The latest independent Customer Satisfaction Report from uSwitch.com reveals that just a year after reaching an all-time high, satisfaction with energy suppliers has plunged back to a low. All of Britain’s big six energy suppliers have seen a drop in the number of customers satisfied after a year of price hikes, fines and turbulence in the energy market takes its toll:
- Satisfaction falters: number of customers satisfied with their energy supplier drops from an all-time high of 73 per cent last year to 62 per cent this year
- Telling toll: just four in ten customers (42 per cent) think that suppliers offer value for money – a 17 per cent drop on last year – while just over a third (36 per cent) think that their supplier has them on their best deal
- Exactly half of all energy customers (50 per cent) are satisfied with customer service, 8 per cent lower than last year, but satisfaction with online services reaches an all-time high of 54 per cent as suppliers up their online game
- Best energy company: SSE wins the consumer vote for the 8th time in a row – almost seven in ten customers (69 per cent) are satisfied
- Worst provider: npower stays bottom of the class for the 4th year running, but saw the smallest drop in satisfaction out of all the big six suppliers.
A year of price rises, million pound fines and investigations into the energy industry have taken their toll with consumers, according to the latest independent Customer Satisfaction Report published today by uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. Despite reaching a record high last year customer satisfaction has plummeted again, from 73 per cent of customers satisfied last year to 62 per cent this year – an 11 per cent drop.
SSE was voted best supplier for the 8th time in a row while npower scraped in last for the 4th year running despite seeing the smallest drop in customer satisfaction out of all the suppliers. But across all suppliers the impact of the 21 per cent or £224 increase in energy prices in the last 12 months can clearly be seen, as the area showing the biggest nosedive in customer satisfaction is ‘Value for Money’. Just 42 per cent of customers are now satisfied with the value for money their supplier gives – an incredible 17 per cent drop on last year. Likewise less people are likely to recommend their supplier this year compared with last, 44 per cent compared with 52 per cent – an 8 per cent drop – while just over a third of customers (36 per cent) are satisfied that their supplier has them on their best deal, 9 per cent less than last year.
The report, based on responses from over 5,000 energy customers, also shows that customer service levels have declined over the year. Only half of all customers (50 per cent) are satisfied with energy suppliers’ customer service. This is 8 per cent less than last year when satisfaction with customer service reached an all-time high of 58 per cent.
Out of 11 categories covering all aspects of energy suppliers’ service, customer satisfaction only increased in one – online services. 54 per cent of customers are now satisfied with their supplier’s online service, an all-time high and a marked improvement from 35 per cent in 2006. Across all other areas suppliers saw customer satisfaction go down.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “The green shoots of improvement we saw last year have wilted under the spotlight glare that the energy industry has been under this year. Price rises, fines and investigations have coupled with consumers’ own experience to put customer satisfaction into reverse gear.
“Consumers are never going to be happy with suppliers when prices have gone up, but the biggest worry to my mind is that customer service seems to have suffered too – only half of all energy customers are happy with their supplier’s service and that is unacceptable.
“The important thing for customers to understand is that there is no excuse for putting up with bad service, poor value for money or with a nagging doubt that your supplier does not have you on their best deal. There have been many consumer-friendly initiatives this year with many more to come, but if you are not happy speak to your supplier. If you are still unhappy with the service you are getting then it’s time to look around for a better deal. Not only could you save up to £420 on your energy bill, but switching is also the one thing that suppliers consistently do well. Almost three quarters of customers (74 per cent) are satisfied with their supplier’s transfer process – it’s the area where all suppliers consistently score best.”
Paul Massara, chief commercial officer at npower, said: “We’re committed to putting our customers first and continually improve our service – and we are already seeing results. Only last month, we were awarded top spot in the prestigious ‘best in sector’ class for utilities in the Times’ Call Centre Focus awards and scored highest for giving the best advice to customers about the cheapest energy deals in the Which? telesales report.”
Customer Satisfaction Report – highlights:
SSE remains the benchmark for the rest of the industry when it comes to customer satisfaction. It has now been voted best supplier for the eighth time in a row. Along with all the other suppliers it has seen a drop in overall satisfaction, but still almost seven in ten of its customers (69%) are satisfied. 58 per cent of its customers are satisfied with its customer service – higher than any other supplier – and it also comes top for value for money, best deal and for customers prepared to recommend it to a friend.
Tony Keeling, director of customer services at SSE, said: “To retain our position as the UK’s number one energy supplier for the eighth time in a row makes all of us very proud. It also makes us even more determined to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the energy sector and continue to build trust with our customers. Choosing an energy supplier is an important decision for a household and this award gives our customers the confidence in knowing the energy to their home is being supplied by a company committed to improving transparency in all areas of energy supply, simplifying tariff choices and ensuring better customer service and fair deals for all customers.”
