Energy customer satisfaction – how’s your supplier’s service?

by , Senior Home Researcher Energy & Home 22 January 2013
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The results of the biggest ever energy company satisfaction survey are out. And it’s not good news for the major energy suppliers. Would you be prepared to switch energy provider for better customer service?

Bulbs being held

In our biggest ever energy company satisfaction survey, we asked more than 10,000 people about their experiences with their energy suppliers. Our full table of results shows ratings and customer scores for 15 energy companies in Britain and two in Northern Ireland.

The smaller suppliers scored highly, with Good Energy finishing top, followed by Ecotricity, Ebico and Utility Warehouse.

Meanwhile, the biggest energy suppliers were left out in the cold. SSE, Eon, Scottish Power and British Gas lagged behind their smaller competitors, while Npower and EDF Energy came bottom of the table.

The results highlight yet another example of how the energy market is broken with the largest suppliers, who dominate the market, failing to compete on customer satisfaction. At Which? we’re calling for radical new action to increase competitive pressure so that you can be certain you’re getting a good deal. We want the introduction of a single unit price so that energy costs can be easily compared at a glance, just like petrol forecourt displays, making it easier for you to find the best deal.

The power of customer service

Best and worst energy suppliersGood customer service had a big impact on how companies scored in our survey. Good Energy and Ecotricity both scored the highest mark with five stars. Down at the bottom of the table, EDF Energy and Npower only scored two stars for customer service.

We also asked for people’s experiences with their energy supplier’s customer service. This Npower customer struggled to get any service at all: ‘They don’t answer my emails’.

An EDF Energy customer was left hanging on the line: ‘It takes far too long to get through to someone on the phone’. British Gas could have been more helpful for this customer: ‘Not at all helpful when dealing with queries’. And SSE gave one customer the silent treatment: ‘They never returned my phone calls’.

What’s the cost of good service?

Our survey also showed that good customer service doesn’t have to mean paying a premium for it.

Good Energy was about 20% more expensive than the cheapest deal on the market, but that’s just £42 a year more than British Gas’ standard tariff*. Other small suppliers like Ovo Energy and The Co-operative Energy have some of the cheapest tariff on the market at the moment. So, getting good service doesn’t automatically mean having to compromise on price.

Have you had a good experience with your energy supplier, or have you found its customer service seriously lacking?

*Tariff price comparisons based on average annual consumption of 16,500 kWh of gas and 3,300 kWh of electricity, paying by monthly direct debit, credit meter (not Economy 7) and for the region closest to average. Correct on 10 January 2013.

69 comments

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Barrie Pheasant

I recently read the article in Which which compared energy companies. Unfortunately, our energy company, Atlantic, was not listed. Thinking that I would get a better deal by switching to another company, I called Utility Warehouse, third in the Which list of companies. I gave them our usage (averaged over the past 3 years) and they quoted me a combined gas and electricity price of £174 per month. I currently pay £170 per month and get a 1 month “bonus” back from them each year, making it £155.83 per month!!
Why is Atlantic not listed? Is it owned by another company?

Hi Barrie

Yes Atlantic is part of SSE. You can see which companies belong to SSE on SSE’s write-up on p.36. Scottish and Southern Energy includes Atlantic, Scottish hydro, Southern Electric and Swalec. Sorry it wasn’t all that clear.
SSE do the best in our survey of the major six energy suppliers but still only ends up in 9th place.
If you wanted to find out if a supplier could be cheaper than your current deal, why not go to http://www.which.co.uk/switch and compare the market? You could then see if any of the suppliers rated higher than SSE are cheaper. For example, Ovo Energy and the Co-op are likely to be cheaper than SSE (depending on your usage and method of payment).

