I arrive back home to find my gas has been disconnected.
For the second time.
AND my electricity was disconnected once this year.
It is no wonder that this industry killed someone – their approach to customer service is arrogant beyond belief.
My bills are always overpaid, and indeed I am over one thousand dollars in credit at Contact Energy. That’s not the issue.
My electricity was the first to go – I was sitting here a few months back, working away, and I heard a banging sound from outside. I idly thought I should go and investigate, and as I was gearing up to do so….. the lights went out.
I’m certain the contractor heard my expletive, and I rushed outside (it was wet of course) to confront him.
It was a case of mistaken identity – my address is similar to my next door neighbour, and my meter apparently wasn’t coded correctly on the meter database.
The contractor that disconnected me was working for Contact Energy, and he did so because Contact had received notice from a rival company that I was changing over. In spite of my bill being several hundred dollars in credit, and in spite of Contact never managing to talk or otherwise communciate with me, I was disconnected. I even subsequently received refund checks for my electricity and gas bills. I do not deal with checks very well (nor any bits of paper) and why for the life of me they couldn’t use internet banking like the rest of us, I have no idea.
One long phone call to the Contact Energy folks later, and I was reconnected by the chap that had disconnected me. I was also assured that the meter identity problem was fixed.
Luckily nothing was fritzed, and lucky I was using a laptop, not a desktop.
Lucky I wasn’t away, and so my fridge and freezer contents were preserved. Indeed I should really have been at work that morning but for some random reason that day I decided to work from home.
I was assured by Contact that my imagined scenario of arriving home to find either the electricity or gas disconnected by a rival company was never going to happen, and so I lived on.
Until the gas was disconnected 3 or 4 weeks later.
I had been away for a few days, and found out on a Saturday morning when I went to have a shower.
A cold shower.
On a Saturday morning. Not happy.
Turns out I’d been disconnected for several days.
It was another case of mistaken identity. This time it was a contractor working for, yes, a rival company (Origin I think). Again the address and meter were not tied together correctly, in spite of being told so by Contact.
Another series of phone calls, and this time a wait for a contractor to reconnect me, and then I had to cajole him, almost physically block him in even, to make sure he did not leave without ensuring my hot water cylinder was switched back on.
A wasted few hours, time on hold talking with polite but no doubt frustrated telephonists, and eventually I garnered not only a firm ‘we will not do this again’ but also, a written apology. I really had to work at getting that apology, and only did so after I realised to my surprise that the telephonist would not apologise for the 2 disconnections. This seemed just mad to me, and so I went through the motions to make them write a formal apology, which they eventually did.
And then there is today.
This time, the non-apologising telephonist tells me, I was disconnected becasue my meter required maintenance, and although it was safely disconnected, they require someone at home (and access to the gas equipment) to make sure they don’t blow anything up when they reconnect. Thus some contractor was able to come to my house and disconnect me without asking my permission. I did not get any warning that this was going to happen.
The contractor that reconnected me today told me that everybody in my suburb was upgraded, and that we all received letters.
Turns out that all of the companies contracted to one company to change all of the meters around here. When dealing with gas or electricity the safety of that power source must be paramount, and for this reason I am understanding if I am told that the pipework on my meter has passed it’s use-by date and must be replaced.
The problem is I was not told. Either ahead of time, or shortly before-hand.
So who was organising which meters would be maintained each day? If it was the contracting company, then were they supplying Contact and other gas companies with an advance list of houses on the maintenance list? Or did they have my phone number and just not call? Why were we not told they were coming? After all – you cannot switch gas back on again without the resident there.
I asked for another apology today, but the telephonist said he was not allowed(!) to apologise, and that I would have to first speak with his team leader.
I gave up.
Overall the experiences of this year stink for a variety of reasons:
Firstly, you do not arbitrarily switch off power, be it gas or electricity. That is violating even the most basic of customer service and safety procedures. People can die. Meat can thaw. Customers can lose hair. (Only the last has happened to me)
Secondly, you admit when you are wrong, and fix the problem. You allow your employees (and contractors) to apologise on your behalf, and give them the tools and power to make things right.
Thirdly, you coordinate and choreograph your contractors, so you know where they are, and when they will be at my place. You give me a 15 minute window to be home, or you promise to call me when they are 30 minutes out. You do not give me a five hour window (as I have had). You do everything in your power to make sure I am home when you want to connect my gas, and make it as easy for me as possible to be there.
I’d change companies, but I am pretty sure that the others are just as bad, and almost certain that the process would get me disconnected again.
I’d short their stock, but they are a cozy oligopoly, and so their profits are locked in.
and so I’ll just blog about it.
There – I feel better now.