Marketers with an interest in the customer-management aspects of their role should have been paying close attention to proceedings at the High Court involving Centrica and Accenture last week.
Since I joined Marketing as a reporter nine years ago, I have felt sympathy for the marketing directors of Britain's major utilities. Operating in heavily regulated industries with well-justified reputations for dire customer service, it always struck me that they had some of the toughest jobs around.
A succession of marketers at former state-owned utilities have arrived and left after spending big advertising budgets, often on forgettable campaigns designed to encourage customers to feel some warmth toward them.
I suspect many people at Centrica would agree with me that, for many years, British Gas was among the worst offenders. Service levels were poor, and it hardly shone out as a beacon of transparency in an industry where misselling and overly aggressive crossselling had become institutionalised.
It was meant to be so different. Under Centrica's ownership, British Gas was supposed to have been another kind of utility provider.
Assembled under then chief executive, Sir Roy Gardner, Centrica was intended to be a comprehensive provider of home services involving a coalition of brands including the AA, British Gas and credit-card provider Goldfish.
There was only one problem with that strategy: it didn't work. Centrica found that it was not able to cross-sell its various products and services sufficiently profitably to justify the mini-conglomerate structure.
Of equal importance, it did not have the reliability of upstream gas supply that it needed, an issue that Sam Laidlaw, Gardner's successor, has worked hard to address since he took over a little over four years ago. Most of the other brands were sold, to leave Centrica to focus on British Gas.
Now, the company may finally be dealing with the customer service gremlins that have dogged it for so long.
Centrica announced last week that it had added about 200,000 customer accounts this year, taking the total to nearly 16m (about a third of the combined UK gas and electricity market). The figures were significant as they revealed that house-holds are returning to the company at the fastest rate in more than a decade.
This growth was almost certainly brought about by price-cutting rather than any new-found reputation for good service. However, notwithstanding the inertia that typically besets utility customers, British Gas may finally be getting that part right too.
The company says that the number of customer complaints has fallen by 90% since 2006, and that the experience of dealing with its call centres has been completely transformed.
That is hardly cause for celebration - utilities have taken far too long to reach a position of even basic competence in this area of their business. Yet, all of this underlines why Centrica has pursued its legal action against Accenture.
The case centres on an IT system commissioned from Accenture by Centrica, which the latter says reduced its billing to a shambles and lost it hundreds of thousands of customers. Last week, Accenture lost an initial ruling, paving the way for a full trial next year (pending the outcome of any appeal).
As Centrica has discovered, the goodwill that can be lost when customers get a raw deal can take years - and huge investment - to restore. On that, the City and marketing professionals surely occupy common ground.
Mark Kleinman is City editor at Sky News and a columnist for The Times
30 seconds on Centrica
British Gas plc was demerged in 1997 to create Centrica plc, which took over the British Gas brand, and energy-exploration firm BG plc (currently BG Group plc).
Centrica began to diversify in 1998, creating the Goldfish credit card. It bought the AA for £1.1bn in 1999 and home-phone provider OneTel in 2000. Its last major purchase was drain-maintenance group Dyno-Rod in 2004.
By this time, the firm had already started to stream-line, selling off the loss-making Goldfish in 2003. It sold the AA in 2004 for £1.75bn, and OneTel was bought by Carphone Warehouse in 2005.
Since then Centrica's strategy has focused on energy, while retaining Dyno Group's drain-cleaning, plumbing and lock-fitting services.
It has expanded its international operations, acquiring energy-supply companies in North America and Europe as well as investing in 'upstream' production and huge gas storage facilities.
British Gas is the biggest supplier in the UK's domestic energy market.