All companies are under pressure to save money. British Gas have recently given everyone a salutary lesson on how not to do it. It may sound simplistic, but chances are that British Gas employed insufficient resources on performing a billing migration. In particular, they skimped on testing and validation. And what was the result? Lots of complaints, lots spent on extra staff to handle those complaints, lots of negative publicity. The cost to British Gas will be far greater than the amounts saved during migration.
Here are a few links to stories that describe the mess made by British Gas. They also give a sense of how much reputation damage has been done.
Apologies from the British Gas Managing Director on BBC TV
The BBC’s story on the British Gas billing fiasco
How The Sun newspaper reported the rise in complaints from British Gas customers
And, in what must have been the worst error of all, here is the story of one customer receiving a bill for £2,320,333,681,613. Yes, UK£2.3 trillion (US$4.6 trillion). At least you cannot argue that British Gas do not have scalable billing. But unless there is a burst of hyper-inflation it will be a long time before they really need to send out such a big bill. In 2006 the group that owns British Gas had total annual revenues of a mere UK£16.5bn (US$33bn). It is a shame they did not reinvest more of it in billing…