Bad billing, slippery pigs and a rumble in Toronto

 You know customer complaints have reached a critical mass when ombudsmen and politicians use words like ‘trained seals,’ when describing how a company manages its customers. Or ‘slippery pigs’ when describing trying to deal with them. And you know for sure the game is up when the CEO is trying to ‘ameliorate the situation.’

This time it is not a telecoms company but a huge public utility in Canada – Hydro One – that is in the firing line for ridiculous billing practices. And guess what – they went through a big billing conversion in April last year. Most customers are fine, according to the CEO (you also know it is bad when the CEO is hauled out to give a statement) Carmine Marcello, who said “we know that approximately three percent of customers have received estimated bills for too long and about another two percent have gone for more than 90 days without receiving a bill at all.” Lucky them, by all accounts. Those who have, and who have direct payments set up have looked into $20,000 holes in their accounts.

Some estimate. Particularly when there is little comfort in knowing that while the utility can extract money at will from a customer’s account, customers can ‘apply’ for a refund, which may take a while to process.

While sometimes there is nowhere else to go, the risks of the ‘big conversion’ are highlighted once again. Hydro One installed smart meters for many of its customers last year and this was probably the catalyst for the conversion. But when country’s leaders are forced to say that their Government is working with the Ombudsman you know that it is not far from bare knuckle fighting between the company concerned and its customers.

What is amusing – but probably not to certain employees of Hydro One – is that the proud history of Hydro One ends in May 2013, with this epitaph:

“May 2013: Hydro One launches a new Customer Information System (CIS) to enhance customer experience such as shorter wait times, improved first-call resolution and direct access to better, more accurate customer information.”

One thing that BillingViews has learnt over the years it has been keeping its finger on the pulse of the operator community is this:

If you are convinced or forced into a big bang billing conversion, “test, test, test. Then test again.”

For a timeless interview with one of the kings of big IT conversions, click here.

For a distilled list of views from operators who have gone through the process, click here.




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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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