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spires from Carfax

utility inefficiencies

Technology — February 2013

When I set up a landline with British Telecom, back when we started renting Catherine St in 2010, I enabled a number of features. A few days later I received five different pieces of post, each informing me that a particular feature had been enabled, along with separate pieces of mail informing me that my account had been set up and the landline activated. Yes, that made seven pieces of post! I speculated that BT might have cross-holdings in the Royal Mail, but it seemed more likely that they just had a wildly inefficient customer management system.

At our new house we have gas and electricity with the same supplier, British Gas. Utilities use estimated and user-submitted meter readings as well - and encourage the latter with bonuses and "points" - but obviously they need to send a meter reader around occasionally. The meters being inside the house (as seems to be common in the UK, or at least in Oxford), this involves finding someone at home and can take some time. But does the man who comes to check our electricity meter reading also check the gas meter? No.

One just hopes the actual plumbing and switching isn't implemented this badly!

On the other hand our new phone and Internet provider, Plusnet, has a really nice management system. Which is apparently why BT bought them.


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