Thursday, 1 May 2014

Review: EDF Energy Customer Services

 EDF Energy Customer Services HQ

Last December, I took over the electricity account for my rental property. The last tenants moved out on 30th November 2013.

I contacted EDF with the end of tenancy meter reading, and informed them I'd be taking over as of 1st December.

First off, they sent me a bill for £0.17 for one day, 1st - 1st December, for my 'estimated final electricity bill' (huh?) Then for some reason they decided to come and read the meter on 12th December, so I got another bill for 2nd-12th December, for about £5. I ignored both, and waited for a proper bill, like for a few months, not a few days.

In March, they sent me a bill saying I should pay my 'regular [quarterly] payment amount', £90. The bill informed me that they'd discussed this with me and we'd apparently agreed that £360 was a reasonable estimate of the yearly amount (which was news to me). I ignored this one, too, as I open boring post once every few weeks, in batches of misery, and by the time I'd opened it they'd sent another bill, in April.

This one was for £296, based on estimated readings for the period 13th December - 7th April.

So I called EDF on 15th April to find out what was going on, and why the latest estimate was a lot more than the 'regular payment amount'.

I spoke to Jessica. I suggested that she look up the previous usage at the property in order to come up with an accurate estimate, not just wild guesses. I told her it was difficult for me to access the meter cupboard as I don't have a key, only the caretaker does, and he's not often around. In any case, I said, surely EDF must come regularly to read the meters? No, she said, adding that they were only obliged by law to do it once every two years. She couldn't explain why, then, they'd come to read the meter on the 12th December, when they'd been given a reading for 1st December.

Also, worryingly, there didn't seem to be any record of the tenants who'd left on 30th November. 

Anyway, Jessica said she'd have to do some research, and promised to call me back at 4.30pm on 17th April. She didn't. 

I've tried calling EDF twice in the last week, but the automated system told me I'd have to wait at least 10 minutes; I tried again today, and this time decided to wait. I was on hold for 20 minutes before I gave up. Over twenty minutes is a ludicrous and totally unacceptable length of time to expect customers to wait to speak to an advisor.

Why does stuff like this always, always have to turn into a saga?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Review: TalkTalk Customer Services (and Bianca)

A few weeks ago I signed up to a TalkTalk broadband contract. A subcontracted engineer came and installed a phone line, but couldn't get the wire through the doorframe (it turned out to have metal inside and his drill wasn't suitable), so the wire had to go round the bottom of the door, between door and doorframe. Which was fine until I later tried to double lock the door with the second, lower deadlock, and couldn't, because the wire had pushed the door ever so slightly out of kilter.

I rang TalkTalk Customer Services the next day. Explained the problem, or tried to; the guy there didn't quite seem to understand, a little like he was unfamiliar with doors and locks, but anyway he said someone from the technical team would call me within 72 hours. I said it wasn't soon enough, but he assured me that most likely it'd be tomorrow morning.

Three days passed and nobody called.

Day 5, and I called again. This time I got Bianca at the TalkTalk Customer Infuriations Team. I explained what had happened so far. Her first move was to ignore the fact that nobody had called me back within 72 hours, or indeed within 120 hours. It was clear that Bianca had mastered the art of not giving a flying f**k.

There followed a lengthy discussion during which she repeatedly insisted that I'd have to pay £50 if I wanted to move the master socket (while I insisted that I didn't need to move the master socket), a mantra she interrupted only to occasionally inform me (in a tone of ill-disguised triumph) that no engineer would come at all unless there was a fault on the line. (Wait, what? So, the engineer will come [if I pay £50 to move a socket I don't want to be moved] and he also won't come at all, because I don't have a line fault?)

Rarely did she shut the f**k up for long enough to listen to what I was saying.  

Bianca was also possessed of that essential customer infuriating quality - the indefinable, incomprehensible foreign accent. I cannot guess as to the location of the TalkTalk Customer Infuriations Team, but it must be somewhere close to bus stops and supermarkets, because Bianca is  the sort of woman who likes to harangue people in queues for an imaginary slight.

In the end, having been successfully and thoroughly f**ked off in accordance with Customer Infuriations policy, and with no resolution in sight, I asked her to transfer me to her supervisor. She said there wasn't one, and that *she* was the manager. I asked for a call reference. She said there wasn't one. Then, after a bit more arguing, Bianca hung up the phone on me, at 17:38 on 20th March 2014 (specifics given for the benefit of Bianca's supervisor who I know exists, as Bianca is not the CEO of TalkTalk).

I rang back. Got a man who actually apologized for the initial non-callback, and told me I needed to contact BT OpenReach, as they're the contractor who installed the phone line (never mind that my contract was with TalkTalk...)

I rang BT OpenReach. Really helpful native English speaker, who immediately understood the nature of the problem. But he had no record of the installation. We eventually figured it out, that it had been a BT subcontractor (Kelly Communications) who'd done it, and that it was them I had to contact, failing which he said BT would sort it.

So I rang Kelly Communications, and quite unexpectedly encountered the customer services of one's dreams. I initially spoke to a girl on reception, who said she'd get someone to call me back. I didn't feel optimistic at that stage, but an hour later Stephan called, on his mobile, understood and apologized that he couldn't deal with it that afternoon (on a Friday - as if I'd ever expected a same day fix!). He said to call him on Monday, on his mobile, and he'd give me an appointment for that same day. On Monday morning first thing, Stephan's colleague at Kelly called me to arrange the appointment, but he hadn't even spoken to Stephan, it being a Monday morning - wires crossed, because emails had meanwhile been sent between Kelly staff about my problem. Stephan himself came that afternoon and fixed it. Wow!

In conclusion, five stars to BT OpenReach, Kelly Communications are full of win and awesome, and Stephan is a saint of Customer Services.

Whereas TalkTalk Customer Services suck, and Bianca sucks the hardest. It was only pure chance that I got a 'lead', after five days and three calls. It could've taken weeks before I happened to speak to someone with half a clue at TalkTalk.

I will concede that the TalkTalk broadband speed is fine and well-priced. No complaints there.

I suppose the crap Customer Services is a by-product of cheap broadband, but there's a limit, and Bianca embodies that limit; if there's an unusual problem, or a dissatisfied customer, or anything which requires intelligence to deal with, then you need to be able to pass the customer call to a supervisor, not leave it up to a thick, argumentative sow like Bianca. Also, if they say that someone will call within 72 hours, then someone should call.

It ought to be possible to break a service contract like this if the customer services don't provide the necessary support - breach of contract, surely?