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Small energy providers power ahead of big six in customer satisfaction

New figures reveal a gulf in consumer satisfaction between the country’s two largest new energy providers and the traditional big six, according to Uswitch.com’s ninth annual independent report of 5,300 energy customers.

  • Small providers Ovo Energy and First Utility score an average customer satisfaction rating of 83% compared to just 69% with the big six

  • Ovo Energy sweeps the board with an overall satisfaction rating of 86% – the highest in the report’s nine year history – winning ten out of 12 award categories including value for money, customer service and billing

  • E.ON comes top of the big six suppliers for average customer satisfaction with 76% – up five per cent from last year

  • npower is least popular with customers, coming last with an overall satisfaction score of 58% – 28 percentage points behind winner Ovo

  • Over three-quarters (76%) of Ovo and First Utility customers would recommend their supplier, compared with just half (50%) of big six customers

  • 80% of Ovo and First Utility customers are satisfied with the value for money they receive, compared with just over half (55%) of those with the big six.

Average customer satisfaction with small providers Ovo Energy and First Utility is 83%, compared to just 69% for the big six. The big six suppliers did, however, increase average satisfaction by two per cent, from 67% in 2013.

The findings, which rank Britain’s big six suppliers and – for the first time this year – the two largest new providers, put Ovo Energy in pole position. The supplier wins ten out of 12 award categories with an 86% satisfaction rating overall, smashing the previous record of 79% set by SSE in 2010. Rival small provider First Utility comes in second place, with a score of 79%.

Big six supplier E.ON comes top of the big six and third overall with a 76% rating – up five per cent since last year. By stark contrast, npower’s rating of 58% sees it in last place for the seventh consecutive year – coming bottom in seven out of the 12 categories. It is least likely to be recommended by customers (38%) and comes last for customer service (47%) and billing services (54%). The provider has, however, continued to make good progress in improving its overall satisfaction scores – rising from 52% in 2012 and 57% last year.

ScottishPower is the only major energy company with a lower customer satisfaction score than last year, dropping three per cent from 67% to 64%.

Overall customer satisfaction 2014
PositionEnergy companyOverall customer satisfactionChange from 2013
1Ovo Energy86%n/a*
2First Utility79%n/a*
3E.ON76%+5%
4EDF Energy73%+2%
5SSE72%+2%
6British Gas70%+3%
7Scottish Power64%-3%
8npower58%+1%
*Ovo Energy and First Utility are included in this year’s results due to the number of their customers in the sample meeting the minimum requirement for the first time

Source: Uswitch.com

The results show other marked differences between the small providers and the big six. Over three-quarters (76%) of Ovo and First Utility customers would recommend their supplier and 80% say they get value for money, compared with just 50% and 55%, respectively, of big six customers.

However, perceptions of customer service vary across providers big and small. Whilst three-quarters (75%) of Ovo Energy customers are satisfied with issues including the time taken to resolve queries, this drops to just 57% of those with First Utility and 47% with npower. EDF Energy increased its customer service satisfaction score by an impressive eight per cent this year to 63%, just behind E.ON, who comes in second place with 65%.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at Uswitch.com, says: “These results prove that smaller providers are setting a high bar when it comes to customer satisfaction. It’s encouraging to see the big six continuing to move in the right direction, but it’s hugely disappointing that so many of their customers remain dissatisfied.

“Suppliers offering good customer service and low prices will continue to steal customers from their competitors and this is exactly what competition is all about. The results are a wakeup call to suppliers to do a lot more to stop consumers leaving in droves.

“Today’s report also underlines the fact that people should not put up with bad service, poor value for money or uncompetitive prices. It’s never been simpler to switch and in fact consumers consistently rate suppliers’ transfer processes very highly.”

The following 2014 Customer Satisfaction Awards have been made to suppliers:

Ovo Energy – best for: Overall Customer Satisfaction, Most Likely to be Recommended, Value for Money, Best Deal for You, Customer Service, Billing Services, Meter Services, Online Services, Green Services and Transfer Process

E.ON – best for: Reward Schemes and Energy Efficiency

Energy supplier comments

OVO Energy

Jason Sharpe, MD of OVO Energy, says: “OVO was built around our customers. Giving them the best possible experience is the most important challenge for the business every day. We’re delighted with this result and we want to thank our customers for believing in us, but we know there’s always more we can do.”

E.ON

David Bird, Customer Operations Director at E.ON, says: “We’re proud to be rated number one for customer satisfaction amongst the bigger suppliers for the third year running. It’s heartening to see that not only has our performance improved, but that for the last four years we’ve retained first position for both reward schemes and energy efficiency, which is testament to our colleagues efforts in helping customers find the best tariff for them and in using no more energy than they need.

