Thursday, 10 February 2011

I don't believe it...

So it’s official. The work on our road which started over a year ago is now complete. I know because I have a letter telling me so. The big clue from United Utilities is in the heading which reads: Completion Letter - and then the name of our road, printed in a clear bold sans serif type.

It isn’t a very long letter it just states that the work on the drains is now completed and that they’d like to thank us for our patience and cooperation and that if we have the need of any further information to contact them on the 0845 number printed below.

The letter was delivered by hand by a nice young man who asked me if I had any comments or concerns about Project NCA 80015939, so I told him that it had taken far to long and he replied that ‘yes, everyone has said that’. It was so reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone in my Sherlockian observations.

The letter goes on to say that they would value my feedback and that they have enclosed a short freepost questionnaire – which they didn’t, so I had to ring the 0845 number and request one. I hate to say this but it was delivered by an extremely pleasant young lady less than ten minutes later (they must have rung her immediately), so that rather spoilt my plan to rant about them not really valuing my feedback at all – they obviously do.

So here it is - well more Victor Meldrew than me actually.

Was I satisfied with the information I received regarding the work? Yes I was. You sent me a lovely letter every few days (or at least it felt like that) telling me that the work was taking longer that expected and thanking me for my patience, although I actually knew that it was taking longer than expected and I wasn’t bloody patient at all. I was bloody furious. At various times the work seemed like it was going to be completed in May, then July, then early September, then November, then definitely January (or maybe that was just me imagining the best, I generally do you know) so here we are, February 10, and at long last I have my Completion letter. Maybe I was a tad too optimistic back in those early days.

Do I understand the benefits of the work? Yes I do. Is it moist? It’s stopped a few houses at the other end of the road from having some water in their cellars every now and then. In terms of benefits to me personally though – well I expect the mile long walk on the many occasions that I couldn’t get a parking space outside my own home as most of the road was closed was good exercise for me. And let’s not forget all the other calories I must have lost cleaning and polishing the hallway floor, mopping up the continual dust and scrubbing away the tarmac marks brought in on the bottom of my bloody shoes. All my own fault, nothing to do with you, obviously.

Did I find that your representatives were always helpful, professional, polite and considerate? Yes I did; always a smile, a nod, and a sucky sweet. Even if they did cone off large chunks of the road each evening so that they could park their cars on arrival in the morning; and I’m not even going to mention the cigarette butts that they carelessly dropped everywhere. I particularly found their cheerful early morning whistling and shouting enormously uplifting as I hobbled the mile or so to my car which was parked three streets away.

Did you ensure access was made available for pedestrians and vehicles during the work? What in the name of bloody hell? No, there were times when you simply couldn’t walk the length of the road without clambering over cones and bits of rubble. For much of the time I was made to feel like a bloody prisoner from Cell Block ‘H’, what with all the bars and eight foot high steel wire mesh fencing that you erected. It was a very depressing and oppressive experience to walk down the path to be met by a steel barrier, almost a Berlin Wall of steel and concrete. If I wasn’t so very well adjusted I’m sure it could have had a negative effect on my outwardly cheery disposition.

Did you keep the public area safe, clean and tidy during the work? Sorry, but no you bloody didn’t! It was none of those things. It was downright dangerous and filthy, it looked like a bloody bomb had gone off. There was rubble and rocks everywhere. The pavement slid into the gutter and for months the paving slabs were uneven and cracked. People were tripping about all the time, even I (agile fox that I am) tripped on one occasion spilling the bloody shopping all over the road.

Do I believe the worksite has been restored to its original condition? In the name of Sanity, you’re having a laugh aren’t you? Before you began work on the road we had a nicely paving stoned pavement with sensible old kerbs. We now have an ugly black tarmac walkway with far too many dropped kerbings and overly long white line parking restrictions. You’ve made a nice old road into an almost impossible to park eyesore in my opinion - not that ‘that’ counts for much these days.

Did you correctly set my expectation about the level of disruption to expect? Please excuse my spluttering, I'm just choking on my own disbelief. Let's leave the fact that a few months work stretched like an elasticated waistband and became over a year aside. Let's forget the residents's meeting where you used the words 'Minimum Disruption', and lets not even mention that it was meant to be resident's only parking (fat lot of good those silly slips of paper did), stating that it'd all be over before we knew it. Let's leave all of that aside; but in no way did you prepare me for the noise, the mess, the earthquake-like cracks in the road, or the months of resettling required before you even began to resurface the road. 'Correctly set my expectations?' Oh, for Gods sake! I think I may throw up!

Do I feel that you met those expectations? I think that you already know the answer to that one, don’t you?

Overall how would I rate the work carried out on site? Dissatisfied.

Overall how would I rate my customer experience? It’s been a bloody nightmare – Very Dissatisfied.

Has the work improved my perception of United Utilities? Oh look – there’s a flying pig!

Apparently you welcome customer feedback and you’d like to know if I have any ideas that would help you to improve customer experience. Well, far be it for me to tell you how to do your job, but broadly I’d suggest that you to stop painting a best case picture and tell the truth about what could happen. My advice on this one would be ‘stop telling rose-tinted porkies’. Also, it seems to me that you underestimated the work required and the damage that you were going to do to the road and my advice might be ‘make sure you know what you are bloody doing and get it right my friend’. Lastly despite the constant letters, lovely as they were, you really didn’t tell us much at all. My advice would be ‘don’t treat me like a flaming idiot, I’m not senile yet you know’.

Well, at least it’s over. I don’t count it as one of the best experiences of my life and in many ways this last year has been like living through a Beirut terrorist attack; what with the flying stones hitting my car and the road full of cracks and three inch deep potholes. Our lovely irreplaceable paving-slab pavements have gone and the bloody parking is even worse that ever, I can hardly believe it. We’ve been living in a bloody exclusion zone for months, one side of the road unable to cross to the other (without climbing the barricades and risking those imaginary border guards), but at least it’s all over now and at least it was done with minimum disruption.

Yes, it seems to be all over but as you’d expect me to say ‘I don’t believe it!’

Victor Meldrew


  1. Sonya Tickle linked my Facebook link and sent to her friends.

    Sonya Tickle via Andrew Height
    This guy is fantastic!

  2. Sonya Tickle commented on facebook:

    You are a bloody legend! I love it!

  3. Wonder if you'll get a bog standard follow up letter Or if they'll actually read it and do something?

  4. Kieran Goodwin commented on Facebook:
    Thats going to be pinned on an office wall somewhere for years to come, fantastic.

  5. Barbara Balding commented on Facebook:
    I just love the Victor Meldrew attitude! - brilliant!

  6. Barry Jones at no. 12 commented on Facebook:

    Nice one Andy. I do think that you should have come off the fence a bit though. I didn't receive a letter, but then again I have so much contact with UU over the past twelve months, I am on first name terms with the project coordinator, that my views are well known to them. I take it that the UU sponsored street party was only a rumour!!

  7. They probably wish they had asked you to
    "Select the following to describe your experience of the recent roadworks
    :o) :oI :o(
    Please do not expand on your answer."
    Sock it to da man!

  8. Brilliant ... catching up with the blags... United do seem to send me letters every week and saying time is running out for something or another....

  9. Tricia Kitt commented on Facebook:
    ah, but do you feel better now?