The latest independent Customer Satisfaction Report from uSwitch has revealed a 4% increase in the number of customers satisfied with Britain’s big six energy suppliers, despite winter price hikes and a year of turbulence in the energy market.
E.ON takes 1st place as Britain’s best supplier, knocking eight-times winner SSE off the top spot. On the other end of his scale, Britain’s worst supplier npower has fallen from 57.7% to 51.8%.
Despite price increases across all of the UK’s largest suppliers, overall customer satisfaction increased by 4% year-on-year was unexpected a series of price rises and widespread political condemnation of a market judged by many as unfit to properly inform and aid the public.
The report, based on responses from over 5,000 energy customers, suggest that the energy industry is on the road to recovery, with 66% of consumers now saying they are satisfied with their supplier.
The overall number of customers who would be likely to recommend their supplier has risen. After a fall to just to just 44% last year, 48% of consumers would now recommend their supplier.
Last year 42% thought their supplier offered value for money, compared to 49% this year. Interestingly, given the thrust of Ofgem’s Retail Market Review and recent announcements by David Cameron and Ed Davey, 43% of consumers are satisfied that their supplier has them on their best deal – 6% more than last year.
Customer service is still disappointing. Just 54% of consumers are satisfied with their supplier’s customer service an improvement of 4%, while 58% are happy with their supplier’s online services.
E.ON – Overall winner
E.ON made the most radical improvement, with its customer services up by 10%. 74% of its customers are now satisfied, enough to make it Britain’s best energy supplier whilst SSE, which has won first place in the category eight consecutive times, fell to second place.
E.ON has recently undergone a full review of its customer services, looking at how it treats customers and making improvements to key parts of its service, such as its bills. As a result, it has increased satisfaction across the board.
E.ON has finally knocked SSE off the top spot after nipping at the Scottish supplier’s heels for the last few years. E.ON has performed exceptionally well this year, increasing its number of satisfied customers by 10% year-on-year up to 74% satisfied. However, SSE has still managed to satisfy 72% of its customers, 3% more than last year.
Its simplified tariffs and prices, commitment to helping customers find the best deal for their needs, plus its beefed up reward scheme with Tesco Clubcard have paid dividends this year, with E.ON coming top in the following categories: ‘Value for Money’, ‘Best Deal for You’, ‘Billing Services’, ‘Online Services’, ‘Reward Schemes’ and ‘Energy Efficiency’.
David Bird, Customer Operations Director at E.ON, says: “We’re delighted to be recognised as the number one energy supplier for customer satisfaction, which is testament to the hard work our colleagues put in every day, listening to and taking on board our customers’ views.
“Over the last year we’ve undertaken our Reset Review to examine every aspect of our relationship with our customers. As a result, we’ve made a significant number of improvements to make choosing our best energy deal simple, fair and transparent. In direct response to our customers’ feedback we’ve cut and simplified our tariffs, introduced new rewards, and launched a new and easy-to-use online tool which identifies our best deal for customers’ individual needs.
“Going forward, we’ll continue to listen to our customers to ensure we deliver the service and improvements they really want.”
npower – Bottom of the table
npower has suffered its 5th year at the bottom of the table. Just 52% of customers said they were satisfied with npower’s performance this year – a 6% drop from last year. It is the only one of the big six to see satisfaction fall this year, and has also seen its scores reverse in many areas, such as value for money, customer service, billing services and even online services.
Paul Massara, Chief Commercial Officer at npower, says: “We are clearly disappointed by these results as our customers, and the level of service we can provide, are our number one priority and that’s why we have invested £200m in a new customer service system. We are currently in the middle of moving nearly six million customer accounts on to the system, which will enable us to respond to customer queries quickly and more efficiently.”
SSE – Overall runners up
Until now, SSE has been the benchmark for the rest of the industry when it comes to customer satisfaction. It was voted best supplier eight times in a row, only missing out narrowly this year to E.ON.
It has also gained ground in some important areas, including ‘Value for Money’ where satisfaction increased by 7% year-on-year. Customers may have been reacting to the fact that SSE moved early to simplify its prices, although it has not been particularly competitive since and it was also the first supplier to announce a price hike this winter with its increase coming into effect 15th October. Despite this, it has seen a 4% increase in customers satisfied that it has them on its best deal. However, this increase was below the average seen by the big six suppliers – enough to see it slide from 1st to 3rd place this year.
SSE continues to shine though when it comes to customer service, boosting its score by 2% and satisfying 60% of its customers – enough to retain 1st place. And this also means that its customers are happy to recommend it – again SSE takes the top slot here.
Tony Keeling, Director of Customer Service at SSE, says: “SSE’s customers are its number one priority and we are extremely proud to have been rated best for customer service once again and for the seventh year in a row. We recognise these survey results highlight the areas where we can improve our overall customer experience, and we are determined to continue our efforts to build trust in the industry and ensure customers receive only the very highest level of service.”
