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Gap between energy giants ‘narrowing’

Published 14th May 2007

Despite a much-hyped second price cut and 11 per cent more satisfied customers, British Gas are still bottom of the pile.

The national energy supplier has been voted worst provider for the second time running and received a record number of complaints in April, even though they have shaved a huge £207 off the average bill and have a good deal more satisfied customers today than they did six months ago.

However the gap is definitely closing between the giant and their nearest rival npower with only a 2 per cent difference in consumer satisfaction, something which will no doubt be helped by the 800 new customer service staff they have pledged to bring in. The gulf between best and worst supplier is also narrowing and the difference between them is now only 15 per cent.

This is not to say that the services are getting any better though. Suppliers continue to fall down on even the most simple exercises such as meter reading and billing, where only 52 per cent and 61 per cent respectively will happily say that they are pleased with the service they receive in these areas.
After criticism to ‘catch up’ with their rivals and announce much needed price cuts from energy regulator Ofgem, Scottish Power have paid the price for their reluctance. They are the only supplier in the market to see their overall level of customer satisfaction drop during the past six months, taking them from a comfortable second place to a less than adequate fourth.

Powergen has shown the biggest improvements, after heavily investing in its customer service and moving the call centres back over to the UK. These changes have really paid off and, after being voted worst supplier for customer service a year ago, they have leaped up to third place in the satisfaction table.

Environmental concerns are also coming to the fore as consumers are keen to see their energy provider actively making a difference. More than three quarters don’t believe that their supplier has a good attitude towards the environment, something which will definitely become a bigger issue as environmental awareness grows.

At the moment, only 38 per cent of Brits would recommend their energy supplier to a friend, although this does highlight some concerns that the other 62 per cent who don’t have so much faith in their supplier could be getting better value for money if they made the switch to a competitor.

Ann Robinson, consumer policy director at said: “Suppliers have done little to help themselves and are not pushing the right buttons for consumers. Over the last six months they have come under intense scrutiny from the regulator, consumer groups and MPs, and have seen bad press about complaints, billing issues and prices. On all fronts the industry has been found to be lacking.

“The key thing for the energy giants now is to take stock and listen to what customers are saying. But more importantly, customers also need to carry on taking matters into their own hands. Strangely enough, the one aspect of service that the suppliers are getting right is the transfer of customer accounts. This is the language that the industry understands and responds to best.”
By Ariane Buteux

Source: ' Personal Finance & Savings '

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