Is Seeboard a great place to work? The truth is out there

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The Independent Online

We know two things about utility companies: one, they're fantastically boring; two, their "customer-facing" people couldn't care less about you (presumably because they're bored rigid).

We know two things about utility companies: one, they're fantastically boring; two, their "customer-facing" people couldn't care less about you (presumably because they're bored rigid).

What most people don't know about their familiar British utility companies is that they're now mostly owned by Frogs, Krauts and various kinds of absentees (and, in the case of Wessex Water, by the giant bankrupt American gas trading company Enron, President Bush's special friends). The other change that's hard to register is that they'll all sell you anything these days. Sign up for water and there'll be a man at the door saying he'll undercut your present supplier with gas, electricity, telephone, cable TV and milk delivery. It's called list management.

I think Seeboard used to stand for the South Eastern Electricity Board, pre-privatisation. God know who owns it now, but it's absolutely determined to make itself sound interesting.

Seeboard is running a commercial that's half X-Files knock-off and half Roy Mallard People Like Us moc-doc (ie a spoof of a spoof).

The story is strange goings-on: the Seeboard people so love working there that they obsess about their work. They bring it home so much, their families have formed a self-help group. They've turned into a creepy cult that goes to the office (the Seeboard Energy Centre) at dead of night just for the hell of it. The Centre – a low-rise office-park 1983 job with stressed horizontals – features heavily in this 60-second epic. There they all are, drawn back to this deceptively banal building somewhere conveniently near a motorway. But the entrance glows as eerily blue as any spaceship when the disciples enter at night.

Relations tell strange tales – the mum whose daughter loves her job so much she's covered her bedroom wall in a collage of purple and yellow Post-it notes. Staff are exhorted to save energy and love customers (shades of Ricky Gervaise's wonderful The Office and its workshops). A husband complains that his wife takes light bulbs as dinner party presents. Innocent suburban estate houses light up at night as Seeboard people wake to write in their golden notebooks.

So Seeboard is a great place to work (recruitment ad? retention ad?). Its employees think of nothing day and night, dear customer, but your energy requirements (customer service training programme/"how can I help you?"), and its shareholders are all tremulous bicycling spinsters with a sense of humour and a complete command of Hymns Ancient and Modern.

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