Yes, it’s moan at the utility companies time! Todays specially selected company is… British Gas, again.
I’ve just spent the last 12 hours locked inside my little semi-detached penthouse flat waiting for someone from British Gas to call. They sent me a letter a couple of weeks ago, with the heading of “Important Notice”, saying that they wanted to exchange my gas meter. Of course the date and time of this “important” appointment was described as “Friday 25th August 2006 between 08:00am and 08:00pm”. This is more or less standard procedure for any utility/delivery company. You have to be awake and available for the entire 12 hour period. God help you if you have an unscheduled bowel movement, because you know exactly what will happen as soon as your cheeks touch the seat.
I kept looking out of the window expecting to see a British Gas van on the driveway… I was still doing that at 07:59pm.
As luck would have it I work in an industry where WFH is possible, so I don’t feel quite as annoyed, as I no doubt would have, if I had to have the day off work.
Considering that British Gas must be making millions of pounds per second how can they give a better service to their customers? Someone needs to explain to them about these little machines called ‘computers’ and this little network of them called ‘the internet’. In the age of mobile communications it cannot be beyond the realm of possibility for the engineer to have his calls logged in a PDA device when he leaves in the morning. Whenever he’s completed a job he can wirelessly connect to a server back at HQ and indicate that the job is done, or that the occupants aren’t in etc. He then moves on to the next task on his list. Now, the victims, I mean customers, can logon to a web-site and see where they are on the list and when, roughly, the engineer will arrive at their door. If you don’t have an internet connection then possibly an automated service could telephone you when the engineer has only a few more customers before he visits you.
Of course all the engineers could say that this is an invasion of their privacy and that it’s like 1984, the book not the year, with Big Brother watching their every move. Then again who’s paying their salary. It will no doubt stop them having a kip for 2 hours at a services on the M6.
Earlier today I was joking with my colleague about this visitation from British Gas. I was saying that the address on this letter was not the same address that they used recently when they sent me a paper bill.
Now, I work in the computer industry, I may have mentioned this previously, and I know for a fact that you should never ever ever ever… ever duplicate data like this. You have one customer record with an address on it. If you want to keep address history then that’s fine you’ll just need another file for addresses and link the two files. But you will always have one address which is the current address for that customer. If you have to have a copy of the customer file on another site then you must have routines in place to ensure that both files are kept up to date.
The road that I live on has 2 dwellings with the same number. Mine is the flat. About 100 yards up the road there is a bungalow. We get post for each other all the time. The letter I received has the number in the wrong place so it looks, at first glance, that it should be for the bungalow. I’m thinking that this engineer called there, there was no one home, so he left and went to his next job.
I’ve just noticed that the letter has United Utilities logo on the top and beside it the words “Working on behalf of British Gas”. I know from past experience that United Utilities are another company who don’t know their arse from their elbow.