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The day Bord Gáis Lady and I wished we had never picked up the phone to each other

On the day set aside for a boiler service, I was at home. I received a confirmation notice the day before. By 6pm, nobody showed up. A battle by telephone seemed inevitable

Have you, like me, recently been on a long and frustrating call with a service provider?

This week, more information emerged about the top 10 companies in Ireland customers complain about the most. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) helpline got some 19,000 calls during the first six months of last year. The companies that were the subject of repeat complaints were: Eir, Ryanair, Vodafone, Harvey Norman, Bord Gáis Energy, Currys, Sky, DID Electrical, Aer Lingus and Electric Ireland.

Some months ago, before winter set in, I decided it was prudent to get my boiler serviced. You are meant to get this done every year, but I had not done this. I had a latent fear that my lack of getting the boiler serviced would result in said boiler suddenly blowing up like a rocket in the middle of the night.

Anyway, I went online to Bord Gáis, and booked and paid in advance for what’s called a “Complete Boiler Care” service. The next available date was some two months away, in October. I was given a time slot of between 2pm and 5pm on the allotted day.


On the day in question, I was at home from noon. I had received a confirmation notice the day before. By 6pm, nobody had showed up to tend to my neglected boiler. Nor had my phone rung, nor any relevant email pinged into my email mountain.

It’s your company’s fault that I missed the service call, so surely you should now prioritise this service?

The next day, I got on the phone to customer services to ask what had happened, or in layman’s language, to complain. First there were some 20 minutes of being on hold. Once I got to speak to a human, and we had gone through my giving all my personal details, the call went something like this.

“Hello, I am wondering why the service call I had booked and paid for two months ago didn’t happen yesterday? Someone was meant to come between 2pm and 5pm.”

“Sorry about that. Apparently someone phoned you, but you didn’t answer, so they went to the next house.”

“Nobody phoned me,” I said. “Nobody came to the door either. I was here all the time.”

It is a losing and existentialist battle to try to prove a negative. Bord Gáis Lady insisted I had not taken a non-existent call. I insisted there had been no call. We were getting nowhere.

“What happens now?” I said.

“You will have to book another call, but we are very busy at the moment, so it will probably be several weeks before we can get to you.”

At this point, I felt I was in a bad comedy. “Are you having a laugh?” is what I wanted to say to Bord Gáis Lady. “It’s your company’s fault that I missed the service call, so surely you should now prioritise this service?” is what I actually said.

“Apologies, we can’t do that.”

I took a breath. “OK. I will book another service,” I said.

“Now before I do that, I first have to ask you some questions about if you would like to avail of some other services Bord Gáis offer,” says Bord Gáis Lady.

“I don’t want any other services,” says I. “I just want the one I already paid for.”

“Unfortunately I can’t book you another service without first going through all this. It is a procedure.”

“Can we please not waste any more time?” I said. I could feel myself wanting to snap out my sentences. I did not like this inclination at all. It is not okay to be rude to people – most especially people at the grim front line of customer call services, who did not make the rules. It was not Bord Gáis Lady’s fault that nobody had turned up to service my boiler. But it wasn’t my fault either.

She started to read out what I knew would be a long script, during which time I put the phone on silent on the counter, and started counting as I walked around the room. She was still going when I got to 50 and picked the phone up again.

“This is ridiculous!” I snapped. I was disliking myself more and more.

“I’m so sorry, I’m not finished yet.” At the end, she asked tentatively, “Would you like to avail of any of these services?”

You can guess what my answer was.

There has got to be a better, shorter and more efficient way of investing in, and facilitating, customer complaints

The second service was eventually booked in, and we ended the call. I didn’t say goodbye. I felt terrible for the rest of the day. Bord Gáis Lady was only trying to do her job, and I had been short with her, to the point of rudeness. Who knows how many other calls like mine she had to take that day?

I was, like many other members of the public – because I fail to believe I am the only person who has ever been short on a customer service call – caught in a wholly frustrating system that exists when a customer tries to complain.

These companies make a lot of money. There has got to be a better, shorter and more efficient way of investing in, and facilitating, customer complaints. This is not only for the customer’s benefit: it should also equally be about making the process a less stressful and kinder one for the staff member who has to deal with the people who are complaining. After all, to my knowledge, no commission exists where staff can complain about customers.

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