Energy suppliers slammed for bad customer service

30 June 2009

The energy regulator Ofgem has urged suppliers to improve the way they deal with customer complaints, after a poll showed huge levels of customer dissatisfaction.
Fewer than one-in-four consumers were satisfied with the service they received when registering a complaint with their supplier, Ofgem found in its poll - despite firms making the necessary investment in systems and processes to meet the new complaint handling standards introduced last year.
Ofgem found there were "low levels of satisfaction" across all suppliers. However, there was also a marked difference between the top-rated and bottom-rated companies. Scottish and Southern Energy and E.ON came out on top, with a customer approval rate of 29%, while npower held up the rest with a paltry 16%.
The regulator reserved a special mention for EDF Energy, with a warning that it will investigate the firm's compliance with the new complaint rules amid "concerns as to whether [it] was properly recording all complaints".
Billing and prices were the most common grievances among all customers, while 15% of respondents said they had either changed or were looking to change supplier due to the quality of their complaint-handling.
In response to the audit, Garry Felgate, chief executive of the Energy Retail Association - which represents the energy suppliers - acknowledged that there was still room for improvement but maintained that energy suppliers do take complaints seriously.
He adds: "We are encouraged to see that Ofgem’s review shows that the energy suppliers have put the necessary changes in place so that energy customers who are not fully satisfied are aware of their rights and have access to redress."
Felgate also reminded consumers of their right to switch: "Customers have the ultimate sanction of switching if they are not satisfied."
BT leaves customers raging
Meanwhile, a wider survey of customer satisfaction has shown that BT has been rated as having the UK's worst customer service.
The study of 5,000 people, carried out by, revealed that the telecoms provider is almost twice as bad as second-placed British Gas in dealing with customer issues and complaints.
Automated systems creating delays in talking to a real person were the biggest bugbear, while consumers also complained about being passed around to different people and foreign call centres.
Those who took part in the study stated that, on average, they spent approximately 23 minutes on the phone attempting to sort out a problem each time they called.
Phone and utility companies were rated equally bad on the survey, while six out of 10 respondents claimed to have switched company due to poor customer service.
A spokesman for OnePoll says: "For many, having to deal with customer service reps can be very stressful, and everyone dreads having to make the call.
"Having polite and efficient staff in call centres can really make the difference, and I'm sure it helps keep hold of customers."

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