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Undercover Boss: exclusive post from npower’s Kevin McCullough

What’s it like being undercover?

Kevin McCullough went undercover at npower

Kevin McCullough went undercover at npower

Kevin took part in Channel 4’s Undercover Boss series, where he went incognito and worked alongside npower’s customer service department to see what things are like ‘on the shop floor’. We’ll hand over to Kevin to tell you more about what it was like…

Going undercover was an amazing experience – one I’ll never forget. I wanted to do it because I know that we’ve got some amazing staff but equally I know that we don’t always get everything right. What better way is there to really experience life at the sharp end of our business?

The following is an extract from the diary I kept while I was undercover, to give you an idea of what was going through my mind:

Day 3 undercover and I finally get to see up close and personal how we deal with our customers!

Today I’m at Thornaby in the North East with the npower complaints team.

Where do I start? Turning up at the customer contact centre, my first role is that of a casual pedestrian walking up and down looking excited at another day of undercover skulduggery. Based on the number of people staring, downtown Thornaby is clearly not used to film crews and such a good looking mystery ‘celebrity’ pounding their streets gazing longingly at an old brick building! Time to move indoors to meet one of the teams, which handle customer complaints … This is seriously nerve racking!

As soon as I entered the building, I was greeted by Claire, one of the managers, who in turn introduced me to Steph.

First impressions? I can safely say I was scared witless (inside at least).

The whole floor could see the filming taking place and natural curiosity meant that everyone within reasonable ear shot was listening in. Steph, though, most certainly wasn’t put off by this!

Steph is a four year plus veteran of our customer complaint department – and she’s very good. Within five minutes, she announced that I would be talking to ‘real, live’ customers today to make sure their complaint was resolved. I suppose I knew that was coming but when the words came out I felt sick with nerves.

I asked what training someone normally got before they did their first live customer call and was told six weeks: I had 20 minutes!

This was not a level of responsibility I’d expected so quickly but Steph assured me that it was coming my way and that (in the nicest possible way) I had no choice.

Picture the scene:
*Full film crew of 6 people all in the immediate vicinity.
*In full view (and ear shot) of an entire floor of customer care agents.
*Me being told to get my headset on as I was ‘going live’. Face to face I can and did use words to describe ‘scared’ that were a little more vivid!

To be fair, Steph talked me through the likely scenarios that might play out on the call and showed me some basic navigation on the systems.

“All ready to go?”

“Don’t think so but let’s…….”

…..And the phone is ringing…..

…..And ringing, and ringing…..

My heart was in my mouth – I kid you not – and then…..

Answer machine. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. It was quickly the latter. I felt gutted and cheated that I hadn’t got to speak to someone.

It didn’t matter though, 10 minutes later I had my first real experience of talking to a real customer.

This chap had nearly three years of low direct debit payments, based on estimated bills. He’d just been sent a new one, based on his own reading for a much higher amount – and he wasn’t happy. But, after a difficult few minutes, the call ended on a good note: when I suggested he call Steph with one more meter reading the next day, he joked, “I really must be a problem customer if it’s taken two of you to sort this out?”

After several more calls, by the late afternoon Steph’s manager thought I was doing well enough to move onto inbound calls. I can assure you I felt anything but ready, but I again gave it a go – in too deep, so better keep swimming. It was a similar pattern to outbound calls, but this time I was flying ‘blind’ as you don’t know what’s next.

All in all, it was a pretty amazing and exhausting day. I felt really proud of the team that talked me through this today and it was also very useful to hear customers first hand and try to help to resolve their issues. Being in the thick of it in the complaints team, I was speaking to some pretty frustrated customers. I often wished I wasn’t undercover, so I could have told them how much we’re doing to improve things. In particular, there’s a new £200 million IT system which is just about to go live and that will make a massive difference to how quickly and well we’re able to help.

I learnt a lot being undercover – about npower, about our customers, about the people who work for us but I also had it drilled into me that we need to keep listening and keep connected to our customers.

It’s important to me that I am more accessible and in touch with what we do. So I’m going from undercover to online – something else that’s new to me!

I’ve started up a new Twitter feed @npowerhq and a Tumblr blog with a very small support team of other experienced people to help me stay in touch. Visit us there and let me know what you reckon.

