- Energy price rises have left their mark as the 13th annual uSwitch.com Energy Customer Satisfaction Report shows overall satisfaction with energy suppliers falling for the second year running
- Challenger suppliers OVO Energy and Octopus Energy take first (88%) and second place (87%) respectively for Overall Customer Satisfaction
- While Big Six suppliers still languish at the bottom, a challenger brand ranks lowest for Overall Customer Satisfaction for the first time ever – Outfox the Market scores just 64%
- npower is the lowest ranking Big Six supplier, but is one of just three energy firms to improve its score year-on-year, alongside Co-op Energy and OVO Energy
- The uSwitch Energy Customer Satisfaction Report is the largest independent survey of its kind, based entirely on the views of over 17,000 energy customers.
Overall customer satisfaction with suppliers has fallen for the second year running (74% to 72%) in the 2019 Energy Awards from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service. The drop is not unexpected after energy customers were battered in 2018 by over one price rise a week and witnessed the collapse of nine small energy firms.
But after Ofgem announced an increase in the level of the default tariff price cap in February, all of the Big Six providers have confirmed they are pricing up to the level of the cap from 1st April. Several challenger brands have also announced increases to the cost of their standard tariffs – and two smaller suppliers have issued price reductions – meaning that the 2020 results may see an even greater shake up.
The research questioned over 17,000 energy customers and challenger supplier OVO Energy has been crowned Supplier of the Year, coming top for Overall Customer Satisfaction with a score of 88%, up from 86% last year. This is the fourth time OVO has taken home the top prize – a particularly impressive achievement given the supplier has only been included in the rankings for the past five years. Recently taking over the customers of two failed energy suppliers, Spark Energy and Economy Energy, OVO has also made the top spot in five other categories: Billing services, Meter reading services, Incentives & Rewards, Online services and Account management.
Hot on OVO’s heels is last year’s winner Octopus Energy, finishing a close second for Overall Customer Satisfaction with a score of 87%, and winning the ‘Most Likely to be Recommended’ category. Last year’s runner up, Bulb, finished in fourth place this year but still won three categories: Best Green Services, Best Deal for You and Easiest to Switch to.
The annual uSwitch Energy Customer Satisfaction Report, conducted by YouGov, is the biggest of its kind within the industry. This year it ranked 16 energy companies – the Big Six alongside ten challenger providers – with respondents giving their views on how their current supplier performs across a range of value for money, account management and customer service categories.
While the Big Six suppliers continue to languish near the bottom of the table, this is the first time in the survey’s history that a supplier outside of that group has been awarded the wooden spoon: Outfox the Market has been named the worst supplier for customer satisfaction, with a score of just 64%.
Among the Big Six, SSE took the title of Large Supplier of the Year with an Overall Customer Satisfaction score of 70%. SSE also took home the large supplier awards for Most Likely to be Recommended and Best Meter Reading Services. On top of the award wins, it improved it’s online services by 10% compared to 2018 – the largest year on year improvement in this category.
npower ranked the lowest of the Big Six suppliers, but, unlike the other five, it improved its Overall Customer Satisfaction score for the second time running from 65% to 66%. npower also took home the top large supplier prize for Billing Services, suggesting that its investment in overhauling its billing system may be starting to pay off. Other suppliers whose Overall Customer Satisfaction score has increased this year are Co-op Energy (78% to 81%) and winner OVO Energy (87% to 88%).
As suppliers fight to differentiate themselves in the battle for customers, five areas saw a year-on-year improvement in satisfaction scores: Incentives and Rewards, Green Services, Energy Efficiency, Online Services and Transfer Process. Incentives and Rewards was the only category in which every supplier improved on their score from last year. This year’s winner – OVO – stormed ahead with a 26% increase on their rewards score compared to 2018 and Octopus saw a 17% increase year on year.
Consumers’ biggest considerations when choosing a supplier are largely unchanged from last year: Low prices remain the top priority (43% compared with 42% last year), followed by value for money (26% this year and last year).
Rik Smith, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: ““Following a year with a record number of price hikes from small and large suppliers and several smaller energy companies ceasing trading, energy customers have a less rosy view of the market compared to 12 months ago.
“It’s great to see that more energy customers switched last year than ever before – often choosing smaller suppliers over the bigger companies. Challenger suppliers continue to make waves in the industry and outperform the Big Six for overall satisfaction, as many of them have thrown down the gauntlet to the more established players, offering cheaper prices, easier ways to manage your account, and making their customers feel like they mean more to the company than just someone to send a bill to. This year’s winner – OVO – has invested heavily in its digital offering to make account management easier, as well as offering its customers attractive rewards.
“Despite these advances however, around 15 million energy customers are now receiving letters from their suppliers to tell them that their energy bill will be going up by over £100 a year on 1 April. But households don’t have to accept these price hikes – spending just ten minutes comparing energy tariffs could reduce your bill by over £300 a year.
“Companies who can demonstrate a better track record of treating their customers well, alongside attractive prices, will be the winners as consumers look to escape higher bills in 2019. Innovation in other areas of customer service, such as being easy to switch to and a smooth smart meter installation process, is also crucial if suppliers want to build strong relationships with their customers.
“Any energy customer who doesn’t think their supplier is up to scratch shouldn’t hesitate to take matters into their own hands and find a better alternative. In many cases, taking a few minutes to switch saves hundreds of pounds and can lead to huge improvements in the quality of service people receive.”
Justin Haines, Customer Service Director at OVO Energy said: “Winning the uSwitch Supplier of the Year 2019 award is a great honour, but the huge advances we’ve made this year wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of all the team at OVO Energy. We’ve been investing in innovation to continue to develop digital engagement tools for our customers, and the Best Online Experience accolade gives us further confidence that this is the right strategy required to compete in a challenging energy market while meeting our customers’ needs.”
Greg Jackson, Octopus Energy CEO, said: “There is no better proof of outstanding customer service than being recommended by your customers. Being named Most Recommended Energy Supplier is fantastic proof of the difference we are making with cheaper, greener energy and total commitment to customers.”
Tony Keeling, Chief Operating Officer at SSE Energy Services, said: “Customer service is one of our highest priorities and we’re glad to see that so many of our customers are likely to recommend us to others based on their first-hand experience. Our approach is based on a recognition that no two customers are the same and this has helped us achieve the British Standard for Inclusive Service Provision. However, we know there’s always room for improvement and we strive to do even better every year while continuing to provide a reliable and sustainable service for our customers.”
Hayden Wood, co-founder and CEO of Bulb said: “We’re on a mission to reduce people’s bills and cut carbon emissions, so it’s great to be recognised by uSwitch as the best deal for consumers, as well as the easiest to switch to. We supply more than one million members with our affordable, renewable energy and hope this will encourage many more to make the switch. With Big Six bills set to go up in a few weeks, there’s never been a better time to switch energy provider.”
Chris Thewlis, npower’s Customer Services Director for Home & Business, said: “We’re extremely proud to be the large supplier winners of ‘Best Billing Services’ and ‘Best Smart Meter Experience’ in this year’s uSwitch Energy Awards.
“Despite our overall ranking in the latest uSwitch survey, it is encouraging to see our ‘overall customer satisfaction’ score increase for the second time running, and this year, we’ve made our biggest improvements in a number of key areas, including energy efficiency, Smart Meter installs and online services. We’re continuing to make improvements in 12 out of the 15 categories year on year, however, we’re far from complacent and, in a tougher retail market, we know we have more work to do to improve our overall ranking.”
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