Scottish Power – to the People

With the recent drama of Scotland’s near exit from the Union (mercifully not dubbed Sexit), you might think Scottish Power (SP) is a soubriquet for the nationalist movement, rather than an energy company supplying, if not exactly serving, 5.4 million homes and businesses. Nor is it really Scottish. It’s now owned by Spanish energy giant IBERDROLA SA, (share price in free-fall for two years).

I have to declare an interest, because I was, up to this week, a dual fuel client of SP, whom I had picked as the cheapest provider on one of those internet comparison sites where every company has either a nationalistic ring; Energie de France (EDF), British Gas, or an apocalyptic one. I love the sinisterly named npower and how about E.ON – for which the antonym must be F.OFF surely?

If only I knew then what I know now, I might still have my hair, because SP was at that moment undergoing ‘SAP system integration’. I am tempted to say the SAP was me and thousands of others, who for whatever reason, jingoistic or financial had signed up with SP online.

SAP (so Google tells me) is an enterprise resource planning software developed by Germans. In short SAP drives all of a company’s marketing, sales, field service, product design, development, production, inventory control, human resources, finance and accounting in one (it must be HUGE) package. To us, the SAP SAPs it meant SP inputting my account details on to their shiny new all-wheel drive platform. And, as is the case with two-clever-by-half software, it bogged it. And not just my details, but countless others. In short, I vanished from their records for a year, which was nice for them as my account was £800 in credit !

But this SAP uber-glitch was not new, and should not have come as a surprise to SP. British Gas and several other power companies have all tried to integrate their millions of clients into the SAP software with horrendous results. Furthermore, had SP bothered to read the ‘user reviews’ they might have stumbled on this telling sentence ‘ deploying SAP itself can also involve a lot of time and resources’. But no, they plunged ahead regardless, into an unmitigated disaster, from which they still, two years later have not recovered.

However, and this is the nub of it, they then compounded it by trying to keep stumm.

Instead of getting out there and telling customers there were major billing problems, they just pulled up the drawbridge and didn’t answer the phones or respond emails as people became ever more frustrated and then plain furious.

‘Authorities’ like the Energy Ombudsman seem either powerless or reluctant to mediate, by creating all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles, like arbitrary time limits, which you have no way of knowing about until you initiate the complaint. Even the Daily Mail (fgs) whinnied only last month they couldn’t get Ofgem off their fat  http://dailym.ai/1Em0qUH to do something about it.

But what surprises me (doesn’t really) is that SP believed they could, and can, get away with it. Do they not comprehend even today, that we the people have at our disposal an armoury of Comms, with which to alert fellow and future SAPs; Just think of the money it must be costing them as each and every one of us sticks it to the company’s reputation. They must be haemorrhaging clients all over the shop. There is so much negative PR about SP at the moment, for which SP management are entirely to blame. see: http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/city-news/energy-giant-makes-15m-day-4487399/

Just as an example, in my own battle, now resolved, I have variously, submitted my views on SP to http://www.moneysupermarket.com/utilities/supplier-reviews.aspx/ where 807 people (a record exceeded only by npower) rank SP from bad to terrible. Georgia of Cheltenham (8/9/14) writes it was like ‘ dealing with the devil’ – and adds sadly:

“Moved into my new house, they’ve been a pain ever since I’ve moved in! Been with them about 14 months now and regret it! Making me that stressed out I don’t love my home anymore! Just revived a letter from bailiffs saying I owe Scottish power £200 from a period of 18/10/2013 – 23/10/2013 In 4 days?!?”

I have contributed to ‘We hate Scottish Power’ on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/8471456879/ which has hundreds of posts in a similar vein. Janet Peel writes

“Today I have finally moved away from Scottish Power. After months of arguing, distress, wrong bills, inaccurate meter readings, hours on the phone, pathetic customer service, and much, much more.’

I have even voted in an HM Government ePetition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/62589 to have SP investigated. (it will achieve nothing)

But most effective in alerting the world to SPs customer service shambles is Twitter. Since I sat down to write this little tale no more than 45 mins ago, there have been no less than 38 tweets to their @SP_EnergyPeople account. Take a look yourself. Read the fury and frustration of normal people just trying to get on with their lives. It works out at about one tweet a minute and it’s like that every day.

About JS

John Stonborough FCIPR specialises in media relations, providing an authoritative and discreet advocacy to corporate and private clients world-wide. He specialises in handling the hostile media and media regulation. He is known for observing "An interview is no time for an original thought." He is the great-nephew of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His working career began as a London policeman and then as a reporter for the Daily Mail, BBC Radio 4, Thames Television and Channel 4 TV. From 2001 to 2004 he was The Media Advisor to the House of Commons Commission. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. He is married and lives in London, England. www.stonborough.com
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One Response to Scottish Power – to the People

  1. Hi John. Great article, excellent research and shocking company!

    Just like yourself as a former Scottish Power customer (I say former, that’s just my opinion since the messed up the switch away from them…another story yawn!) I couldn’t believe how many people were also affected. Totally agree with you that they have definitely “…compounded it by trying to keep stumm”. They’re certainly not the first company to change their core IT systems, not the first company to run into issues in doing so. They probably are the first company to do both of these things with the budget these billionaire organisations must have though. It’s unforgivable that it’s gone on far too long.

    That’s why our campaign to encourage Ofgem to stop Scottish Power taking on new customers was born. They need to sort out the mess first before shovelling in more new customers. You can find it here: http://t.co/k9XwDWF5BV

    Also for those reading John’s blog that are interested, our Twitter campaign is http://twitter.com/switchtobetter and we’re on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/switchtobetterservice

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