Watch our exclusive interview with Kevin McCullough

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  • Anonymous

    hi kevin i noticed meter reading was not featured as usual,you really dont know how your managers are really running metering at all try contacting your sheffield meter readers for a real review of all the under hand things going on.As rumours are going around for redundancies again but already 2 tms have managed to slip from meter reading to installations just before redundancies again.And why is it that other companies offer training for free to help you get another job but you dont.

    • Forum response, npower


      Firstly, thanks for watching the programme – we’re keen to see your views, good and bad.

      We knew from the very beginning, that by agreeing to take part in the programme, we would lose an awful lot of control – including specifying where the TV crew would want to film. It’s entirely in their hands, which is the right way so it really does make the programme ‘real’.

      Re your comments about the specific teams, can you email us on as we’d like to look into this?

      Many thanks,
      Forum response, npower

      • Anonymous

        Hi thanks for reply,but to get any truth out of anyone you need to contact all meter readers individually by letter or phone,without managers or zone managers knowledge.,and ask them to fill a questionaire in about moral,or anything thats bothering them.,like people getting jobs because they are in the clic.Sorry to seem bitter,but so would you when 2 weeks before redundancie letters arrive 2 meter reading managers, get jobs in installations as meter fixing managers ,knowing nothing about meter installations at all,when most of us for years have been asking to be trained up as meter fixers only to be told no.Iwont be sending by email because i would end up been sent to coventry, ignored and generally made to feel uncomfortable in my work enviroment.IFyou could contact all staff in sheffield south and north .barnsley and doncaster teams,im sure youd get a varied scope of answers, about team manager how they treat staff, could be a real eyeopener for kevin if its done correctley.Believe me sending staff from south yorkshire leeds etc to birmingham every week for last few years to work is not good for moral,and surely cant be cost effective,but all we get told if we question this is ,your lucky you have a job


      • Anonymous

        Hi dont know if you received my last post ,but id rather not email you as someone would find out and id get sent to coventry,ignored,and generally my work place would not be apleasent place to work.To really get to know what gos one you could either phone all south yorkshire meter readers one by one asking them how they feel about ther team leaders,or write to them assurring strictist confidence.The only way to do this is to not inform team managers or zone manager of your intentions.Perhaps Kevin could ask some questions also.We are not happy that 2 weeks before our redundancie letters arrived 2 team managers moved into installations to become meter fixing managers,when they know nothing about meter fixing at all,just before staff redundancies sorry but ,when your in the clic you get looked after.Many of us have asked over the years to be trained as meter fixers only to be told no.Moral is low due to staff been sent down to birmingham to work, for about 3 years,how can that be cost effective,when questioned about this,managers reply your lucky to have a
        job.If you want a list of questions to se just ask and i will provide you with some


      • Anonymous

        Hello you need to ask all meter readers how the managers run meter reading in south yorkshire, they dont care about staff,only themselves.They only get on if they treat meter readers with contempt,as we seem to be the lowest of the low.Redundicies been announced,so if your face dos not fit or your not liked as you ask questions they dont like your out.Anyway had a little moan oh back to the days of ye, when customers were really first priority,and not access rates.

        Thank You

  • James Hutton

    I moved to my new home which had a Power Card meter from N Power and a new gas meter from British Gas.I started using the PC meter as I had to use power in my flat,but I contacted N Power to ask about a move to a credit meter.This request was turned down as they said I had not been with them long enough,and even if I had I woul have to pay,despite them wanting to come to my flat and put in another new meter(not credit).I thought this was bad customer service and phoned Eon and British gas but Eon weren’t prepared to to remove the pre pay meter either until they were paid and a fixed period of time had elapsed as there customer.British Gas on the other hand were more than accomodating they came and removed the old N power card meter and fitted a new credit meter at no charge to me.That is how it should be,why should I be ripped of by the pre pay prices that some customers pay through cards and keys.I have been contacted by N power since ho are offering the best prices for dual fuel with direct debit payt in my area but as a matter of principle I will stick with B G as they are entitled to my custom as they worked with me as opposed to dictating terms like the others.Its a pity I didn’t get to call that office and speak with Kevin McCullough as it would be interesting to see how he handled it.

