We all get things wrong sometimes – it’s how well we clear the mess up that shows whether we really give a damn. Some companies handle complaints well, but why do big energy companies find it so difficult?
John Lewis operates a system called the “heroic save” and they pretty much killed me with kindness a couple of weeks ago.
After failing to deliver a set of kitchen furniture on the agreed day, I got my furniture a week later and a fistful of John Lewis vouchers to spend. That should erase the frustration I felt wasting a day waiting for a delivery.
Compare that with the way big energy companies respond to unhappy customers. No sign of a “heroic save” here – more of an “inglorious failure”.
Customers services aren’t fine
In the last six months two of the UK’s biggest energy companies have been investigated for poor complaints handling. Ofgem announced its intention to fine British Gas £2.5m in July, and Npower was fined £2m this week. Ofgem said that Npower hadn’t recorded all details of the complaints it received and didn’t give customers enough details of the redress service offered by the Energy Ombudsman either.
This second point is crucial, because we know that the vast majority of customers who do take complaints to the energy ombudsman have those complaints upheld, with seven in ten of those getting financial compensation (the average compensation is £140).
I wasn’t hugely surprised to hear that the regulator is also currently investigating the way EDF Energy has been handling complaints. My own recent customer experiences with EDF have been universally poor.
EDF = Every Day another Failure?
A couple of weeks ago it sent me a letter telling me that my bill was going up. Helpfully, it didn’t tell me how much my bill was actually going up by, nor how much I was currently paying. Only when I rang to complain did I get the information I needed.
A few days later, EDF wrote again to tell me that my account was being “upgraded”. What did that mean? Well, to help me do my bit for the environment, EDF wouldn’t be sending me paper bills any more. A nice saving on postage for EDF, but how is that an upgrade? It took another phone call to get them to agree to carry on sending me paper bills.
Conclusion: could do better
At Which? we want to see all energy companies providing clearer information about how customers can complain – to the company and the Energy Ombudsman – printing this information on bills would be a simple step forward.
And how about energy companies coming clean about how many complaints they receive? We’ve finally got a system for this in the personal finance industry – let’s see the energy companies following suit.
Have you ever complained to an energy company? How did they handle your complaint, and do you think they could have done better?