Monday, 27 September 2010

Phone rant

We have a British Gas contract thingy for our central heating system.  I know you’re thinking I’m pissing money down the drain but I can guarantee our system will fail at least once a year and because British Gas are so rubbish that usually results in about four or five visits.  I’ve blogged about British Gas before here.
I have yet another example of the ineptitude of privatised business and this time it’s British Gas.
I received a postcard reminding me it was time for the annual boiler service.  This usually means giving over 30 minutes of my life to phone, wait and book either a morning or afternoon appointment, Monday to Friday, with no allowance for the school run.  But this postcard was different; it promised more.  It offered the opportunity of booking online, and the chance to book a two hour time slot.  The alternative was to phone and have the traditional half day slot.
I leapt into action.  Or perhaps more accurately a few days later I reached for the laptop and tried the booking url.  I plugged in my postcode expectantly only to be confronted with an error message that told me that there were no appointments available.  I hadn’t even selected a date, there were no appointments at all.  I figured I was actually seeing an error message and tried a couple of different browsers just in case but each time I got the same answer.
The postcard had a telephone number on it, but having 30 minutes free for a phone call during an extended working day just isn’t something that fits easily into my life.  I left it until British Gas wrote and reminded me that I needed an appointment.
I tried the url again, hit the same failure and dialled the number and this is a precis of the call I made last week.
“Hi.  Thank you so much for writing to me an reminding me I need to book a boiler service.  And thank you so much for offering two hour time slot via your online booking system.  I’ve tried the online system and I’m getting an error message telling me no appointments are available.”
“Yeah.  We’ve had quite a few people telling us that.”
“Er right, OK. Well you’ve kindly written to me reminding me again and I still can’t get the website to work.  I have have phoned you but I would much rather have a two hour slot rather than a half day slot.”
“I’ll have a look.  What’s you’re postcode?”
We exchanged details and then he said “Yeah.  No it’s booked for the next 54 days which is why it isn’t showing anything in the online system.”
“Really, you’re booked for the next 54 days solid? And why isn’t the system showing anything beyond 54 days?”
“It only goes as far as 54 days”
“But that’s clearly not enough.  You told me earlier people have been complaining the system is giving them this error message.  Why hasn’t someone fixed the system?”
“Well it’s the Planning Department.  There have been a lot of calls recently so the Planning Department have block booked the next couple of months so that we can cope with the number of calls.”
“And you’re also encouraging people to enter into a process you know is flawed and won’t work.  Maybe the Planning Department should talk to the department that send out the service reminder cards.  Could you do me a favour?  Could you maybe suggest to someone that this whole set up needs looking at because you’re frustrating a whole bunch of customers”
“I can send an e-mail to the Planning Department.”
“Have you done this previously when other people have complained?”
“Well it clearly didn’t work because the system is still broken.  Don’t bother.  I’ll e-mail the CEO.”
And we then went on to book an appointment on November 19th.  Utterly, utterly ridiculous.  And this blog post will form part of the e-mail I will send to the CEO, because somebody needs to listen, and that somebody isn’t the British Gas Planning Department.

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