After being the perennial runner-up in the customer satisfaction stakes for the best part of a decade, E.ON has finally climbed the mountain and knocked SSE off its perch.
After eight years at the summit, SSE has been overtaken, despite actually improving its overall customer satisfaction rates this year. So, what has E.ON done to leapfrog its rival and emerge as the best of the ‘big six’ in 2012?
No price hikes – until now
This week, E.ON finally announced – as expected – that it is to increase its gas and electricity prices, as its five main competitors (British Gas, SSE, ScottishPower, EDF Energy and npwoer) have done in recent weeks.
In an open statement, David Bird, customer operations director at the energy provider, said that the company could no longer hold off increasing its prices and that the bill hikes were a consequence of several combined factors.
He cited the increase in the price the company pays for energy on the national and global wholesale market, in addition to the upcoming introduction of the government’s Carbon Price Floor, described by Mr Bird as a “hidden tax”. In addition, network costs are now 10% higher than last year, while costs associated with the coalition’s social schemes have doubled since 2011.
This, combined with the 60% rise in the cost of sourcing renewable energy, has resulted in E.ON increasing its gas and electricity prices by 8.7%, which is set to take effect from January 18th. The increase means the average dual fuel bill for E.ON customers is set to rise to £1,370; a £110 increase that will make it the most expensive supplier for standard customers.
Cost isn’t everything
Though E.ON’s price hike will affect consumers, it is worth noting that the average £1,260 they currently pay is already the second highest total of any of the Big Six suppliers, highlighting that price is arguably not as important to customers as some may think. The Customer Satisfaction report takes many factors into account, with cost being just one of these.
On a wider scale, energy providers are ranked on criteria including ‘Value for Money’, ‘Best Deal for You’, ‘Billing Services’, ‘Online Services’, ‘Reward Schemes’ and ‘Energy Efficiency’ and it is perhaps no surprise to see, given its overall standing, that E.ON came top in all of these categories.
As Mr Bird notes, 2012 saw the company carry out a Reset Review that examined every aspect of its relationship with customers, and the results have led to changes in the way it deals with consumers. “We’ve made a significant number of improvements to make choosing our best energy deal simple, fair and transparent,” he explained.
“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.”
Perhaps E.ON’s biggest achievement in leapfrogging SSE to top the Customer Satisfaction charts is that SSE actually registered an improvement in its overall score in 2012, rising three percentage points from last year’s 69% to 72%. However, E.ON’s jump was so considerable (from 64% to 74%) that it is a deserved winner.
Overall customer satisfaction among customers of the Big Six jumped four percentage points this year to stand at 66.3%.
Somewhat surprisingly this show that, although energy bills are rising, so are the happiness levels of consumers with their suppliers.
E.ON price rise – Read the full story behind E.ON’s price rise.
uSwitch Customer Satisfaction – The uSwitch Customer Satisfaction Awards 2012.