British Gas is the only other supplier to lose ground this year, slipping from 3rd to 5th place for overall customer satisfaction. However, it still satisfied 65% of its customers, 4% more than last year, and its downward slide owes more to other suppliers’ strong performance rather than any particularly poor performance of its own.
That said, Britain’s biggest supplier’s performance is lacklustre in the following key areas: ‘Most likely to be Recommended’ where it fell two places to 4th, ‘Value for Money’ where it claimed 5th place and ‘Best Deal for You’ where it remained in 5th place.
Ian Peters, Managing Director of Residential Energy at British Gas, says: “We are passionate about delivering the best possible customer service and have introduced a range of improvements for our customers this year to make buying energy more simple, transparent and fair – including: a clearer bill with tailored money-saving advice, a tariff checker, and face-to-face advice available online. We believe these initiatives have contributed to the rise in our satisfaction scores in this year’s uSwitch customer satisfaction survey, and we will be continuing our programme of improvements in 2013.”
ScottishPower has regained lost ground this year, moving back up into 3rd place for overall satisfaction after sliding down to 4th last year. A healthy 70% of customers are satisfied with it – 9% more than last year.
ScottishPower has also shown some strong improvements in key areas: this year there has been an 11% increase in customers who would recommend it, a 10% increase in customers who are satisfied that it offers value for money and a 9% increase in those who are satisfied that it has them on the best deal for their needs. But while seeing a 6% increase in those satisfied with its customer service, there has been an 8% drop in customers satisfied with its meter services.
Neil Clitheroe, CEO ScottishPower Retail & Generation, says: “We are pleased to be making progress in a number of areas, especially to be ranked first for the transfer process. In the last year we have led the energy industry in developing a midata solution, offering customers easy access to data about their energy consumption history, helping to ensure that they are on the best deal for their circumstances and making it easier to switch. We constantly seek to improve our performance in all areas and we will look closely at the uSwitch research to help us continue to build greater trust between ScottishPower and our customers.”
EDF Energy has started to claw its way back up the satisfaction leagues after its large tumble last year from 2nd to 5th place. This year sees it improve by moving up one into 4th place with 65% of customers satisfied. However, this still leaves it with 10% to go before it gets back to its 2010 high of 75% satisfaction.
This year, despite a 6% improvement in the number of customers prepared to recommend it as a supplier, EDF Energy fell one place to 5th in this key category. However, it has compensated by moving from 3rd to 2nd in ‘Best Deal for You’ after seeing a 13% improvement. This reflects the popularity of its Blue + Price Promise plan and its unique price promise to customers. The other area with a notable improvement is online services, where EDF Energy satisfies 56% of its customers, 12% more than last year, allowing it to move from bottom place to 4th this year. It has also clearly benefitted from its sponsorship of the Olympics and the way it was able to use this to boost awareness of its ‘green’ credentials – taking top spot in the Green Services category.
Steve Hayfield, Customer Services Director at EDF Energy, says: “We’re pleased to see the uSwitch tables have reflected an improvement in our customer service levels over the last year.
“We recognise there’s still room for improvement and we will continue to work hard to deliver the high standard of service we expect and our customers deserve.
“We’re pleased to see that in the ‘best deal for you’ category, the EDF Energy rating improved by over 13% compared to last year, to the highest level in six years. This reflects the fact our standard variable prices have been the cheapest offered by a major supplier for 50 of the past 52 weeks at typical consumption. And our Blue fixed priced deal, which came with an industry first price promise and no exit fees, has also proved to be a huge hit since its launch in April.
“We want to make our customers’ lives easier and have made a public commitment to improving service levels. This year, we’ve introduced a live round-the-clock webchat option for customers preferring to contact us via the internet and launched the first app which allows customers to take meter readings via a photo taken with their mobile phone.
“We routinely invite our customers who call our free-phone service centres to rate our advisers and it is clear that our people are giving great service every day. Our survey performance is published on our website.”
Read the full report
In conclusion, said Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch, the focus of energy suppliers to re-build trust as paid off – despite price rises: “It’s the start of a long road to recovery, but energy suppliers are falling over themselves to demonstrate to consumers that they are listening, learning and changing. This message does seem to be getting through though, as customer satisfaction has increased despite suppliers announcing deeply unpopular winter price hikes this year.
“Consumers want to know that their energy supplier is on the same page as them. And while initiatives around transparency and ensuring customers get value for money are important, it’s also important for suppliers to focus on customer service too – barely half of all customers (54%) are satisfied with their supplier’s customer service and this is simply unacceptable.
“It’s now time for consumers to play their part too – there is no excuse for putting up with bad service, poor value for money or with an uncompetitive deal. If you are unhappy, shop around for something better. There is currently just over £300 difference between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs on the market, plus a growing number of new suppliers, such as Co-op Energy, that offer a genuine alternative to the big six. Consumers do not need to worry about the switching process – almost three quarters of customers (74%) are satisfied with their supplier’s transfer service – it’s the one area where all the suppliers consistently score best.”