
Oh dear, thought those of us in the know, realising that whatever plans Maggie had for the Bank Holiday were not in a terminal decline. Sure enough, a later tweet confirmed:"5hs and 10 mins later, still no sign of gas engineer".
Then came the first sign of that all-too-familiar British Gas inspired growing irritation: "That gas man has just 18 mins left to show up or he'll fry."
Then Maggie clearly phoned up British Gas to be fed the usual crock of the proverbial that their call centre people trot out on the occasions when they're faced with an angry customer (ie every hour of every day!).
I felt for her as she variously tweeted: "I am FURIOUS!!!!!! No engineer! Claims he came and I wasn't in!!!! I am BEYOND mad... I went nuts on phone. Totally nuts... If at 11 this morning they'd said 'Look we can't really be ar*** on a bank holiday' I wouldn't be *quite* so mad... I stayed in all day to shout at Brit Gas innocent call centre person at 6.10pm...I very much resent the fact that having kept you in like a mug all day , they then fib about turning up."
Oh, come now Maggie, it's not a fib - it's a bare-faced, downright, unashamed lie. And as it gets trotted out on a routine basis, it's also presumably part of the pre-canned responses that the call centre team are trained to feed you in the hope that you'll not have engaged your brain and will accept that somehow British Gas's incompetence and total indifference towards their customers is actually your fault!
By next morning, Maggie had clearly come to a similar conclusion as she tweeted: "Everyone knows where they are. It's the arrogant wasting of our time that's abysmal."
But Maggie hit lucky - an engineer did turn up on the Tuesday and he either hadn't been briefed on the party line or was actually just a decent bloke who wasn't up for covering for his own firm's dismal customer relations. "He's a different engineer, who has confirmed that I was told nonsense over phone," reported Maggie. "He was appalled."
Presumably he was so appalled that he flagged up the problem and British Gas phoned up Maggie on Wednesday to try to make some form of amends. Typically however they managed to mess this up as well. Apology without arrogance is well outside the remit of the British Gas training programme. "I have British Gas on the phone who are making a poor job of an apology," tweeted Maggie. "Basically they say it's my word against his re: No Show Monday. They did eventually fix it on Tues, so I should be satisfied with that... pointed out that if they're happy to leave me as an unhappy customer, I will be a VERY unhappy customer."
But on ploughed British Gas, determined to have another stab at making it the customer's fault. Maggie wasn't in when their poor, time-wasted engineer turned up, they insisted. "No way did he knock on door. Have pointed out that I can show I was using internet at time, hence prove in house," noted Maggie, innocently assuming that somehow hard facts would help her. " I loathe the disrespect for people's time...The eye-watering thing is the way not only did they provide poor service but then seek to load blame on customer."
Indeed - it's called British Gas CRM policy, Maggie.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - British Gas is the most customer-indifferent and frankly openly hostile company in the UK. I had a similar 'apology' call from them this week in reply to my complaint from last week which went exactly the same way. A vague set of noises that didn't actually say sorry, only that they were sorry that they'd had to call me up and deal with a complaint. They were sorry I had felt I had to complain, not that they were sorry that I had reason to complain.
Then it was straight into the full-frontal attempt to pass the blame onto me. I, apparently, refused to provide all the necessary Data Protection Act information over the phone and so it was my fault their call centre people - "who are only trying to do their jobs, sir!" - couldn't help me.
As I had provided my name, address, date of birth, account number, customer reference and place of birth, I wondered what else I needed to provide to meet their interpretation of data protection requirements. DNA sample? Inside leg measurement?
Ah sir, it's all to do with the Data Protection Act, was the predictable response, heavy with a heady combination of contempt and faux regret. What has it got to do with the Data Protection Act, I asked, pointing out that I am a journalist who writes about the Act all the time. In fact, I said, I have the Information Commissioner's phone number on my mobile, should I perhaps call up and ask?
Long silence, followed by a change of tack in another attempt to blame me. This time it seems it was my fault because I kept refusing to admit that I hadn't signed up for the paperless billing that they trying to insist I told them I wanted. Until I admitted this, there was nothing they could do. At which point I gave up, told them I'd already told U-Switch to get me off British Gas and I didn't intend to waste any more time on their rubbish.
I've since had an email from British Gas which points out to me that the vast majority of their customers are very happy with the level of customer service they get. Quite why British Gas felt it was necessary to send this out to me I'm not sure - regardless of any question about whether it's actually true or not! (I know where my bet would be placed!). Presumably any day now, some hapless loon in a call centre will be assigned to call me up unsolicited in an attempt to keep me as a customer. This poor soul will have no record of any information relating to why I've quit British Gas or of any of the tortuous phone calls that have taken place. I will end up shouting at this poor person - for that I apologise in advance. If you work for British Gas and it might be you, maybe have a word with your supervisor now?
I'll leave the last word to Maggie Philbin. "I don't know who does their customer service training but they need to rethink," she tweets. "Beyond pathetic. And then to imply disbelief!!!...outrageous arrogance - to say nothing of defamation."