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UK utilities fall behind telecoms and banks for customer satisfaction

11th Feb 2015
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For the UK’s utility providers, 2015 already appears to be about clearing up the mess left behind from the previous twelve to eighteen months.

Yet, despite a number of analysts predicting a big six charm-offensive in order to improve damaged reputations, a new survey from Verint suggests customer satisfaction levels are still at an all-time low, with churn rates among the big six continuing to rise.

So much so that 75% of the 1,000 consumers Verint surveyed stated they were keen to switch from one of the big six to a smaller supplier, while 43% weren’t happy with the service they were currently receiving.

18% of utilities customers stated they had already recently changed providers as they found the service cheaper elsewhere; statistics that converse with Energy UK’s recent revelation that 1.3 million customers moved from a large supplier to a small one during the past 12 months - the equivalent of 41% of all switches, while 3.1m people switched electricity supplier in 2014.

A recent Which? survey found that smaller energy firms score far higher than British Gas, Eon, EDF Energy, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE for customer satisfaction among nearly 10,000 consumers surveyed, with Ecotricity, Good Energy and Ebico ranked as the best suppliers and the big six all ranked at the bottom of the table.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd stated smaller energy providers were “wiping the floor” with their larger counterparts and that the Competition and Markets Authority needed to propose radical remedies to fix what was a “broken market”.

In January, Energy UK reported that energy companies had made it possible for consumers to change provider in 17 days, down from five weeks. However, Datamonitor’s Tom Haddon suggests that if the utilities sector really did want to improve customer satisfaction levels over the coming 12 months, it would need to follow the telecoms and banking sectors’ leads, by playing its hand and allowing for ‘same-day switching’.

“If the switching process was made as time efficient as in the telecoms and banking sectors (where providers can be changed in a matter of hours or at most a couple of days), then it would erase much of the negative perception that disengaged consumers hold towards the process, thus positively affecting switching rates in the market.”  

“Healthy switching rates are key to a competitive market, and these will only be increased by engaging with customers and providing clarity into how suppliers interact with each other and their customers. By shortening the switching process and removing irrational fears and confusion, suppliers will take a strong step towards this goal.”

Verint’s survey is part of a wider research piece conducted alongside the Customer Contact Association (CCA), across multiple industries which found that 23% of consumers don’t feel valued by the brands they transact with.  

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