EDF Energy suffered the biggest blow in overall customer satisfaction, losing 15 per cent, enough to see it fall three places into 5th position. Despite freezing its prices until March this year, protecting customers from a winter price hike, it saw a 19 per cent drop in customers satisfied that it offers value for money and a 12 per cent fall in those likely to recommend it to a friend. As a result it came in 4th in both categories.
Last year 61 per cent of customers were satisfied with its customer service, this year just 45 per cent – a 16 per cent decline. But its biggest fall is in the reward scheme category where it suffered from the loss of its Nectar points scheme. As a result, satisfaction fell by 39 pre cent to just 13 per cent of customers satisfied. This saw it slip from 1st place to 5th – an extremely rapid decline which demonstrates the value consumers place on having a good reward or loyalty scheme in place.
Steve Hayfield, customer services director, EDF Energy, said: “I’m personally disappointed that we have not been in a position to consistently deliver the high levels of service this year that we expect of ourselves and that our customers have been used to.
“Throughout this year we have been carefully implementing new systems which, once fully in place, will deliver new and improved services for our customers. However, during the implementation process there has been an impact on the service we have provided this year.
“I sincerely apologise to those customers who have experienced any problems during this period.
“It is important to remember that such league tables have a lag effect and don’t necessarily represent what is happening now. We have taken on a significant number of additional staff and our call waiting times have improved greatly since the summer .
“Although these results have been below our usual standards, we have recently taken a number of major decisions based on customer feedback to improve transparency and fairness which we believe will help to improve these scores in the future. For example, although we had to raise our prices, we were the last to do so and raised them the lowest. This means that for the second winter running, EDF Energy will have the cheapest standard dual fuel prices on average, providing a fair price for customers at the time they use the most energy. In addition, we recently announced our offer to provide free insulation to anyone who does not already have it and our new ‘Thank Yous scheme’ which rewards our customers for being loyal.
“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience while we complete this systems upgrade and we’re confident that we’ll greatly improve our rating next year.”
Relative to the rest of the industry E.ON performed strongly this year, moving up the table for overall customer satisfaction from 3rd to 2nd place and gaining ground in eight categories while falling in just two. Its beefed up reward scheme with Tesco Clubcard seems to be paying dividends too as it won this category for the first time. It also topped the table for energy efficiency with 31 per cent of customers satisfied with the efforts it is making in this area.
David Bird, customer operations director at E.ON, says: “We’re committed to offering good customer service and value for money and we’re especially pleased to see our higher ranking for our customers’ overall satisfaction as well as an increase in our ranking for eight out of 10 categories. We’re also delighted to have won both the Energy Efficiency and Reward Scheme categories.
“We always listen to our customers’ views and are working hard, day in day out, to engage them with their energy use and provide a range of tariffs and services to match the needs of different people. We have a 28,000-strong ‘YourSay’ panel, which gives customers the opportunity to share their opinions on a range of energy related topics, helping us to deliver the products and services they want in a manner that they wish.
“We’re disappointed to see a decline in the views of our meter and online services, but welcome any feedback that gives us further insight into our customers’ opinions and how we can improve the service we provide.”
British Gas also performed well rising two places to 3rd position for overall customer satisfaction. Customer service has been high on the energy giant’s agenda and this is paying dividends as, despite it being a tough year for price hikes, it still maintained its third place ranking for customer service.
Overall, British Gas gained positions in five categories and fell in three. It also won the online services category for the first time following the introduction of customer-friendly new features, such as being able to change direct debit payments, being able to compare your energy usage with others in your local area and being able to submit meter readings online.
Ian Peters, managing director energy at British Gas, said: “We now have more customers contact us online than through our call centres and we are delighted that our customers have recognised our efforts to make our website and smart phone apps easy to use and full of useful content.
“At a time of rising energy prices, it is also vital that we continue to focus on providing our customers with value for money. We are working hard to simplify our tariffs and to help our customers control their bills through access to energy efficiency measures such as our free insulation offer.”
ScottishPower lost ground slightly this year slipping to 4th place for overall customer satisfaction. Despite a 19 per cent drop in satisfaction it managed to maintain its 3rd place position for value for money while going up one place to 3rd for customers satisfied that they are on the best deal. However, it lost ground in the number of customers likely to recommend it, slipping from 4th to 5th place this year.
Neil Clitheroe, the new ceo of ScottishPower Energy Retail, said: “We constantly strive to improve customer experience in all areas of our business. We speak directly to our customers all the time and use their feedback to drive improvements. Indeed, recently we outlined a range of extra customer service initiatives to help customers over the winter period. We will take on board the learning’s from this uSwitch research.”