Lo, the gas man cometh

There are times when the cheapest option may not be the best, but how do you justify going for the more expensive option? A recent transaction with a utility provider got me thinking about this equation.

We can always learn from other industries and trades. You can always get ideas from other people, no matter what their path in life.


It is always a good thing to receive service from other people in a service sector role. Any kind of customer-facing or customer service role will have the same key components at its core: the initial introduction, the establishment of facts, the proposal of a resolution, and the actual performance of the job.

One such occasion happened last week when I waited in the afternoon for a man from the local gas supply company to come round to change my meter. The first gas supplier we tried was cheaper but made it very difficult to get things changed. They did not reply to phone calls or e-mails, so we went with their rivals, who answered the phone right away and confirmed the details of the account by mail the very next day.

Ours is not an easy house to work in. Our street does not have access for cars or vans, so the poor guy had to park some distance away and carry his equipment. It was a very hot day, and the streets were filled with vacationers, our town being a tourist resort.

The ancient architecture makes work a challenge at the best of times, with three-foot thick, solid stone walls, which can make mundane things like drilling a hole for pipes a real challenge, and yet the engineer who came did his work with an efficiency and cheerfulness that proved that our decision to go with the more expensive supplier was a wise one.

This is a lesson that we can all benefit from. It is normal practice for all final decisions related to any kind of expenditure to be taken on the strength of the bottom line, but what the bean counters often overlook is the wide range of nonspecified benefits that some companies can offer, such as a faster response time, positive feedback from real customers, a more in-depth service deal, and even something simple like more cheerful workers! A smile can make a great deal of difference in a stressed situation.

All companies are watching their pennies these days, none more so than the customers I work for. I know my company is not the cheapest, so I always try to make sure that, once they have made the decision to use us, they don’t have occasion to regret that choice.

It is a testament to our products and service that whenever a customer leaves us for a cheaper company it is not unusual for them to return to us once they sample the customer service offering of our rivals.

I suppose that what I am trying to say is that not everything can be measured in terms of the bottom line and that the interaction between customer and the service provider is about more than money.


Also, "Pay me now, or pay me later".


Very typical. I got into a fight with my boss earlier this year, because he wanted three options for server replacement. He felt that the one option I gave him was too expensive, and wanted others to choose from. I told him that the current option would then become the least expensive, as I would not compromise the needs of the department in order to spend less money. Needless to say, he was very upset when I wouldn't play the political game.


I totally agree with your posted article . I have lost count how many times I have heard the same old statements trotted out " we will have to make savings" "we dont have the money or time to use this option" and yet on reflection more oftern than not the result of the different option , which was not always a bad product, company or even a particularly bad experience proved to be the wrong decision when viewed with the benefit of hindsight. More oftern than not the IT department is left scratching its head wondering what on earth the Board are thinking. The most recent example goes as follows: An unexpected three hour power cut happened which also blew the central UPS , a battle hardened device well past its best years which had bravely soldiered on but had finaly given up.The result was that all our systems shutdown in a dirty fashion. On arrival on site I was presented with a worried breakdown controller saying he had had no systems for three hours since the power had been lost(curiously I wondered why he hadnt thought to telephone me). My mind was refocused as the power came back on and he instantly requested all of his systems back . Experience told me that we should wait for a few minuets to make sure the power was going to stay on and as a back up I also called the utility company. The utility company still had their standard message playing informing their customers that yes they had a problem and their engineers were battling to fix it. Just as the message was about to give the emergency phone number out the power went off again . (A patted myself on the back at my patience). About ten minuets later the power came back on and stayed on. I check all the fuse boxes and trips resetting most and bypassed the dead UPS and got the systems up and running much to the relief of the controller , who I have to say seemed to have aged during the whole experience . After everything was back up and working a review of sorts took place where the normal questions were asked , why , when ,how etc.... Now to the main point one week after the death of the UPS we still havent got a replacement even though quotes and solutions were presented and detailed to the Board. In an informal chat one of the Board actually said this (I quote) " Well we have been lucky for five years but why should I spend to replace it when we could continue having luck for the next five years...." I dont know if a new UPS will arrive , I dont know if there will be another power cut all I know is that an email sits with the relevant people saying that in my opinion it is extreme folly not to immediately replace the UPS and also not to understand the extreme danger to the buisness due to the lack of a UPS. Not only could we experienece system and or data loss in the event of another power cut but because the buisness is now so heavily relient on those IT systems it does result in a degrade service to our customers when they are not available

JohnMcGrew give them your best opinion (in writing, in case something hits the fan later and flies your way) and hope they follow it. I've got one client with bad wiring in their office. I've been convinced for years that their grounding is incorrect somewhere. Approximately every 18 months or so, a surge comes down the line and fries some piece of equipment. It's got workstations, telcom equipment, and a couple of times the main server. One time it zinged $10k worth of home theater equipment. And yes, I've got UPSs on everything. I've begged for years to get a competent electrician in there to figure it out. And yet, after I clean up each meltdown, life returns to normal and they just hope to be "lucky" in the future and forget about it, until it happens again. I guess I don't mind the thousands of dollars I get to charge every time something critical gets fried, but I could do without the frantic and stressful phone calls when it happens. A $1000 or so spent on an electician would be money much better spent.

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