  • Phil Isaak

    I have just taken on a shop lease. I opened on Monday and have had a very successful couple of days. Yesterday I arrived to open up the shop to find a lady and two guys (one in an E.ON uniform) had gained access into my shop. After confronting and asking what the hell they were doing, the lady informed me she was acting on behalf of N Power and had come to disconnect the electricity supply as the previous tenants (a newsagent) owed £2500 and they had a warrant to disconnect the supply. Before I could say anything she said that she new I was not Lime News (the previous tenant) but needed a copy of my tenancy agreement to fax to N Power. She immediately informed me that there was a time limit of half an hour to do this and if it was not done, she would instruct the engineer to disconnect the electricity supply. I was completely mortified and after her bulling remarks, set off for home to find the lease. I must add now that I had to leave and these people were left in my shop unattended, I returned to the shop with the lease but as we had just taken the shop over, I only had the draft lease as the signed copies had not been returned to me from our solicitor. The lady said this was unacceptable so I called my landlord and asked him to come to the shop right away. He arrived a few minutes later and was very upset. He questioned the lady about what had happened and she was rude to him. My landlord had to call his solicitor and get them to fax over the lease to the contact number the lady had provided. The lady said on more than one occasion that she had a maximum of one hour and if it wasn’t sorted out by then she would disconnect us, even though she knew that I had nothing to do with the previous tenants.

    After some heated words with this woman, her bullying nature got even worse and she instructed the engineer to cut the power supply and left the shop. Her actual words were “I’ve spent enough time here….you (to the engineer) switch ’em off and let’s get the hell out of here” So we were left with a shop (an ice cream and milkshake bar) with no power. As you can imagine, we had hundreds of pounds worth of stock defrosting.

    I contacted N Power and explained the situation and they informed me that this lady was from Power2Contact and she was a bailiff acting on behalf of them. I told the guy on the phone how rude and bullying she was and that we are new tenants and nothing to do with the previous tenants. He told me that he was sorry for here behaviour and took my details. He called me back and said he needs to set us up as new tenants but would need to do a credit search and if I didn’t pass they would need to take a security deposit. He called me back again and informed me that I did not pass and would have to pay £814 and that it would take up to three weeks to get re-connected. I must add now that N Power did a personal credit search on me, which they are not supposed to do. Obviously, I was totally flabbergasted at this and explained to him that this should not have happened as I contacted N Power three weeks prior to tell them I was the new tenant. My landlord had also contacted N Power via email with a meter reading when the previous tenants left (we have proof of this)

    At this moment in time, I do not have £814 to pay and cannot wait three weeks to be re-connected. I even made them an offer to pay £500 deposit but it was refused. I am a new business and having to close down because of this has surely affected me.

    I have spoken to a lawyer friend who deals with these kind of things every day and she has informed me that N Power has actually acted illegally and are in contempt of court by gaining access to my shop as the warrant is for the previous owners and not me! This is a complete nightmare as I have a shop that I have sunk my life into that cannot trade. I am loosing hundreds of pounds every day we do not have electricity.

    I have spoken to N Power on numerous occasions pleading with them to give me an emergency re-connection but they refuse to help me, even with the threat of legal action!

    The good thing is that I have the support of my lawyer friend, the local MP and the newspapers also, the letters to N Power that have been done by my lawyer friend have been CC’d to Kevin McCullough which he will receive in the coming days. This is going to be very bad publicity (on top of all the bad publicity that had recently be received) for N Power.

    I am hoping that someone reading this will be able to advise me how to get this sorted out quickly so I can open my shop again as I am right on the edge of a black hole!

  • Phil Isaak

    *** UPDATE ***

    Just spoken to a guy at re-connections. He was very rude and unhelpful and like the bailiff, a bully. Just paid the £814 deposit that has crippled me. I asked for an emergency re-connection as I am the victim here, he spelt it out that it is not possible and I am at the back of the queue. He told me that someone from sales would call to discuss rates and if I want to stay with them they would waive the re-connection fee, and if I don’t want to stay with them I would have to pay £110. This is a complete joke. Just contacted our two local newspapers that are coming out tomorrow for the low down and to take pictures. Once this is local, we are going national.

