REVEALED: Customer service league table

1 November 2011

Why do people switch energy supplier?

For a better price, a greener outcome, or better customer service. These seem to be the big three. 

Customer Service is perhaps the most overlooked of them all - it's the one where customers have least data to compare - to actually identify a better service. 

Energy industry regulator Ofgem sets an October 31st deadline for all companies to publicly report their customer complaint figures for the 12 months until the end of September.

But Ofgem refuses to publish the figures all in the one place for easy comparison.

So last year, Ecotricity did the leg work, assembled the data and published a customer service league table of all energy companies. We’ve done it again this year. 

Once again, Ecotricity topped the table, more than 10 times better than any of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers.

Npower had the worst customer complaint record over the last 12 months, while British Gas and EDF suffered massive increases in complaints. And then there is First Utility, who didn’t even bother to publish their record.

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said: “People tend to switch energy supplier for three reasons. For a better price, a greener outcome or better customer service.

“Customer service is the one that people have the least amount of information to compare – to actually identify a better service.  But it doesn't have to be this way. 

“Most people won’t know that Ofgem require all energy companies to publish their customer complaint records – because they quietly get buried on energy company websites – and customers never see them. 

“Ofgem should be publically reporting these figures all in the one place, so that customers can make an informed choice when comparing the customer service record of energy suppliers, just like they can when comparing tariffs. What otherwise is the purpose of collecting the data? 

“We asked Ofgem but they said no. It’s a stance made all the harder to understand given the regulator’s recent encouragement for people to switch supplier – as some kind of antidote to high energy bills, and Big Six market dominance.

“So we did the leg work, assembled the data and published it ourselves.”

In contrast to Ofgem, the Financial Services Authority manages to compile a table of customer complaints for all the 165 banks, insurers and financial institutions that it regulates in the UK.

Meanwhile, Consumer Focus is due to be abolished by Spring 2013 and their most recent customer service comparison table was unreliable. Not only does it not include energy providers outside the ‘Big Six’ but they reported a 25% fall in complaints across the ‘Big Six’ suppliers, when in fact this was a result of a customer complaint hot line reducing its opening hours by 29%.

On Ecotricity’s customer service, Vince said:  “We showed last year that our customer service was nearly ten times better than any of the ‘Big Six’ and we’ve improved our service further – despite having 30% more customers.”

“The figures show what we all know to be true, big energy companies give poor customer service.  We’ve all been there, wading through the endless phone menus, queues and scripted conversations.  We think people deserve better.

“It’s not rocket science.  We answer the phone ourselves and quickly, and that first person you speak to resolves around 90% of all queries right there and then.  If we promise to do something we do it (obvious but rare). And when something does go wrong, we have our own Customer Champion to fix it – in most cases within 24 hours.  In fact these new figures show that in the last year there were only 28 occasions when we couldn’t fix a problem in less than a day.”

 No. of complaints per 1000 customers       20102011% Change
1Ecotricity0.69 0.55 -20%
2Co-Operativen/a 2.20 
3Green Energy5.20 3.00 -42%
4Good Energy9.56 5.81 -40%
5E.ON8.01 7.63 -5%
6EDF6.32 8.86 +40%
7SSE10.64 12.10 +14%
8British Gas9.54 12.37 +30%
9Ovo22.50 13.04 -42%
10Scottish Power18.06 17.89 -1%
11nPower16.80 18.45 +10%
12Utility Warehousemissing missing 
13First Utilitymissing missing 

Source: All UK energy suppliers are required to publicly report their recorded level of complaints annually by Ofgem. It defines a complaint as any expression of dissatisfaction that is not resolved by the end of the first day after the day that the complaint was received. Complaint numbers and customer figures are taken directly from suppliers own websites or in the case of the latter from other publicly available sources.

Notes to Editors:

Ecotricity received the ‘Customer Excellence Award’ at last Growing Business awards, hosted by the CBI and Real Business magazine. The judges commented, “By peeling away layers of call-centre bureaucracy and empowering its staff, Ecotricity has pioneered an outstanding level of ‘hand-made’ customer service in an industry sector not known for service excellence.”

In a customer survey, 88% of respondents rated Ecotricity’scustomer service as “excellent” or “good” and 72% say that it was better than their previous supplier. The key factors were:

  1. Answer the telephone quickly (98%)
  2. Answers questions (96%) and
  3. Solve problems (94%)
  4. Keeps them up to date on developments (95%) 

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