British Gas: How not to do customer service

I’ve learned to become reasonably patient with the customer service departments of assorted multinational corporations I invariably have to deal with from time to time. Having done similar jobs when I was a student, I know that a) the job is usually crap; and b) customers getting angry and giving grief doesn’t usually solve anything quickly. Usually it doesn’t take more than a couple of calls to sort the problem out and mobile phone providers, banks and even NTL got there eventually (only just with the last one, but they were always polite and reasonably helpful).

I am, however, rapidly running out of patience with British Gas. Their customer service ranks up their with the very worst.

The situation is thus. In my house we have a boiler. Said boiler has thrown a hissy fit whereby it will no longer provide hot water unless the whole heating system is on in the house – radiators, the lot. In hot weather this means the house becomes a sauna if you want to do something like, ooh, the washing up, or have a shower.

I have been living in a sauna for the past week.

This problem hadn’t passed us by and about a month ago I called out British Gas to do a combined safety check and fix the boiler. Unfortunately the man they sent out hadn’t been informed he was meant to fix the boiler and, after having a quick poke about, concluded there was something reasonably major wrong and would need the right tools and more time. He was very pleasant about it all though, and fitted a carbon monoxide detector, so we didn’t die. Which was nice.

From here my housemate took up the reigns and tried to arrange somebody to come back and fix the boiler. They didn’t turn up.

Housemate then rearranges an appointment. This time they turn up but at the wrong time, when nobody is in.

The boiler’s still not fixed by this stage, but we’re slowly getting a working sauna.

Housemate rings up for a third time. At this stage, he’s told they do evening visits. Which would have been nice to know beforehand so he didn’t have to take a couple of days off work to wait for Godot the gasman. But anyway, a third visit was duly arranged for last night.

No gasman. Not even a hint of a gasman.

At this point, housemate becomes frustrated and passes on the organisation to Housemate 2, least he utter unpleasant four letter words at the customer service bod at the other end of the phone.

Housemate 2 rings British Gas to arrange another evening or weekend appointment only to be told British Gas don’t do evening or weekend appointments.

Housemate 2 rings landlady to find a convenient time for her to ‘house sit’ the gasman.

Housemate 2 re-rings British Gas and is offered an evening or weekend appointment but with a day already agreed with the landlady, and with levels of Schrodinger-like doubt as to the existence of these evening or weekend appointments, duly passes on this offer.

So, we have the landlady popping over to our house on Friday waiting for a British Gas boiler fixer who may or may not turn up, or even exist, such is the existential nature of their service. I hope she’s impressed I strimmed the lawn last weekend

Fortunately our landlady has a service plan with British Gas, so we’ve not had to pay anything. But if I was her, I’d be somewhat miffed that I’m paying this money for somebody not to turn up. If I wanted to spend money on somebody doing that, I’d pay it direct to Kate Bush or some other reclusive celebrity.

It’s not the first time I’ve had problems with British Gas. When I tried to swop suppliers in a different house a few years ago, British Gas seemed to have a problem letting go of me and continued to bill me, despite another utility company also sending me bills. When this was pointed out to British Gas, their response was to send us letters with lots of red on it, warning us of dire consequences if we didn’t pay our bill.

So, I await Friday with baited breath, and whether or not my breath gets sufficiently baited on Friday, I’m going to suggest to the landlady to switch accounts to a company that actually knows what its doing and has employees that actually exist.


4 Responses to “British Gas: How not to do customer service”

  1. 1 Johannes May 30, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Hi Gary,

    I have just started blogging on my experiences with estate agents and utility companies. I came across you blog and you are the first person I am adding to my blogroll because I’ve just blogged on British Gas. I was actually quite satisfied with their customer service but its all a charade.



  2. 2 Gary Andrews May 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks Johannes, I imagine you’ll get plenty of material for your blog judging by the tales of woe and horror I hear on a daily basis. I don’t usually like to rant about poor service but with British Gas it had got a bit beyond a joke.

    I suppose I should probably give an update. Our landlady, bless her, waited in for the gas man, who said we needed a plumber. Plumber duly came and gas man returns and we now have hot water. However, our heating now doesn’t appear to be working. Whether this is due to our own stupidity or something else with the boiler, I’ve no idea.

  3. 3 Ade Lamidi October 6, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    British Gas has one of the worst customer service ever. I had the displeasure to speak customer service manager (Kai Evans) not sure that was the spelling… These guy was telling me how they had no resource during a winter month, when I asked him do you employ based of the numbers of complains during the previous years to estimate or forecast the amount of complaint you ll be having this year, The guy couldn’t answer, all he kept saying was I should read the terms and conditions as if this was the bible, the guy fail to reason on how you can use the numbers of complaint you have on a particular month from previous years to estimate the amount engineers that needs to be on duty, again I never expected much from British gas, all they cared about is CEO paycheck and no one cares about the clients…

  1. 1 British Gas: Much better « Gary Andrews Trackback on December 31, 2008 at 3:48 pm

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May 2008

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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com

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