    • Anonymous

      I would give them 48 hours to re-connect and let them know if they don’t you will seek an injunction with a damages claim in respect of the loss of profit/stock as a result of the unlawful disconnection.

      The disconnection was unlawful as the warrant related to the previous tenant and not you. Npower will need to compensate you for the loss of profit / stock as a result of their action. If you don’t need to follow the injunction route (because they reconnect) and they refuse to compensate you for your losses then you can go to the small claims court to recover these losses.

  • Forum response, npower

    Hello Mr Isaak,

    We understand that your issue is being handled by one of our teams and that you are due to be reconnected this afternoon.

    We can assure you we will be carrying out a full investigation into the situation you have described.

    Thanks for flagging this up to us.

    Forum response, npower

  • Phil Isaak

    Got reconnected this afternoon but am ill from stress and have lost around £3500 in takings, stock and having to pay staff wages 🙁

  • Barbara Handley

    Why was nothing done about the meter readers? I took my own reading and in return received a bill for nearly £1000. I was then told my monthly direct debits would rise to £163 per month. I have rung up a few times and spoken to the complaints department. They offered to give me longer to repay the amount caused by their incorrect readings over a few years. I was in tears and explained I had just been made redundant and that I could not afford the proposed amounts. I also received letters saying I had not been in touch when I had! How dare they! I spelled out I was having a nervous breakdown partly caused by their incompetence. They failed to notice my gas bill was less than the previous one which was an actual reading! As I pay by dd I failed to notice myself. I was told my payments would not change while this was being resolved. Today I have checked my bank statement and was horrified to see they have taken the £163 anyway. They do not care about any bank charges I will now incur. I am well and truely trapped with them as my energy supplier as I am in debt to them,still to the tune of £900+. I think it is unfair to expect me to pay for their mistake. I know I have to pay something as I did use gas but feel it unfair I have had to incur charges for phone bills, stamps etc and am then expected to pay the whole debt.

    • Forum Response

      Hello Barbara,

      I am sorry to see that this is upsetting you.

      I would like to take a look into your account if that’s ok? Please send your details to and I will get on to it right away.

      Forum response, npower

    • Anonymous

      No meter readers were used because we are on front line and we are all used to all the —-s**t that managers speak,and we tell them.As for kyle saying they had 4 jobs a day,whos giving him jobs, 4 a day at 20 minutes a job, no wonder were all up for redundancies ,my mate at sheffield used to get about 16 a day, which is impossible.

  • Phil Isaak

    I’m going out live on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire this morning regarding my grievance with NPower. Tune in if you can 🙂

  • Anonymous


    Channel 4 should know better,the programme was a sham
    It had obviousy been prerecorded,and edited
    Be real ,it would be impossible to find all employees so keen to vouch for thier employer
    It was made to look good for N-power
    No utility company is real ,they are in it to fleece the customer,and they don’t care
    As for C.Hulne (ConDem.) to say shop around for best deal, shows that the Government do not live in the real world.
    It would be interesting to find out how manyin the Gov; pay for utilities?including the PM;at his home in Oxfordshire, also how many MP’S are subsidised by the ordinary taxpayers for utilities

  • Phil Isaak

    Just got back from BBC. It went really well, stated what had happened. Thank you to everyone involved at BBC for your help. I’m in local papers this week and amazingly, i’ve just had a call from a national newspaper :). Still no call from NPower though, obviously they don’t care.

  • Jackie Bowers

    I recently changed supplier and although NPower was cheapest I chose a slightly more expensive one…EON WHY?
    Because I checked out the scores for customer service first. After years of having my own business I know what is most important. EON have been great so far.
    Enjoyed your programme, however, it really did not show the real problems you have….hooking up with the best of your staff (and they were good) does not always give you the true picture.
    Good Luck…you have a mamoth task ahead of you.

  • Phil Isaak


    Just had a call from Alan at executive complaints. They have decided not to pay my losses (just over £3000) and as for the good will gesture, they said that turning the power on and waiving the £110 re-connection fee was there way of showing good will!! I’m sorry, but £110 does not equal to the money I have lost and the damage to my just opened business. They illegally disconnected me in the first place!! I am so angry now! Alan told me if I want to claim, I have to go to a small claims court, which I could really do without, but will be doing. I am going to blow this out of the water now. I am a small business that had the guts to set up considering the current climate, to better my life and this is what you get for it. Knocked down by a bullying, uncaring utilities company.