Sylvia

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FWS

I’ve been with co-op energy for 8 months & each month they have failed to take the direct debit, each month I have had to ask them why isn’t this happening receiving various excuses. But the worst bit is I’m the only one that cared about it

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Ian Smith

Started with Scottish Power mid 2009 with a direct debit. Account went into red by just £6.60 at 30th July 2010. The same day I get sent an ‘Annual Electricity Statement’ advising that my DD would increase by … £1 (to £72). Move on one year .. no annual statement is sent but my account is now £400 in credit. SP’s own website states that they check every three months and make a DD change if more than three months’ credit is there – yet not in this case. Looked like swings and no roundabouts to me so I gave notice via SwitchwithWhich to go to EdF. Screwups with EdF so account does not actually get switched until 26th October 2011. SP even takes a DD the day before – unbelievable. By then the SP account balance was >£500. SP final statement of 10th November 2011 states ‘You do not have to take any action’. After prompting they send a …cheque on 18th January 2012 – its OK for them to take money directly form one’s account but not put it there directly apparently.
Complaint about SP behavour made to Ombudsman expressly not asking for compensation but seeking an explanation. Ombudsman responds offering …£30 ie. a payoff. Ombudsman finds that, in respect of DD, SP had done nothing wrong … until Ombudsman is pointed to relevant part of SP website and asked to think again. Ombudsman acknowledges this … then does nothing until prompted many weeks later (how does one complain about poor performance of the Ombudsman?).
Ombudsman finds that there have been service shortfalls but insists, in its decision that I accept £30 – even though I expressly advised that I was not seeking compensation. I could not decline the monies and accept the decision. I never got my explanation, just a one line apology from SP by email, and the Ombudsman process took seven months.
This is a very broken market.

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Margaret Macdonald

Scottish Power does not seem to have any means of measuring electricity consumption any more.. I own a property that is normally let to tenants and electricity is paid for with a prepayment key. For most of 2012 it was unoccupied and being renovated and upgraded. I put £49 onto the meter in January and added a further £250 during the year. The meter recorded a comfortable credit balance throughout the year. In spite of this, I received bills in for £150.11 in February, for £443.90 in August and £53.40 in February 2013. Each time I rang them up, gave them the correct meter readings and explained that there was a credit balance on the meter. They were very pleasant, admitted that the figures on the bill were estimated readings (guesswork), accepted my readings and sent out a new invoice showing my account in credit. Six months later the same thing happened again and than six months later again. The account is now closed and Scottish Power owes me a refund of over £47 which I have yet to receive.
Not only is this a huge waste of time and postage but it could also be very confusing and alarming for someone on a low income who pays for electricity in advance with a key, to get an invoice demanding several hundred pounds in payment for electricity that they have not used. Surely Scottish Power should by now have the technology to record centrally how much power is actually being used by each account holder?

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Pauline Hopkins

Having spent nearly 3 hours all told, this afternoon on the telephone to SSE- my account is with Atlantic Gas & Electricty. To found out from the on line billing people that they not only wanted to put up my gas standing order for Gas & Electric by£55.00 per month, but they had over charged me!!!!!!
When they worked out how much gas and electric i had used over the year, they included 1 month twice, and theey divided the annual consumption by 11 and not 12, so they are gaining quite a lot.
I await and explanation from them in writiing, but will contact the Ombusman, to see what is going on. I can only say i think this may have been going on for several years.
My next port of call is to see if i can change companies.

The other thing with SSE, on the website they only show one tarrif for my area, but according to the person i spoke to they do a fixed tarrif. LETS WAIT AND SEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Pauline Hopkins

We have on line billing, and are paperless, but they (SSE) also infiemed me that if you put a meter reading in within 30 days of the previous reading, they adjust you account. i.e.
14th February bill, we then put in meter reading on 14th Mrch, and the bill was adjusted to include the meter reading and payments for March, despite the bill date of 14th February!!!!
They also have variable accounting periods – some quarters are 4 months, some 3 and half, and some 3 months, so you really do not know whwere you are.
Just watch everything. The customer services might be good, but 2 different people gave me two different explansations, with a third explanation by the online billing people.
No wonder they were fined 10.5 million yesterday, when is the next fine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Double it please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Pauline Hopkins

We have on line billing, and are paperless, but they (SSE) also infiemed me that if you put a meter reading in within 30 days of the previous reading, they adjust you account. i.e.
14th February bill, we then put in meter reading on 14th Mrch, and the bill was adjusted to include the meter reading and payments for March, despite the bill date of 14th February!!!!
They also have variable accounting periods – some quarters are 4 months, some 3 and half, and some 3 months, so you really do not know whwere you are.
Just watch everything. The customer services might be good, but 2 different people gave me two different explansations, with a third explanation by the online billing people.
No wonder they were fined 10.5 million yesterday, when is the next fine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Not duplicate comments
Double it please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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