So Ken, the bloke they sent round yesterday had real "grey hair" (experience) as they say in business, as well as real grey hair, and I felt strangely comforted by his appearance of knowing what he was doing. He sat on the countertop leaning in towards the boiler like an old-fashioned doctor sitting on a sick kid's bed, stethescope-in-ear.
"It looks like you need an inexplicable-part-A, and your inexplicable-part-B is pitted. Of course they never replace inexplicable-part-B, they'd rather just give you £600 towards a new boiler."
I asked if he carried parts. He raised an eyebrow in a just-in-time way. I asked if he could arrange for a first-thing visit tomorrow (now today) and he practically laughed in my face. I settled for an 8 till 12, silently plotting how to get someone to sit in as I have a big meeting in the afternoon.
(Sidenote: I find the logistics of running a metaphorical house (flat) strangely comforting; bizarrely enjoying the delicate balancing of grocery orders, childcare, shirt service, household maintenance, online banking, dry cleaning, green-lightbulb-sourcing, recycling and list making. It's as if I'm running a very large (and very long) project in the background to all the other projects I'm doing, and I was already working out where we could shower and who I could get to wait in. I bought my Mum a Chief Household Officer mug because she trained me well in the art of executive fridge management and listmaking, although I quite like the Messenger / Nappy bag too.)
Ken maintains his "I have a British Gas script, we can't get even the Queen a timed apppointment. A Technical Services Manager will not attend without three days notice (I'd asked for someone more knowledgable after the same guy came three times but I still had a problem). The first appointments go at three weeks notice. Rules-is-rules" stance.
He leaves, and tells me someone else will come tomorrow. I can't tell if he's got the day off or he's marked me as a difficult customer with whom he doesn't want to get involved, professionally speaking.
My conversation with NAM happened just after Ken's visit, and I felt like, hey, this'll get sorted.
About two hours later, I get a blocked call from Ken.
"Hi Mzzzz Froooz, it's Ken."
I say hi.
"You must know someone really important in British Gas. I've just had my earholes bent off by the NAM (who he implies his quite a bundle of rungs up the foodchain). I dunno who you know, but they've arranged two engineers to come at 8.30 tomorrow after they've got the parts, and they're booked out all day. They're replacing two inexplicable-part-As and also inexplicable-part-B, which is tricky to fit. They're bringing in a [boiler brand] specialist who knows your boiler inside out. My boss Tony'll come and oversee it. We've been told to fix this, and keep the customer happy. I don't know who you are, no-one gets this. Anyway, I'm off tomorrow, but hope it all goes well."
I thank him, and mention that I'd sung his praises in relation to his experience. I hope he has a good day off. I say this vaguely realising days off are as much for funerals and queing at banks as they are for nice things.
Moral of the story: (a) Top-Down customer service chasing clearly gets better results than Bottom-Up. If you can get out of the customer contact centre loop. (b) Keep everyone's mobile number, even if it's for 5 years and you can't imagine why you'd ever call them again.
Proof of the pudding: let's see if we have lift-off when I get back from my big meeting this afternoon. Otherwise, we'll be entering our second heating/hot-water free week. Least we have nice neighbours. Least it's Spring(ish).