Saturday, 7 April 2012

Switching Energy Suppliers

Claiming to have the best rated customer service amongst conventional energy suppliers must be like claiming to be the best cow pat in a field. Do you think these days that any company can push customers around and behave in an offhand manner? Are you sick and tired of confusing tariffs which move up quicker than down, generating excessive profits being given away to shareholders, to overpaid executives on the whim of a old-boy's remuneration committee, or to a foreign parent company?

I never had a problem dealing directly with Atlantic until now but they are a conventional limited company whose common mantra of 'shareholder value' outweighs any consideration they give to customer value, or so it seems. I was particularly annoyed at aggressive doorstep selling by Scottish and Southern Energy, Atlantic's parent company; particularly as this is a 'no doorstep selling zone'. Signs on every lamppost clearly state that and I was already a customer of the same group.  Deciding that I no longer liked the way conventional energy suppliers operate, I applied on-line to switch energy suppliers to a co-operative one but my ex-supplier Atlantic managed to screw up the switch. They claimed to receive the gas and electricity meter readings separated by several weeks and were quick to blame my new supplier.

Really? Are you certain Atlantic? My readings were in one simultaneous submission on the new supplier's web site so I think Atlantic are lying: what they did was to conjure up an estimated reading in its stead when they didn't need to: this was weeks after the gas bill was issued and I was being aggressively chased for payment of the gas bill long before the electricity bill turned up with their (wrong) guesstimate. So much for being a 'dual fuel supplier'. They wasted my time, delayed the process, blamed everyone else and were so rude by phone, letter and particularly SMS and their post so slow to arrive, I wrote paying only 95% of the final bill, telling them 5% (less than £20 of both bills) was a fine for their  rudeness and incompetence. This is a language they understood: my accounts have been cleared. Please follow my example,

Customer service incompetence is always worth a stamp and withholding a token part payment. I know from bitter experience that management (and staff) are often oblivious about how terribly they come across to the public, often thanks to institutionalised ignorance - or it can be a couple of rogue staff - but in this case: institutionalised incompetence. Will everybody in the Scottish and Southern Energy group please note that a computer generated voice-mail message from a withheld number which only says "please phone" to some 'random' unknown number and without a reason is probably illegal, bloody rude, unacceptable, assumed as spam, deleted and ignored. But if I do phone you back, even if your humans leave messages which are terse and with no REASON, please have the nous to answer the phone in a professional manner. "Southern Electric" is not a firm which currently exists: it never has. "Can I have the reference number?" should never be the first question any clerks ask: apart from its grammatical wrongness it makes you seem rude and impersonal. I am not a number, I have a name and I know my postcode. You have a computer. Work it out yourself. Your reference numbers are of no interest to me. Who am I? The Prisoner?

Another thing: having to identify me over the phone WHEN YOU HAVE PHONED ME is largely unnecessary. To paraphrase Andy Parsons as he said in his stand-up routine: what are the chances of a burglar breaking into your home (or stealing your mobile) to answer the phone and pay your gas bill? Surely it's for ME to identify YOU before I give you my credit card details: the Data Protection Act does not dictate that you have to do stupid things, so stop blaming it.

Why, oh why, do these rude and incompetent companies which provide our energy still have any customers at all? They will never, ever, get me back as one. Atlantic was relatively cheap for a while but I would sooner pay a bit more for competence and for not being ripped off so they can satisfy greedy executives, greedy shareholders, or foreign parent companies. It's time to give Co-operative Energy a try and have a proper stake in my energy supplier who will bulk buy energy for the benefit of its customers. If a profit is made, I'll get some of my bill refunded.  

Please use this link will which will enable both you and I to receive a £25 discount - off your first and my next bill: Co-operative Energy