Today, The Mail can reveal the winner of our 2022 Wooden Spoon Award for Poor Customer Service… British Gas.
EnergyDev took nearly a third of the votes in our annual survey. John Lewis took silver with 13.8 percent of the vote while BT took bronze with 13 percent of the vote.
Hundreds of readers voted for the list of eight nominees announced in early December.
Out of gas: British Gas parent company Centrica boss Chris O’Shea (in a dummy photo) refuses to collect the trophy.
In a year of rising energy bills, you complained about long call waiting times to speak to British Gas staff, incorrect billing and missing government support vouchers.
And you’re angry to learn that profits at British Gas’s parent company, Centrica, rose last year while service levels fell.
To add insult to injury, Centrica boss Chris O’Shea turned down repeated requests from MoneyMail to discuss his firm’s troubled service and explain how he is fixing it.
He also declined to accept the trophy in person — as bosses traditionally do for our Wooden Spoon Awards, from the director of HM Revenue and Customs to chief executives of major banks and telecoms companies. We are therefore forced to mock Mr. O’Shea’s image
We make no apologies for this: customer service issues and many loyal British Gas Energy users will fear Mr O’Shea’s reluctance to engage on the issue means he doesn’t value it very much.
The embarrassing award comes a year after the firm’s homecare division won the 2021 Wooden Spoon following a flood of complaints about its boiler servicing cover.
A year ago, Mr. O’Shea accepted the award on a Zoom call while working from home.
Mr O’Shea – whose annual salary is £875,000 before bonuses, benefits and shares – says: ‘There is no doubt that the energy crisis has created a difficult environment for our customers over the last two years.
‘Daily Mail readers, like all our customers, are important to us and we will constantly be looking to improve what we do and how we do it.
‘I also know that we make a real difference to people’s lives and that we get far more right than wrong.’
Call center queues.
Many customers said they voted for British Gas because it was too difficult to get through on the phone. In some cases, wait times were over an hour.
You said it can also be difficult to get a straight answer from British Gas staff when you want to inquire about a bill or get help.
Geoffrey Matthews, from Glamorgan, tried several times to inquire about the bill by phone without success. ‘I managed to speak to a person after waiting for almost an hour. After a few minutes I was disconnected.’ Finally, he had to go online and use a chatbot service.
Contenders: Voted by hundreds of readers, selected from a list of eight nominees announced in early December
Mr O’Shea says British Gas has been under a lot of pressure this winter and is working hard to answer the phone quickly.
‘This winter our call volume has increased by more than 50 per cent and we have created another 700 jobs in the UK to handle it. Our hardworking colleagues have handled 16 million customer interactions in 2022.
‘Each of them rightfully needs more time as our customers are looking for help and advice more than ever and we want to help them through this cost of living crisis.’
Another major gripe was billing accuracy. Margaret Wilson spent hours on the phone to British Gas after receiving an incorrect bill.
The 82-year-old from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, saw her monthly bill almost double despite having credit. She was able to get her bill reduced after about a month of calls.
In November, MoneyMail revealed that some customers had seen aggressive increases in direct debits with little warning. Mr O’Shea says: ‘We look after and serve over 10 million customers.
We don’t always get things right but, as a trusted brand, our customers value that we are a sustainable and reliable company. When we get things wrong, we do everything we can to fix it.
‘That’s why 200,000 customers have joined us in the last 12 months and why last year we stepped up and saved millions of customers from energy suppliers that collapsed.’
In November we revealed that some British Gas customers had seen aggressive increases in direct debits with little warning.
Since the Energy Bills Support scheme launched in October, MoneyMail has had a steady stream of complaints about British Gas delaying vouchers – or households not receiving them at all.
These are key government handouts of £66 or £67 a month to help households avoid price rises this winter.
Eleanor Dolan, from Dartford, Kent, said despite repeated calls she had not received the vouchers for October, November and December by mid-December. ‘I’m at my wits end,’ she says. So far we have helped 43 readers win a total of £3,796 after giving British Gas a dossier of cases.
Mr O’Shea says: ‘Last year, in just a few weeks, we had to create a process to hand over £2.3 billion of government money to almost six million energy customers over six months.
‘It was a challenging operation, but we have successfully made over 20 million of these payments and our prepaid meter vouchers have seen the highest redemption rates in the sector.’
Runner-up: John Lewis finished second with 13.8 percent of the vote. Readers were surprised that he forced all of his credit card customers to reapply after switching providers
John Lewis took silver.
Readers wondered how the retail giant forced all its credit card customers to reapply after switching credit providers from HSBC to New Day.
Others say standards have fallen at its department stores.
A John Lewis spokesman said: ‘Last year, we changed our credit card provider – a complex, unilateral move which has now been completed. We’re sorry we couldn’t get it right every time. We are working hard to deliver the best possible customer experience in 2023 and beyond.’
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