I received a puzzling message from my energy supplier today and I need some time to decide how to respond. Perhaps one of my readers with a better insight into modern corporate thinking can assist.
You've been in contact with us recently and I hope that I was able to help.
We're keen to hear what your experience was like so we can make improvements to our service. If you have a spare minute, please answer below and give as much feedback as you can.
Have a great day,
And it ends asking me to click on one of three buttons, labelled Extremely Satisfied, Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied and Extremely dissatisfied. I am not allowed to be mildly pleased or a bit miffed. It's the extremes or the middle.
Jolly nice of them to wish me a great day and my degree of chuffedness has undoubtedly risen a notch or two. But that is where the pleasantries must end, I fear.
Let us, if we can, pass over the "I was able to help" and the corporate signature; no name of any real person (or even bot) was appended to the missive, leaving us in some doubt as to who the mysterious "I" may be. I don't suppose they have a autonomous AI brain running the customer communications.
No, the issue at hand is that the reason I contacted them was of a problem entirely of their making. The facts are these clears throat, refreshes memory with a quick glance at notes, reassuring smile to the jury Last summer, after much pleading on their part, I permitted the installation of a smart meter to monitor my use of gas and electricity, both being supplied by the aforementioned SO Energy. I was assured this process would be seamless with the previous billing system based on my reading the meters every two months or so, backed up by the odd1 visit from a man in a brown overall and a clipboard.
Four months elapsed. My account was credited with the monthly direct debit that I pay them. But no charges for fuel. Consequently a hefty credit balance built up. When I looked at the account online there was apparently not a volt of electricity or therm of gas being consumed at Ramblings Towers. I emailed them to point this and was reassured that they were receiving my meter readings and it was all the fault of their dastardly billing team who would "reach out" to me very soon to fix the matter.
Three months later I politely emailed again if the team were now ready to do a bit of reaching, perhaps followed by a bit of pulling their bloody fingers out and doing some actual work to complete the apparently mind-bendingly difficult task of linking a meter reading to a customers account. A couple of months passed and I finally received a series of statements showing the fuel used since the meter was connected and giving me a correct statement of my account. Case closed, I thought. But no. Yesterday came this message
Thank you for your email regarding bills.
Firstly we would like to apologise for not responding to your email query within our usual timeframes. We have received unprecedented levels of customer contact recently due to the ongoing energy crisis, which has meant we have not been able to keep to our usually quick response times.
I've checked for you and I can see your previous query has already been resolved therefore I'm now closing this ticket.
and this was actually signed by a named person2
Alright, it's taken them three months to acknowledge my email but I don't care because the account has been sorted out. End of story, yes? The ticket has been closed, the papers are filed away in a plain manilla folder marked "The Ramblings Affair" over-stamped with "Closed" in red ink, and in turn deposited into a heavy cardboard box along with similar cases, the whole being labelled "Embargoed until 2035" and placed in a high security warehouse somewhere near Loughborough.
No, this one won't die. Today they are back in touch with the message displayed at the top of this column, to say that they hoped they had been able to help in a problem entirely of their own making, and asking me to rate the "experience".
I don't know what I being asked to rate. The fact I had to chase them to bill me correctly or that they eventually got round to it? Is it the experience of raising the issue with the surnameless ladies of Customer Care? And how do I rate it? Wishy-washy, middle-of-the-road, don't rock the boat opinion or plump for an "extremely", let them have it with both barrels as it were.?And that, my friends, is why I brought you here today and presented you with the full story. Over to you.
1. There was nothing actually odd about the visits per se. Or about the meter readers. It's just that they only came occasionally.
2. It was only a first name, as it happens, but it feels like I have been contacted by a real person. Or do they call their bots by ordinary English names?