To somebody over at British Gas HQ, it was a brilliant idea.
“Yes, we’re hiking up gas prices by 9.2% this winter, but we’ll just explain it away by hosting a live Q&A the same afternoon”.
Genius. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as it turns out, the session was a disaster for Britain’s largest energy provider.
We’re here with Customer Services Director, Bert Pijls, who will be answering your questions until 2pm. Tweet your questions using #AskBG
— British Gas (@BritishGas) October 17, 2013
Bert Piljs tried his hardest to keep the sinking ship afloat, but in the end, the @BritishGas Twitter handle was flooded with sarcastic, witty and serious questions:
Hi Bert, which items of furniture do you, in your humble opinion, think people should burn first this winter? #AskBG
— Lee Vincent (@LeeJamesVincent) October 17, 2013
On a serious note, Mr Piljs tried to explain the significant price hike, blaming the increase on rising ‘wholesale prices’. He stressed that those who are on fixed-rate contracts will be spared a price hike this winter, and handed out a hotline to those concerned about their vulnerable neighbours and relatives.
The end result, however, was one of embarrassment for British Gas. Twitter didn’t seem to care about wholesale prices or fixed rate contracts. All anybody wanted to do was gain recognition for the most humorous tweet:
— Steve Rose (@steveplrose) October 17, 2013
Bert was determined to ignore the jokers, however, and stuck to the job at hand. To end the session, he thanked those for participating and passed the burden of dealing with angry customers to the British Gas help desk.
In a further attempt to try and douse the PR blaze, British Gas released an official statement defending the Q&A:
“Our announcement today is difficult news for customers. We didn’t make this decision lightly. We know people are worried about rising energy prices and they want to talk about this – including on Twitter – and it’s important we’re there for them to talk to. That’s why we offered a Q&A session with our customer services director. It was the right thing to do because we are committed to being open and transparent with our customers at all times.”
Seems like a load of hot air to me…