What happened to customer service at Scottish Power? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

What happened to customer service at Scottish Power?

I disapprove of battery farmed chickens. A sentiment which many others including English “Foodie” Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall share. Whatever your views of intensively farmed animals such as chickens, what cannot be disputed is the decreased levels of proteins such as Omega 3 found in them as opposed to outdoor reared fowl, and if there is so little protein in it, why bother eating it? Unless it is deliciously breaded and deep fried that is.

Film of chickens reared in this intensive way is often disturbing. As is the level of interest in animal welfare of the farmers responsible for breeding them, especially as there is so small a mark-up in the price of birds reared this was for the “cheap and cheerful” supermarket brands. Birds cramped together by the thousand with no access to sunlight, fighting each other for food and often crawling over the dead bodies of others.

So why then am I so surprised at the responses I receive from humans forced to work in the same conditions? OK perhaps not crawling over the dead bodies of co-workers, but certainly in battery farm conditions in what are known in Britain by the British people as “call centres” and by their corporate masters as “customer service centres.”

For Example: I obtain both my electricity and gas supplies from a company known as Scottish Power. I pay both bills by monthly standing order, a system which allows me to pay a fixed monthly amount for the power I use over the course of a year in equal instalments. I am offered a “discount” for having both forms of energy supplied by the same provider and for paying in these monthly instalments.

This week, bills arrived for both my electricity and gas accounts. I was expecting them as the previous week one of Scottish Power’s minions – probably on a monthly renewed contract and minimum wage – had visited my house and taken readings from the meters that measure gas and electricity usage. What I found was that my electricity bill was £40 in credit and my gas £20 in debit.

Nothing unusual in that. Each monthly payment is about a twelfth of my annual usage, and the amount I pay is something I haggled over to arrive at a year or so ago when I found the previous amounts had generated a nice positive couple of hundred pounds credit balance on which Scottish Power were happy to receive interest from their bank.

At that time I rang one of their “call centres” requested they send me a nice cheque for the positive balance, and reduce my monthly payments. They were only too happy to oblige, especially when I informed them that unless they were prepared to comply I would be changing my suppliers. In Britain we can do that. It is part of the illusion of choice that our government has been keen to stress we now have in recent years, although my own opinion is that the choice amounts to having four poxed up whores showing their wares to you and being able to choose from which one I would like to contract the clap.

So, imagine my surprise when I called their “customer service” number, selected from the several menus which of the available options I wanted – to speak to a human – and after having explained my position found their response to be less than acceptable.

I wanted the positive balance from my electricity account to be used to “pay” the negative balance in my gas account. Simple, so you would think. Except that after having punched in (using my telephone keypad) my customer account number I was then asked more questions than you would think necessary “for my security.”

Note: No phone number. They don't want you to call them. Do they?

What was my name and initial?

What is the first line of my address?

What is my postcode?

What is my date of birth?

And what is my telephone number?

Strangely, I didn’t feel any more secure after answering all those questions. It was probably something to do with the discernable rehearsed tone of the bored shitless tone of the “customer servile” operative I was being forced to deal with.

When he had finally finished his rehearsed spiel – which was possibly being recorded for training purposes – I managed to ask him his name. I wanted to afford him some humanity by using it, rather than asking him which Dilbert-esque booth he was trapped in before informing him I was just adjusting my telescopic sights on it now.

I was able to hear in the background down the telephone line another few versions of the spiel he had just read out to me being spoken down several other telephone lines to other similar callers. It may as well have been the final cluckings of some Kentucky doomed fowl. I don’t know – or care for that matter – what your working conditions are like, But I’ll wager large amounts that the majority of you would consider some workplace banter a minimum requirement. Unless you are part of the online community of Trappist Monks from Northern California who have apparently been enjoying my ramblings.

Anyway, after having wasted precious drops of my store of human kindness in a vain attempt to lure this telephonic nondescript into behaving in a human manner, he explained that it would be more trouble than it would be worth to balance these amounts out. The fact that I am of a Taoist religious persuasion and a sincere and wholehearted lover of things in balance cut no ice with him.

To do as I wished would require the cancelling of both monthly standing orders with my bank, the reimbursement of the positive balance to me by cheque, followed by the reinstatement of both monthly standing orders at the same amount as previous and a half dozen laps around my house at unpleasant speed. It was best just to leave things as they were and let them even themselves out over the course of the year.

If I had felt in a more charitable mood I might have seen a positive slant to his advice and perceived it to be a nice Zen lesson in patience. A nihilistic exhortation to allow the universe to find its own, inevitable, inexorable balance. But I didn’t. I felt betrayed that this beakless, featherless battery operated human chose to operate within a system that had not imagined a scenario such as this not an outcome within the boundaries of my satisfaction. The bastards.

It must be something to do with my increasing age that I did not rant or rail, belittle or reduce to tears with sarcasm or wit this anonymous drone, and as is often the case, I thought of many witty things I could have said, after I hung up the phone. The best one being a re-run of an actual scenario from a couple of years back directed toward another battery famed human working for my bank.

It was pre credit crunch time, probably six or seven years ago when I got home to find a letter from my bank, informing me that they had very kindly decided – without having the courtesy of involving me in the decision – to extend my overdraft limit by £600 from £1,200 to £1,800 whereby they would then be able to levy a whole new slew of charges for the privilege (which I hadn’t wanted in the first place).

I rang the “Customer Service” number, keyed in my account number, selected from the many and marvellous options available the one closest to my requirements, keyed in my own personal PIN number and was finally granted access to one of the few humans privileged enough to work for this vast corporate behemoth in their secret bunkers.

Somewhere, wherever this poor woman was, her corporate employers had obviously forgotten to turn on the humor siphon that day, as she managed a chuckle when I refused to provide her with any further information required “for my security” and instead insisted that I was a burglar intent on ruining the life of Mr. Robert Pearce by having broken into his house, opened his mail and decided to telephone her to insist his agreed overdraft limit be left exactly as it had been this time yesterday.

It was a small victory. But one that I cherish, as it came from a simpler more idealistic era, before the system makers of the antichrist (C 2012 R Pearce) had perfected their helpful loophole closure program and implemented it worldwide.

These days my only pleasure comes from imagining that these call centre robot chickens will one day be stunned by electricity before having their heads removed by some wonderfully sinister machine that will then reduce them to breaded portions sealed in plastic bags that folk like me will be able to sneer at and not buy because they are devoid of all nourishment, actual or spiritual. It’s their karma, you know.


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