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‘We’re currently experiencing unusually high call volumes’

Woman on phone

Do you constantly put off calling your energy supplier as you know you might be left on hold? And have you ever noticed that if you phone to enquire about joining a new supplier, they tend to answer faster?

This is now the third time we’ve run our energy supplier call-waiting times investigation, where we make 384 calls to 16 different suppliers to measure the average wait time to get through to a human being.

What makes this latest investigation different, however, is that we also called the energy suppliers’ sales numbers as well as their customer service numbers.

Sales calls answered more quickly

And here are the results – 11 of the 16 suppliers answering potential new customers quicker than existing customers. Npower and Scottish Power took, on average, 10 minutes longer to pick up customer service calls than sales calls.

When we asked Scottish Power to explain why it took over 11 minutes to answer a customer service call, but just under a minute and a half for a sales call, it told us: ‘We are always looking to making improvements. Npower told us that the long waiting time was because it had just written to all of its customers asking them to contact Npower to discuss the best tariff for their needs.

Our fastest sales call was picked up in 3 seconds by Ecotricity, whereas one poor soul was left hanging on for 1 hour and 2 minutes to get through to Npower customer services. Ebico had the fastest call response times overall, with customers put straight through to a human without any automated voice system.

Existing customers still waiting

Many of the energy suppliers have improved on their call-waiting times since last year – Npower has improved from 17 minutes, for example. Still, nine out of the 16 suppliers have seen their average waiting times increase.

It’s time for energy suppliers to start prioritising their existing customers, providing them with high-quality customer service to help tackle the low levels of customer satisfaction and trust in the energy sector. Help us Fix the Big Six by signing our petition.

Have you had any horror stories about being kept on hold for an unacceptably long time? Have you ever been tempted to switch energy supplier because of its poor customer service?

Comments
Guest
fre55die says:
22 May 2014

Having given gas and electricity readings and renewing contract with EDF I subsequently received 4 requests for readings including one for pre-payment meter readings (WHICH I DON’T HAVE) I decided to ring them !!! Fortunately I was at home and used landline to call 0800 number, 39 minutes later I spoke to someone who said it was an admin error. Who pays for 0800 numbers I know not me BUT if EDF pay on a per minute basis they could cut their costs by millions by employing more staff or utilising a ring back facility.

Guest

EDF are charged for the 0800 phone calls but recover these costs by increasing their prices! So ultimately all customers pay for these free phone calls.

Guest

I have sometimes been successful in getting through to customer services by calling a number intended for new customers. I have done this when I have been kept on hold or it is cheaper to call a different number.

I always make a point in saying what I have done before ending my call.

Guest

I have my energy with Ebico (SSE) and whenever I have a problem I Tweet SSE or send a e-mail direct to my account manager. Normally get a reply within the hour.

I have (in the past) been with Scottish Power and had no end of problems. At first I tweeted them, but was totally blanked, then as soon as Which tweeted them for me I had a phone call within 5mins & the problem was fixed.

I know 99% of you really don’t agree with me on this point, but I see twitter as the main point of contact now, 2nd is e-mail & phoning a company is at number 3.

Times are changing……

Guest
Ian Savell says:
23 May 2014

Afraid I’m in the 99%. So you would use Twitter to discuss your billing issues? Or change your phone package? What do you do with suppliers on Twitter that is so trivial you can let the whole world see the conversation? And can the answer be given in 140 characters? No, I want to speak to a person and I want the conversation to be secure. And when you get to speak to a person you know you’ve got their attention, they won’t go off following another tweet and leave you hanging for an hour.

Guest

Ian,

You should NEVER tweet anything private. But when I tweet SSE, or the Nationwide, or even Tesco come to that it takes around 1 hour to get a reply, and the reply is to DM them so its private (and takes around 5mins for a reply from then on), or they will phone you back right away.

As for “change your phone package”, yep I have done that with Three via DM too. In-fact when my Visa debit card was damaged in the ATM I tweeted the Nationwide and the reply was “we already have your account details so have ordered a new card that will be with you in 3-5 days”. No phone calls needed at all. Just 1 tweet.

“can the answer be given in 140 characters” No it can not, this is why we use systems like http://twitlonger.com/ that lets us use more than 140 characters.

Guest

It would appear you need always to keep one step ahead of these energy suppliers to keep up with their ever changing chameleon like tactics in order to receive an efficient service from them. Posing as a new customer to avoid long waits on the telephone seems an unethical way of going about ones business, but if that is the only way to receive a speedy response to customers queries then so be it.

If the procurement of new customers is more important than attending the needs of existing ones by nearly all applying similar methods, [11 out of 16] i.e keeping you on hold for long periods then why bother to switch? Could this be the result of their bad service or just another ploy to prevent consumers switching, thereby preventing competition entering into the market yet again? Maybe a combination of both.

It is sad state of affairs when consumers have to become like them to receive the service they pay for.

Guest
WhatDL says:
27 May 2014

I have the same experience contacting EDF, usual hold time is 40 mins for a 5 minute enquiry. No matter what time of day i ring it’s the same. Having tired of their customer service, i carried out a comparison using Simply switch and rang them regarding a question on the suggested best offer. Guess what, i was cut off as they were busy and told to ring back! Even they don’t want the commission on a potential switch!

Guest
Philippe A says:
27 April 2015

BT is one of the waist. I have been waiting for more than an hours to my TV faults.