Friday, 12 December 2008

British Gas - The Priority Response Experience

British Gas - Daily Saturation Newspaper Advertising for Priority Response

Yesterday I spent 8 hours in the company of a British Gas heating engineer. Neither of us expected to spend so much time together. Keith explained that BG allows 45 minutes for each job. Each engineer must do 7 or 8 jobs a day.

BG Priority Response scheme offers a fixed price repair of £99 (including parts and labour) in exchange for a monthly subscription of £2 for 12 m
onths. So whether your central heating requires a new pump or a new fuse the repair costs the same. It's a good offer and British Gas is advertising it heavily. So heavily in fact that the engineers in London can barely cope.

If 2 engineers phone in sick 16 jobs go into the backlog - except of course this scheme promises 'same or next day response if you have no heat or hot water', so the remaining engineers must cover the extra jobs.

The engineers who are working, work hard but apparently many are finding the pressure tough going and moving to postings outside London. There are fewer engineers available in the Capital but BG goes on advertising.

Note BG doesn't promise to fix the fault the same
or next day. Keith first called on Sunday morning following our Saturday call out, but the job required new parts - a pump, an expansion vessel and valve - and he was scheduled for 2 days off so it was Thursday before the repair could be scheduled.

It proved to be a tricky job when he returned yesterday at 8.45 a.m. testing Keith's 5 years on the job since retraining as a BG engineer. If anyone thought becoming a plumber is easy Keith will testify otherwise 'my knees have gone already' he explained. Unsurprising - he spent 5 hours crouched down trying to fit the new parts inside the bottom of a small cupboard.

Eventually, having drained and re-assembled the system 3 separate times Keith was ready to admit defeat. The valve refused to register the pressure and he had no idea where all the water he had pumped back into the system had gone.

I'm a practical person and I've found myself in more challenging situations than this, especially when it comes to working in teams. Useful as it happens, because I realised Keith needed some extra back-up, which I found a tactful way of suggesting.

British Gas - Team Work

Half an hour later there were 2 more BG engineers in the small kitchen. After almost 7 hours on the job Keith and I were both relieved to see them. The new team sprung into action like a Formula One pitstop crew and had the boiler dismantled, rebuilt and the valve up to pressure within 30 minutes. Crucially they also had heat and hot water pumping round the freezing cold property.

The parts required cost around £360, that's not counting the 10 hours labour provided by a total of 3 engineers but the fee payable was a single fixed price (in this particular case £160).

Of course the price would have been the same for any one of the other repairs Keith had scheduled yesterday - including replacing a timer and fitting 2 insulation panels - much simpler, quicker tasks requiring cheaper parts. Some you win, some you lose. I'd rather this job hadn't taken 8 hours, but I was glad I didn't have to pay for each and every one of them.

British Gas gets a lot of bad press and I've certainly had problems with them in the past. I tried 5 other plumbers before BG on Saturday without success. In the end the fixed price gamble and the expertise of 3 experienced engineers got the heating system fixed. As long as it remains almost impossible to hire skilled trades at short notice British Gas will find customers. All they have to do is find a way of continuing to deliver the service they promise.

1 comment:

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