Welcome to British Gas!

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iStock_000016712919Small_conference conference audience speakerThis is another speech I’ve given at Valley Toastmasters, and it’s part of Competent Communicator manual, project #6: “Vocal Variety”.

As a reminder, the objectives of the project are:

  • Use voice volume, pitch, rate and quality to reflect and add meaning and interest to your message
  • Use pauses to enhance your message
  • Use vocal variety smoothly and naturally

With that in mind, here’s the speech I delivered:

In my travels around the world, I lived for a while in England. And it’s there where I had a rather kafka-esque experience with a company called British Gash which I wanted to share with you.

The story starts with me taking a lease on a small flat in a place west of London called Reading – the apartment was tiny but for a young lad in his early 20’s like me was perfect and had everything I needed. The estate agent did a great job of notifying all the service companies so at the time I moved in I had all the necessary forms for electricity, TV, local tax and so on just waiting for me to sign and post back and enjoy my living there worry free. Amongst all the forms I found waiting for me in the mailbox, there was also one welcoming me to British Gas as a new customer. (As you might guess, British Gas is a local supplier of gas in Britain.) The trouble was, my flat didn’t have a gas pipe coming in; in fact the new building my flat was part of was all-electric with no gas connection whatsoever. I have therefore assumed that letter to be just simple spam and threw it in the trash.

A few months into my wonderful life in my flat, a new letter arrived. From British Gash again. Informing me in a very authoritative way that I am a few months behind with my payments and I should act immediately… or else! At this point I am still convinced this is a mistake so I call one of their customer support lines. A very chirpy young lady answers “Good afternoon, Mr. Tudor how may I help you?” I explain my situation to her and she directed me to their call center in Ipswich which deals with customers who want to leave British Gas.

So I call Ipswich, where I get an automated service: “Thank you for calling British Gas, please enter your account number to arrange for your disconnection.” I don’t have an account number… so I work my ways through the menus to find out I need to call their Birmingham service center.

So I call Birmingham and get a very helpful gentleman at the other end: “Welcome to British Gas. Reason for your call?”  So I proceed to explain the situation.  At this point I am shouting at the poor guy with anger while telling him how I’ve been passed around from call center to call center. He waits for me to finish yelling and then proceeds to apologies. “You see, Mr. Tudor, our system must have been set up wrong. Somehow your address appears as having a gas connection. So when someone moves in, the system starts sending them bills. Don’t worry, he says, I will just delete your record from our system and be done with it! These automated systems are always a pain in the neck!”

I finally breath a sigh of relief : all of my problems are about to come to an end. I thank the very helpful gentleman at the other end as he confirms my account has been deleted and I should receive a confirmation by post soon. A few days later, a letter from British Gas arrives confirming that my account with them has been terminated and reminding me that British Gas would love to see me coming back as a customer. As if!

So life is good again. Until one morning, a few weeks later, when a new letter arrives from British Gas. I opened it and read: “Welcome to British Gas, Mr. Tudor!”

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