My blog writing is sporadic. Generally it’s the dying art of customer service that catches my attention. This time my experience started out on our Powerswitch website with a proposition to switch for a saving of about $500 a year. This was to switch from the family’s energy provider Genesis Energy to Contact Energy.

With my wife’s agreement (the account is in her name) we initiated a switch on 21 May and sat back to wait for customer service to wash over us, I say cynically. For those thinking of switching, here’s the timeline that followed, it’s ugly and not over yet:

Day 1

  • A confirmation email from Consumer Powerswitch capturing everything we’d expected regarding a switch of electricity and gas. This was reassuring
  • Contact emailed looking for confirmation we wanted to switch: we agreed and were underway

Day 2

  • A routine email from Genesis arrived with our latest bill but nothing about switching. We thought this was ok as it was only day 2.

Day 3

  • Contact emailed saying it had signed us up for the supply of electricity and gas from 23 May. We should receive a Welcome Pack in the mail. Great, we thought we were done

Day 6

  • Genesis emailed a “we’re putting our energy into making it right” marketing piece. “Is there anything we can do?” We didn’t respond - bit late in the piece we thought

Day 13

  • Genesis again with another emailed bill. This was out of sync with our usual cycle so we figured it was a final bill, but email didn’t mention this nor did the bill. We then realised it was only covering gas
  • Phone calls determined that between the two companies they’d missed switching gas. “Did we want to switch gas?” Yes we confirmed, highlighting the Powerswitch switch request stated electricity and gas. Genesis advised it had not received a gas request
  • We confirm with Contact we do want gas switched as set out on the switch request. Contact confirmed it can see this and will follow up with Genesis. Who dropped the ball? We don’t know

Day 15

  • Contact emailed with instructions for Online Services. Great, we thought we were done, again

Day 16

  • A letter from Genesis thanks us for setting up Direct Debit! Oh dear. We query this. Apparently it’s because “we’re now gas only”. We again confirm we’re moving from Genesis to Contact

Day 27

  • Busy lives took over, but next was Genesis with another emailed bill for gas. This was an estimate reading and didn’t mention a final reading

Day 28

  • I take to Twitter. It’s a great mechanism for giving feedback and interacting with businesses doing social media well. Contact responded quickly and asked for our contact details, via a Direct Message I gave my wife’s phone and account number and said we were still waiting for a Welcome Pack, online-on-time discounting to be set up, and for gas to come across from Genesis
  • My wife wasn’t called but received an email saying our online-on-time discount set up was done starting 18 June. But we switched on 21 May so starting this on day 28 is something we’ll monitor when invoices come

Day 29

  • Contact email saying ‘another’ Welcome Pack is being sent to us. This email confirms too that gas is underway, “but takes longer”

Day 35

  • Nothing for a few days so back to Twitter. “Switching energy companies at the moment from Genesis to @ContactEnergy. Now day 35 in the process with gas taking longer I’m told”
  • A response from Contact’s social media team via Direct Message says “Hi Scott, I have messaged the team for an update on your gas switch. Cheers.”
  • I responded: “It would be good to hear that online-on-time discount starts from when we switched too.” No response.

Day 38

  • No contact so I tweet again and have the following chats with Contact
  • “Day 38 trying to set up Gas with @ContactEnergy still also waiting for confirmation that OLOT started when we got hooked up to electricity?”
  • Contact tweet back “Hi Scott, I am chasing this up with the team as we speak. Sorry for the delay. Will have someone get in touch ASAP. Thanks.”
  • I reply via Twitter “@ContactEnergy - the 2nd attempt at getting us a Welcome Pack hasn't arrived either. What actually is the Welcome Pack?”
  • Contact respond saying it will see what’s happening with the Welcome Pack
  • Next a Direct Message via Twitter from Contact. “Hi Scott just want to confirm – are you setting up natural gas or LPG? Thanks”. Alarm bells ring...
  • I respond: “Our 21 May switch request states switching to Living Smart – Online-On-Time. No, we don't want LPG; your own website says Online OnTime excludes LPG”
  • Contact reply: “You are certainly right, just wanted to double check with you as I have come across a similar issue previously. Thanks”
  • Next was Contact via Twitter, “Hi Scott- someone has been in touch with your wife. The issue is a natural gas ICP which is in the process of switching from Genesis currently”
  • I respond “Hi, was there an ETA provided please”. And was told I should hear “soon”

Day 41

  • Nothing from Contact over a weekend so I started the new week with a tweet. “Day 41 trying to set up Gas with @ContactEnergy - who knew switching was so difficult”
  • Contact reply: “Hi Scott, sorry this is so frustrating. The team will be in touch as soon as they have an up date on the switching process”

Day 42

  • Nothing from Contact overnight bringing us to 1 July without a successful gas switch.

It occurred to me I’d ignored Consumer’s Energy Provider survey results while switching. As a staff member I should have known better! The two companies I’d been switching to and from rate way down the customer service performance table and I now agree with their equally below average scores. It felt like cat herding.

I have to remember this effort likely saved our family $500. That’s not insignificant, but I recommend choosing wisely via Powerswitch and do consider how much value you place on your time and customer service, the dying art.

Scott Feehan