Ok another post on the sadly too common theme of poor service. This time it’s from our lovely UK (privatised) utility companies.
It’s been all over the UK press recently with pretty much all of the power companies bringing in a pretty hefty price increase – just before the winter kicks in and we all start using our heating properly. Clearly the rubbish timing is a coincidence. Average increases in the region of 10% seemed to be the standard. So I was prepared – or so I thought.
Woke up this morning to find a nice letter from the lovely people at npower – our power company (who we use for our electricity and gas supplies). A 3 page letter from them that started off with an apology…
Ok, they know it’s not good news and want to be open with me. Next the reasons…
Ok – turn over the page, it’s then the increases, hidden deep in what can only be described as rocket science (and even though I actually do have 2 degrees in rocket science it’s not easy to understand). They’re planning a 20.3% increase on our electricity and an 18.0% increase for gas. Did I misread that? 20+%? I’ve never seen an increase anywhere like that. Has inflation suddenly changed? Have the national papers got the average that wrong (and I know it’s an average but this is way off)? Is it an error?
A quick check on Twitter and it’s not just me. Lots of people with similar nice letters recently, with the very same reasons (or shall we call them excuses), and with increases – but none quite this high. Some people even with no increases. Now maybe I see this in a very simple way but what is it about my supply that means I need a larger increase? Pass – but npower customer services surely will be able to set me straight.
A nice 0800 freephone number to call and then a multitude of rubbish menus to go through – entering my account number, listening to it, entering my date of birth, pressing the number 6 a few times and a few more. Then a message saying we’re experiencing a high volume of calls due to the recent letters, oh really? And you weren’t ready for that?
A message then to say they could call me back in about 45 minutes. Ok, sounds a good idea. So then about 2 hours later I get the call, and yes more menus and information I have to enter first. Then the agents on…
I explain the problem and that I’d like to understand why my increase is so much – good question she says. So then tells me the reasons in the letter – ok that tells everyone why there’s an increase but not why we’ve had the bombshell we’ve had. She then tells me it’s the region we’re in. Say what? Is Twickenham so different in how we receive our power, that they need to charge us twice as much more? Then she says, it’s also based on our low-ish usage. Huh? We have a low-ish usage so the increase is higher? Nonsense.
Let’s escalate – time for the manager, please can we speak to them? A 5 minute on-hold pause. Then, the agent has spoken to the manager and they say the same. What? Did “Can I speak to the manager?” not make sense? So second attempt…
The manager now says the same – and then completes it with we can’t really tell you, we don’t know. Oh, that’s ok then, so it’s some sort of lottery that even the rocket scientists at npower can’t really explain and it’s ok not to explain to customers, we just charge them 20% more. Or it’s a secret.
The morals and how this isn’t a good example of customer service…
- Don’t send out generic information when what you’re actually saying is very different.
- Ditch the menu after menu after menu system – it’s not friendly and no-one likes it.
- Employ more staff when you know you’re going to get busy, very busy. Plan better.
- Empower your staff so they can talk to customers and give them real information.
- Tell the truth and keep it simple.
- Listen and listen again, and understand what is being asked.
- If someone needs to escalate, let them – don’t do it for them.
- Don’t do something that is guaranteed to lose customers.
The moral? Well, if I want to keep warm – and today it’s cold – I’m pretty powerless to do anything with npower, the price increase stays and they’re not listening. But I can switch to someone else. And yes, no doubt they’ll also have an increase there but there’s a chance that it won’t be an obscene one and they might be able to tell me why….
Happy days, and a nice story in the book on how to lose customers.
The same day also, that a story about how npower mis-sold gas to someone and have been taken to the small claims court and the person has been successful in winning an harassment payment from them…