  • Anonymous

    Phil you poor b*****d!! Switch to Scottish Power, they’re loads better…

  • Anonymous

    hi ,im writing this for a few mates and myself who are meter readers for npower.Today we had our meeting at doncaster about redundancies,one of our questions to kevin is.We were offered to be trained up on meter fixing if we agreed to be ring fenced, for a eon tupe transfer in 2012 when they move into our area.We realise that it would safeguard our jobs,but we dont trust mr helliwell or any managment at this level, as every thing they said at last years redundancie meetings never occurred, so could kevin answer this with a truthful answer,as it would be appreciated.
    Thank you

  • Anonymous

    still no answers to any of my meter readers questions.

  • Anonymous

    still no answers to meter readers questions,thought i may get a reply,but just gos to show,its a not really a forum to get genuine answers.

  • Anonymous

    still no reply from kevin not suprised

  • Barbara Handley

    To be fair to Npower I need to update my comments. Due to a problem with my meter readings I was billed £1018 following my own reading as the previous readings were too low (taken from the wrong meter).They have just phoned me to say they have been able to reduce my bill to £386 and will also be making a goodwill payment. I am so glad I saw this site as it appears to have acted as a conduit to the executive complaints officers. I am very happy with the resolution although it took quite long to reach a conclusion.

  • josephine carse

    does anybody know if Kevin McCullough actually reads this, or is it just for corporate show?

    • Anonymous

      Dear josephine, im the above meter reader ,and ive not had a reply yet,think your right

  • Anonymous

    Dear josephine i think you are right about this blog,as im one of their meter readers and i cant get a answer,been trying for ages, still no reply.

  • josephine carse

    I am having extreme problems with npower. We took over a new business in July 2010 and were tricked into npower becoming our supplier. We immediately tried to cancel but were told we were unable to. We have been sent estimate after estimate, despite giving meter readings. We have bills which fluctuate wildly. We have been through the complaints procedure to no avail. A chap called Nelson flatly refuses to negogiate. We were taken to court on the 18th August, we got a third of the way through our story and the magistrate stopped us and said there was no way he was going to issue a warrant to disconnect. We have now to appear in court again on the 13th September. We have been making monthly payments all the while. I hope someone senior in the organisation reads this and is able to actually help us.

    • Forum Response

      Hi Josephine,

      This sounds quite worrying and I’d like to have a look into this for you.

      Can you send your account details to and I will get on to it straight away.

      Forum response, npower

  • let down employee

    I started to work for Npower in the north east a few months ago, after my really bad 4 weeks training I was then let loose on the phones with 1 floor walker between 12 new staff members, daunting does not sum up our feelings,
    After numerous concerns about inadequate training stolen computer mouse, headsets and seats etc was told “things never change here, take you mouse and headset home”
    I fell for the “we look after our staff” hook line and sinker, I have now put my notice in as I have never in my 25years of working experience been made to feel so inadequate, bullied, de-moralised and lied to, nowhere else have i worked where you are told to put up an shut up, nothing is ever good enough, and CUSTOMERS NEEDS are ignored over getting that sale on the board, reaching your 16% sales target, your £8.00 cash received per call, under 12% ACW (after call work, time when not on the phone) not going a minute over your breaks etc, and all this while team managers get paid to listen to our calls and then score them, then use them as another bullying tool for what they see as not a 5* service, even though the real customers complaints go unanswered,
    Sorry Kevin but you will never acheive anything other than bottom of the league unless you listen to the real workers. your show showed staged calls and you really need to talk to staff and try and understand why staff feel so undervalued and worthless.
    CUSTOMERS EXPECTATIONS is bandied about but when staff expectations are spoke about they are dismissed as we are replacable and so the retention circle begins again, new staff same trainers then leave…..
    I would love a meeting with you to address these issues, not so i can have my say but hopefully try to get you to say where things are going so wrong, then maybe you may retain good hardworking staff and acheive the targets that seem to be your driving force.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, you really sound like my meter reading mates and myself at the moment,we all said it was staged,as they would never let genuine unmotavated staff near kevin,as he would not like what he hears.They portray themselves,as staff friendley and caring,but they could be no mearer the truth.Im still waiting for any reply to my questions but to no avail,will kevin even look at this blog to see the truth.I would also like to meet him in private away from managers etc to see if he would listen to us and try and get the moral back up.

