Following the results of the latest Which? energy survey on the best UK suppliers, Geoff Childs considers the results and what they mean for energy retailers.
In a recent job interview, the candidate quoted Douglas Adams at me. She said, “The thing is Geoff, we are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works”. She believed that for an energy consumer, “stuff that works” means getting the basics right, such as a decent price; a bill that’s clear, accurate and on time and someone to answer my questions when I have them.
But is that all customers really want? As a specialist supplier of billing and customer information systems to UK utility suppliers, we closely follow how customers’ needs are evolving and share the challenges and opportunities of meeting customer satisfaction with suppliers large and small.
The annual Which? energy survey has just been released, which presents the experience and satisfaction ratings of over 7,000 domestic UK energy customers.
Movers and shakers
Overall, the larger and more established suppliers did less well than new entrants, just as in previous surveys.
Compared to 2018, the suppliers with the most improved ranking are Robin Hood Energy and Ebico, ranked respectively in 2nd and 4th place. So Energy did well, moving up 7 places and Tonik Energy made it into the top 10. The greatest fallers were Utility Warehouse, who fell 6 places and Utilita who have fallen from 4th place in 2018 to 11th place this year. Ovo and Ecotricity both maintained their same rankings in the top 10.
The highest performing suppliers rated well for bill accuracy, with 70% receiving four out of five stars, and two being rated as five star. I’m proud to say that six of the top ten performing suppliers are using Gentrack platforms.
One interesting point is the difference in sample sizes of customers who took part. The size of customer samples from the larger suppliers were sometimes not much larger than the less-established suppliers. Eon’s sample was more than ten times larger than EDF Energy’s and five times larger than that of British Gas.
The importance of billing
In our experience, bill accuracy is always top of our customers’ list, being the main cause of customer queries and complaints. Energy suppliers are very aware that issues with their bills mean increased inbound call volumes and potentially increased complaints. And the latest energy data from the Ombudsman Services demonstrates why this is important; billing was the top reason for complaints handled by the Service in 2018; including disputed account balances, disputed usage and delayed bills. The average financial award for resolved energy complaints in Q2 2018 was £83, which most energy companies simply cannot afford.
How can suppliers improve satisfaction? Use the latest tech. This will give you open architecture and enables the connection of customer experience technologies to support the ongoing energy revolution. This not only means more reliable systems, but the ability and flexibility to plug in APIs for the functionality you need to quickly react to evolving customer needs.
There’s no real surprise that customers still want their suppliers to make sure the “stuff” works properly. Are energy suppliers doing better at making the stuff work? It seems there’s some way to go to meet customer expectations; in the 2018 results, only one supplier achieved five stars across all six categories. In the previous survey, three suppliers achieved this. And what’s the solution? It’s getting the basics right; listening to customer feedback and fixing the things that cause complaint. For that, you’ll need responsive systems, innovative technology partners and definitely a decent billing system.