Data quality is a serious risk to customer confidence. Electronic business is supposed to make life easier and drive down costs which organisations would normally pass on to their customers.
But relying on poor quality data can have catastrophic consequences that, at worst could result in a death. Think of the hospital giving out the wrong prescription due to a clerical error.
Not that dramatic in my instance, but I've fallen foul to complicated errors from the energy company First Utility. Not only has our energy consumption apparently doubled in less than 9 months but a new smart reader recorded backwards for a month! Bills were cancelled and recalculated without our knowledge, some invoices are missing, and a credit note has been issued which didn't add up - to our advantage rather than theirs. For two consecutive March months no direct debits were made, the issue only being picked up when I called them.
Thank goodness for 0 level maths! But I've had to sit down in a room on my own for two days systematically going through the account from 2010! Whilst I really don't mind my own company I'd rather be doing something a bit more exciting than number crunching and spreadsheet reconciliation. And time is money!
Data quality is a real issue for many energy companies, complicated further by unclear billing processes and confusing evidential trails. Today's article in the Daily Mail is a clear warning that the industry needs to clean up its act over data quality. At a time when consumers are stressed out about inflation-busting price rises it's important than energy companies listen to their customers' concerns.
In my case the matter has been referred to head office and I am awaiting a telephone call. But the fact is I don't trust the company anymore and that is a sad indictment on electronic business. It's frustrating that the matter is so technically complicated that we almost have to sit down around a table face to face to go through the itemised issues one by one.
Reading around the data quality issue among energy companies it seems common grievances include suppliers mixing up the different rates they charge for energy used during the day and night; confusion between older imperial and new metric meters; errors over decimal points; and recording the wrong readings on their computer systems.
These mistakes result in customers being sent bills for astronomical amounts they don’t owe. Audrey Gallagher, of Consumer Focus, says: ‘Poor data quality has been a long-standing issue in the energy industry'.
So, I'm not alone, but that's not the point. I'm frustrated to spend my time tracking and tracing accounting decisions which are not clear on the billing. But, for many customers the billing calculations can be too technical leaving them in the situation where they would rather pay than challenge.
For those customers who are worried about their bills help is available (see below).