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Ofgem takes tough stance on customer service

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

UK energy regulator Ofgem has told electricity firms to expect revenue cuts of £14 million if they don’t take steps to improve customer service.

The body has informed the country’s electricity distribution network operators (DNOs) that their revenue could be cut following a review of how well they are dealing with new customers that request connections.

Based on provisional information provided to Ofgem, the cut in revenue could be up to £13.9 million across all six DNO groups.

Some background: As part of their 2015-2023 price controls, Ofgem set DNOs an incentive to engage effectively with larger customers requiring new connections, with failure to meet minimum expectations leading to a financial penalty. Following feedback from customers to its consultation in July, Ofgem’s view is that all DNOs may have fallen short of these expectations.

Ofgem says many of the failings involve poor communication. For example, some customers struggled to get progress updates on their connection requests or found that information they were provided by a DNO was not detailed enough. In other cases the DNO failed to explain the cost of reinforcing its network when making quotations for connections work.

Ofgem said that, in general, DNOs seem to be improving their engagement and services, but some specific issues raised by stakeholders remain unaddressed.

The body is consulting on its view, giving stakeholders and the DNOs a further opportunity to provide evidence on performance.

A final decision on each DNO’s performance and whether they will face revenue penalties will be made by the end of November.


Here are the best and worst UK energy providers for customer service

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The Citizens Advice Bureau has revealed the energy companies with the best and worst customer service records in the UK.

Extra Energy received the lowest score of Citizens Advice’s star rating system for energy suppliers for the second time – with a lower overall score.

The company received 2.05 stars, lower than the 2.5 stars it received for the period between October and December 2016. The firm has previously received record low scores for its handling of customer complaints.

The star rating system is designed help people find the right energy supplier for their needs. Suppliers are awarded a score out of 5 stars based on a combination of 5 factors, including how complaints are dealt with, and how highly customers rate the supplier’s customer service.

The star rating for each supplier is shown alongside the price of available deals in Citizens Advice’s price comparison tool. This enables people to work out the best deal for them based on cost and how the company treats its customers.

On the complaints handling measure, Extra Energy delivered the worst score recorded by Citizens Advice (1,916 per 100,000 customers) for the period between January and March.

The supplier also received low scores when it came to billing and ease of contact – scoring 2 out of 5 for each). The company did, however, receive a score of 5 out of 5 for switching, by successfully carrying out 99% of energy switches within 21 days.

Examples of the problems with Extra Energy reported to Citizens Advice include people being unable to get through to the company to give meter readings, and people being charged twice for the same bill.

Some people have also reported problems with back-billing, with one Extra Energy customer receiving an unexpected bill for £4,500, after the company failed to collect payments for 18 months.

Scottish Power has made the biggest improvement in the star rating, from 2.75 stars in March to 3.15. The company has continued to improve in its complaints handling since its customers experienced a number of problems following the introduction of a new billing system in 2013.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Customers should know what they’re paying for when choosing an energy supplier. How easy it is to contact your supplier, how clear your bill is and how easy it is to switch are all important factors when choosing an energy supplier.

“We have found that some energy suppliers have made improvements in the service they provide, but it is disappointing that others appear to be getting worse.

“It’s important that all energy companies are constantly trying to improve, to make sure they deliver the best service they can to consumers. This must include sending out accurate timely bills, having the right number of staff to answer phone calls quickly, and having the right processes to deal with complaints quickly and effectively.”

The energy supplier star rating awards energy suppliers a number of stars out of five for the following factors:

  • How well energy suppliers handle customer complaints
  • The number of switches the supplier successfully carries out
  • How highly people rate their supplier’s customer service
  • How easy people find it to understand their bills
  • Whether the supplier is signed up to the switch guarantee that commits them to switching a customer within 21 days

The ratings for January to March 2017 were:

SupplierStar rating January to March 2017

Ecotricity – 4.4

E (Gas and Electricity) – 4.1

Flow Energy – 3.9

Economy Energy – 3.85

EDF Energy – 3.75

SSE – 3.75

British Gas – 3.7

Utilita – 3.4

Utility Warehouse- 3.4

E.ON – 3.15

Scottish Power – 3.15

Ovo Energy – 3.1

npower – 3

First Utility – 2.9

Green Star Energy – 2.85

Co-operative Energy – 2.6

Spark Energy – 2.3

Extra Energy – 2.05