  • fed up employee

    I agree, it was so fustrating, non of my skills where considered when placing me into a department. I was led to believe it was not a ‘sales’ role, but as the training was nearing its end I was starting to doubt this. The OPS manager came to give us a pep talk when nearing the end of our training and said its a brilliant working environment, no pressure, the sales make themselves etc. Then witihin the first week of going ‘live’ we heard the shouting about beating other teams, team managers shouting to staff “come on look at the state of that board, get your fingers out and get more sales and collect more debt”. At this point I felt realised that I had been fed a load of rubbish. Which was quite sad because if things where changed it would be a great place to work, but like most big companies it puts money before staff and customers.
    I was told to not actively promote competative tariff’s, but how is this possible when you are expected to attain high sales?????
    They expect you to calculate bills manually with a programme that is not accurate and then ask customers if they want to clear the account then and there, even if the customer pays by DD, this is called ‘debt collection’ even when the account is being maintained correctly.
    I told them i had an illness when i started and that I would need a DSE assessment, this was never done in the 3 months I worked there.
    So again i ask that Kevin be the man you portrayed yourself to be in your ‘undercover boss’ show and address these issues away from the cameras and reply to these messages or come and have a chat with me…….

  • Anonymous

    still no reply to any meter readers questions

    • Anonymous

      still no reply to meter readers questions

  • W

    There won’t be a reply. Kevin is in it for himself, like all company directors. Companies are nothing more than a vehicle to personal wealth for those who manage to get themselves to board level. Customers and staff merely need “managing” for as long as it takes for the exec to solidify his CV and then move on to the next overpaid appointment. Kevin really couldn’t give a s**t about any of you lot posting on this board. The banks are the same – there’s no accountability and the country is going to the dogs as a result.

  • Garry Clarkson

    I wrote to your ‘forum response’ about Npower not inputting meter readings then finding I am in arrears because of estimated bills. In addition my poor ailing mother is still waiting for her credit of some £200 + pounds FOR NINE YEARS. your patronizing solicitor who does not’ seem to think it professional to actually turn up in court and Julie Jaglowski who again did not turn up to explain a zero bill before plunging me into arrears. ITs pathetic. Why not answer complaints directly as promised. I’ve written to you about 20 time but no response. When is my mother goign to get her credit. When are you goign to refund the ‘goodwill gesture’ the Ombudsman direted you to do over 2 years ago?

  • powerstuff

    This article is basically puff as anyone who has ever deal with npower’s complaints team will know. I won’t bore folk with their various incompetencies and efforts to frustrate the customer. The only answer is to avoid npower – no one could possibly be worse.

  • Michel Rodento

    Kevin, When are you going to answer the letter from Fabian Hamilton MP to the head of MP. You have sent me 2 debt collections letters including threats AFTER I have paid an amount ORDERED by the court. You make bills up and then deny all knowledge. ADDRESS THIS NOW! We will arrive at your office and compel you to do so.

    • Michel Rodento

      Still not addressed now he is no longer with Npower. Another stupid ungrammatical letter with the wrong information (and tense) obfuscating and denying all knowledge. Pitiful and fascistic is the only way to describe it.

  • Sap

    Npower at rainton bridge is run badly. It’s all about adearance. You get wrong for being stuck on a call if it runs into your break. What are we meant to do, get the customer off the phone. Customers are giving different

    • Peterleehappy

      Agree 500% n god help you if you need the loo
      To run there and back it takes 3 mins that’s without using the loo
      Anything above 1min is in red on stats
      They told one girl they were referring her to occ health for going to loo
      N a science there out of order
      Warnings for been sick

  • epicfail

    So kevin when will you be coming back to have a look at the new system which has led to a WORSE service.

    If you see it now you will be amazed how rubbish it is and this is after loads of defects have been fixed (botched).

    This program was all hot air.