Data migration - What is happening at United Utilities?

First of all Happy New Year! I have been most remiss recently and not done all the blogging I should have. Once again I promise to try to get back into the routine of a once a week blog. And it’s not like I don’t have a lot of interesting bits and pieces to share. In the next few weeks I will be writing about a recent briefing I had from my friends at X88 on their Pandora product. I have this year’s Data Migration Matters event to tell you about (DMM6) - tickets are not on sale yet, so more about that when they are. I have a conversation lined up with the guys from Experian (well their QAS acquisition) who are going to share an insight on their software with us and also more background on the data migration element of their autumn road show events. Then there is Rever, Salesforce, big data and a white paper I am writing on agile development and enterprise application migration....

So there is a lot to say over the next few weeks but to break the ice I thought I would share a little snippet of entertainment I just had with the United Utilities call centre. I got a text on my cell phone saying ‘This is a message from United Utilities. It is vital that you call us on 0845 746 2004’. United Utilities? Gas? Electricity? The utility market in the UK is a frequently shifting surface with the various utilities being bought and sold like so many cash cows at market. As far as I was aware I had no relationship with UU but who knows what may have happened over the last few months? My electricity supplier may have been bought up for all I know. It seems, however, that they supply water to the North West of England. This is a couple of hundred miles from where I live or where iergo is based. So not me then, either in person or through my consultancy.

Perhaps, the nice lady on the phone said, I had recently changed my phone number and the phone company....? But no. I have had the same cell phone number for the last 15 years or more. Had they perhaps had a recent upgrade to their computer systems? Had they perhaps corrupted a load of phone numbers along the way? Had they tried to enrich their personal data with some cell phone numbers? But if so where had they got this data from? My new friend at UU was not sure. Nor was there anyone else she could speak to.

We then had one of those confusing phone conversations where she asked where I was phoning from and I said the number UU had sent a text to. Who did they think I was? She quite correctly answered that for data protection reasons she couldn’t say and then the mischievous element in my make up get the better of me. When she said ‘But you phoned us’. ‘No,’ I answered, ‘you contacted me first’.

So my plea to UU is ‘Please remove my phone number from your records. It is wrong. It is now wrong in public. If I get any more messages from you they will also be publicized.’

Ok so this is not that serious. Probably just a transcription error (although if you have been the subject of mis-calls from UU please let us all know about it). It’s not like my cell phone number is all that secret - I’ve had it too long for that. The bigger lesson from all of this is if they have been data enriching then they should have got data from a more reliable source. And when you start a dunning campaign by texting people (this was the bill chasing department I was speaking to) make sure that your information is correct. Also give the poor folks in the call centers some leeway to correct errors there and then and maybe the background as to why it may have happened.

United Utilities are you listening? Are you going to share the background to this?

Johny Morris
Twitter - @johnymorris

Comments (5)

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  • 1
    William wrote on 17th Jan 2013

    Oh my goodness. An incorrect phone number and you write such a rant. How long did this take you to write? Is your life really that perfect that this is so bad. Have you got nothing better to do?

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  • 2
    Harry wrote on 18th Jan 2013

    Hey Will - you got it right first time "Have you got nothing better to do?" - he's a blogger!

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  • 3
    Gill wrote on 18th Jan 2013

    The 'get a life' comments miss the point I think - as IT people who understand how these things work these calls and texts are a trivial nuisance - but there are plenty of people out there who don't understand and who are upset by mysterious messages - my elderly mother for one (and yes, she does have and use a mobile).

    Its probably unreasonable to expect companies to have perfect data but they should have a reliable means of correcting the data while the caller is on line so they can be satisfied the matter is dealt with and not have to just wait and see.

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  • 4
    Anna wrote on 21st Jan 2013

    Our local paper reported a Trial date of October 19th 2012 for a man - you guessed it - posing as a Debt Collector for United Utilities. He was fraudulently trying to collect £6,000 from a Blackpool Restaurant owner.

    So your interrogation was well placed Johny ! Watch your meters and your data. Times are hard, and crooks abound.

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  • 5
    Hannah wrote on 14th Aug 2013

    Just bear in mind that those poor people who work in the call centres will not know personally how your number ended up there! Simple errors happen such as a phone number being a digit out. And being as highly intelligent as you are i would assume being 200 miles away from the north west area you would already be paying a water bill for a different company?

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About the author
John Morris has over 20 years experience in IT as a programmer, business analyst, project manager and data architect. He has spent the last 10 years working exclusively on data migration and system integration projects. John is the author of Practical Data Migration.

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February 2018