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Your call is important to us – please wait 29 minutes

Calling your energy company

You’ve spotted something odd on your gas bill, so you call up your energy company to resolve the problem. How long are you prepared to spend hanging on the phone, waiting for your call to be answered?

Energy providers receive around 60 million contacts a year to their customer service departments.

So you might think that it’s in companies’ interests to make sure you receive an efficient and speedy service. But not according to the latest Which? investigation into energy company customer service.

We found you could be left waiting a long time before your call is answered by a person – the longest wait for a call to be answered was 29 minutes. And while the quickest supplier, Ebico, picked up in an average of 21 seconds, Npower’s average waiting time for customer service was the longest overall – at 17 minutes and five seconds.

Energy customer service times

We called 16 energy companies 12 times each at set times of the day to find out just how long customers could be left on hold.  We recorded how long it took between finishing dialling the customer service number to getting through to an adviser. We then calculated an average waiting time for each company.

And waiting time is important to people. When we asked 896 adults from Great Britain in March 2013 about calling energy suppliers’ customer service, nearly a third told us their biggest bugbear was having to wait on hold for a long time before speaking to someone.

Calling for changes

I’d like to see some changes from energy companies:

  • Customer service calls being answered quickly by a human being – within two minutes at the very most. And companies treating their existing customers well – not prioritising sales over service
  • Offering a callback option if waiting times are longer than two minutes.

Oh, and one other plea: please stop telling us to go online when we’re on hold. There is usually a good reason to call and speak to someone. And this can quickly become even more frustrating if we are being fed adverts while we’re waiting – especially if we’re the ones paying for the call.

Have you been kept on hold for ages while trying to get through to your energy supplier? What would you like to see change about energy company customer service?

richard says:
16 July 2013

I tried to get in touch with the water board when they turned my water off – waited 30 mins – still waiting a YEAR LATER for a reply from them. Useless – better when it was nationalised.

I am with Ebico/SSE for my energy. Yorkshire Water for my water and Plusnet for my phone & internet.

I have not phoned these companies up in months. In-fact I have only ever phoned Plusnet once. Normally I just tweet the company direct and ask them to call me, I also include my account number in the tweet. If I don’t have my account number I will wait for a reply & DM my postcode & house number. That way they will find who I am.

This way it saves my phone bill as I am not calling up & also saving me listening to “on-Hold” music.

Twitter is getting more and more powerful with contacting companies.

Suppliers should promote email for customer queries to take pressure off phone lines.

OVO is very good with is. Initiating a review of my direct debits on receipt of the latest bill took about 20 seconds of my life and I have a written acknowledgement.

GPs should also do this.

Energy Nerd says:
17 July 2013

I completely agree with Lee. One way to circumvent the hold music is to contact the suppliers via twitter or other social media tools if they offer it. In my experience you get a quicker response. Here is a list of energy suppliers current twitter customer service handles should you need to get in touch http://www.energynerd.co.uk/energy-suppliers-customer-service-twitter-contact-details/3085

Lisa Ware says:
19 July 2013

I’m a customer of The Utility Warehouse and you have not been open in your article by stating that ALL customers who receive a paper bill, never pay to telephone UW customer services or their broadband or mobile technical support teams on their 0844 number. UW customers also get personal service fr a local agent. The other companies don’t offer that but you didn’t mention that either. I also note the length of time it took to speak to an advisor. Perhaps you phoned some of the companies at peak times like lunch time when lots of customers call through? It’s interesting to also note that Ebico, Co-Op Energy & Ecotricity only have a tiny percentage of customers compared to the Nig 6 or Utility Warehouse. It looks like an unfair comparison.

I totally agree about using e-mail, instant messaging and the like. As long as responses are fast (within minutes), this is preferable to a phone call because everything is on record and any incompetence can be easily proven. Therefore I find text-based customer service to be of a higher standard than phone-based customer service. It also means I can multi-task, unlike a phone call where I have to give all my attention to the phone call and am prevented from doing other things while I’m put on hold for long periods.

Ian Curran says:
25 July 2013

I have raised concerns to both npower and the energy regulator about npower’s poor service.
1. The date I receive the billing at my home is often 10-14 dates after the date of the bill, as a result of this delay my bill goes into collections. I have contacted then several times about this issue and got no resolution.

2. My last bill had a £10.50 telephony charge, there is no mention of this in their T&C’s. I found out it was because my bill had gone into collections.

3. I previously paid my bill by monthly instalments/payment card at the post office, I realised I was being overcharged and reduced the payments, npower then put me on quarterly billing without agreeing this with me.

Npower has no concept of good customer service, they deserve to have no customers… lets vote with our feet……..

Keith says:
15 November 2013

Well try getting in touch with scottish power, its a joke. Sent Eform requests about a return of money on 28/10/2013 – no reply as yet. Another complaint was sent via Eform on 6/11/2013 about my online account being wrong. Today i am now on my second go at getting through on the phone. First attempt was 40 minutes with no answer before putting the phone down. I am now at 25 minutes on the 2nd go and still no reply yet.

35 min waiting for Extra Energy to answer , then told the final bill will take 4 to 6 weeks to get checked, can I charge interest on the money they are holding????