The previous story simply shows an example of a company not quite on the marketing forefront. A company that obviously treats all its customers the same (pretty poorly) and does not use BI to build relationships and optimise profit of satisfaction. The next example is a little more serious and none the less is quite true, with some alterations to protect the guilty.
I’ve lived in my house in Surrey for many, many years, and in all these years, although a gas meter has been present at the front of the house, I have never used gas and nor has anyone else. So imagine my surprise some time back when I received a gas bill for over £2000!
Evidently this was the result of a current gas reading estimate coupled with rental for the gas meter that had not been collected for years, and on complaining I was told that the reason why the past rental was being billed now was that the relevant computer systems were not previously in place to do so.
After sorting this out I asked for the meter to be removed, and after seven – yes seven – appointments, during which one member of my family had to stay at home all day because the gas guys couldn’t tell when they would come (or in fact when they wouldn’t come), the gas guys never once showed up to remove the meter – evidently their records were incorrect and so they couldn’t detect that there was a meter there at all. After six months of waiting and seven broken appointments, of which none were subject to any kind of explanation or apology, they finally ‘found’ the meter but still left it in play.
Now again, this is just bad treatment coupled with incompetence, and not really ‘ugly’. The thing that was ugly was the continued reminders and eventually the threatening letter to cut off the gas supply (nice trick – how do you cut something off that doesn’t exist?) Unfortunately for everyone, this was followed by the threat of legal action – now this is what I call ugly.
There are three other interesting aspects of this case that are worth considering.
During this exchange of dialogues, this company actually sent me direct mail introducing themselves to me as a preferred supplier of my electrical requirements – can you imagine my reaction?
Although this company eventually understood the situation, they couldn’t stop the quarterly bills coming for a year. Instead they just advised me to ignore them. Believe it or not, this time, instead of blaming their incompetence on a computer that wasn’t there, they blamed this on a new computer that had just been installed. We’ll see later just how computers are the whipping boy of all human incompetence. It’s even funnier that after I complained about the seven failed appointments they did offer me some small compensation – maybe £20 a day or some such amount – and you know how they paid this? They credited it to a bill, a bill that they knew I didn’t owe!
It took another six months to get the actual gas meter removed from the front of my house, and even then they left the big ugly box it was in. Since then I have destroyed the box myself, but the ugly metal pipe still remains, a reminder every day that marketing and customer care has some way to go.