“Our customers continue to be our absolute priority. This is why we continue to listen to our customers and make changes to deliver improvements that matter to them.”

British Gas

Ian Peters, Managing Director of British Gas, says: “At British Gas, delivering excellent customer service is our top priority and we are continually looking for ways to improve. We want to help our customers control and manage their energy use. We have led the smart meter roll-out, installing over 1.5 million, and provide more energy efficiency improvements than any other company which has helped our high scores in this area.

“We’re also pleased to have improved in billing, metering and online services. We’ve created a range of new ways for customers to manage their energy with online apps and tools – from supplying meter readings and adjusting their direct debit payments, to booking engineer visits and controlling their heating and hot water from their phone.”

EDF Energy

Béatrice Bigois, Managing Director of Customers at EDF Energy, says: “We’re pleased to see that our continued effort to improve the service for our customers has been reflected in the 8% increase in our customer satisfaction score.

“We have been rated first of the major suppliers in the “Best Deal for You” category, which reflects the popularity of our innovative Blue products. We offer customers an attractive price for their energy, with the peace of mind that we will tell them if they can save more than £1 a week elsewhere thanks to our Price Promise.”

First Utility

Ed Kamm, Chief Customer Officer at First Utility, says: “Our mission is to save our customers money on their energy bills. With 80% of customers saying they get value for money and 76% saying they would recommend us, we are pleased to see that we’re delivering on our mission. We will continue to pass on cost savings by ensuring we offer the best deals we can, alongside investing in customer service to drive customer satisfaction even higher.”

npower

Roger Hattam, Director of Domestic Retail Business at npower, says: “We’re focussing all of our efforts into improving how we look after our customers. While we know we have more to do, we’re already seeing results; in this survey, we’ve improved in 9 of the 12 categories. Since the first quarter of this year, the number of overall complaints we receive have reduced by nearly a third and we’re now billing 98% of our customers on time. We have also seen a 5% drop in Ombudsman complaints since September – compared to an average industry increase of 9%.”

ScottishPower

Neil Clitheroe, CEO of Retail and Generation at ScottishPower, says: “We have transferred all of our accounts onto a new £200 million customer service system. This has been challenging and resulted in service related problems for some customers as accounts were brought up to date and bills issued. We sincerely apologise to any customers who have experienced difficulties during this period. We have set challenging improvement targets for the coming months and we have also brought in an additional 450 customer service advisors. We are all fully committed to delivering these service improvements, returning to the high service standards long associated with ScottishPower and ensuring that our customers realise the very real benefits of our IT system investment.”

SSE

Tony Keeling, Director of Customer Service at SSE, says: “We want to be higher up the tables and we know what we have to do to get there. We are already implementing improvements through listening to our customers and tackling issues right from their root cause. Delivering the very best of customer service remains at the heart of what we do and we’ll continue to make all improvements necessary to ensure we can deliver this for our customers.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Jason Wakeford

Phone: 0203 872 5612

Email: jason.wakeford@uswitch.com

Twitter: @UswitchPR

Notes to editors

Survey conducted by YouGov between 17th and 27th October 2014 amongst 5,262 UK energy consumers (aged 18+). Customers were asked their opinions on a wide range of issues relating to satisfaction with their energy suppliers. The figures have been weighted.

Please contact Uswitch for the full result tables.

Only suppliers with a sample of 150 customers or higher in the survey are included: British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, First Utility, npower, Ovo Energy, ScottishPower and SSE. All calculations have been done by Uswitch.

Customers with two suppliers were asked to provide their level of satisfaction with their supplier separately for gas and electricity, dual fuel customers were only asked to rate their supplier once. The customer satisfaction scores were then calculated as follows (“Supplier A” used as an illustrative example). Sum the total number of gas and electricity customers who were very or fairly satisfied with the service provided to them by Supplier A, then divide by the total number of Supplier A’s gas and electricity customers who answered the question. A Dual Fuel response is classed as both a gas and an electricity response.

The full results can be viewed on the Uswitch.com website, where consumers can take advantage of the unique facility to compare levels of customer satisfaction alongside information on cost and potential savings. The energy calculator at uSwitch.com is accredited by Consumer Focus.

Reference to satisfied customers includes only those who responded positively that they were very satisfied or fairly satisfied. Satisfaction ratings and rankings in tables are determined only by the percentage of satisfied respondents.

Comparisons to 12 months ago refer to YouGov survey of 5,057 UK energy customers between 4th and 13th September 2013. The figures have been weighted.

All categories can be compared with previous years except for Energy Efficiency and Green Services, which were previously one category, but which were separated in 2013 to make the results more relevant. They can be compared, however, between 2013 and 2014.

In the press release, percentages have been rounded to the nearest percentage point.

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