Protecting our customers during the ‘Beast from the East’

From 28 February to 4 March 2018 blizzards, high winds, drifting snow and sub-zero temperatures caused major disruption across the length and breadth of the UK.

The ‘Beast from the East’ brought some of the most testing weather conditions experienced for many years and created unprecedented demand from our customers.

We received three times as many calls as we would on a typical winter’s day and customer breakdown demand was around 150% higher than usual, with many breakdowns caused by frozen external pipes. At the same time as this surge in customer demand, we had to close two of our call centres in Scotland, as colleagues were unable to get into work safely.

Despite the challenges faced, our people showed unfailing commitment to our customers, going above and beyond the call of duty to keep them safe and warm, and living up to Our Values
of Care, Courage and Collaboration.

While we could not get to every customer as quickly as we would have liked, the office teams and field managers worked tirelessly to help customers fix their own problems if possible and direct them to self-fix videos on social media platforms. Over 6,000 fan heaters were distributed to vulnerable customers, making sure they had a temporary heat source until an engineer could get to them.

Engineer Steve Jackson walked for more than a mile through the snow with his tools in a backpack to reconnect a customer who had been without heat and water for two days. He then walked back to his van and made more customer visits. Steve walked home at the end of the day after having to abandon his van in the snow.