Supporting Vulnerable Customers Through the Energy Price Cap Increase

The UK energy price cap is rising – but what does this mean for customers? Martin Brown discusses the ways in which energy firms can support their vulnerable customers through further financial hardship.

Supporting vulnerable customers through the energy price cap increase
Loyalty ManagementInsights

Published: January 11, 2024

Rhys Fisher

With the UK energy price cap increasing yet again, many customers are understandably anxious about how this will affect their financial situation. But what is the energy price cap? And how can energy companies support their most vulnerable customers?

Those Britons hoping that increasing energy prices would be something that we left behind in 2023 – like ‘Girl Dinner’ and how often men think about the Roman Empire – will have been dismayed, but probably not too surprised, to see that the energy price cap was raised in January of this year.

The cap refers to the maximum price suppliers can charge households per unit of energy on a standard tariff, with this latest change set to impact the average UK household by 5% per year.

While this may not appear to be an overly large rise, it follows severe increases in the last few years. Statistics released by the UK government show that the average combined domestic energy bill for a UK household almost doubled between December 2021 and December 2023 (£1,339 to £2,592).

At a time in which customers are already struggling in a cost-of-living crisis, any increased bill is a major issue.

Onus on energy firms

Martin Brown, CCO at FM Outsource, discussed how this will impact the most vulnerable in society, and why and how energy firms need to step up and provide support:

“With the price cap increase set to see households experience a 5% rise in their energy bills from January, amid an already challenging economic climate, many customers are likely to be concerned.

“This is especially the case for more vulnerable customers who may be particularly affected financially or mentally and are already worried about the post-Christmas financial hangover they could experience.

“While cost increases are a result of external circumstances, energy remains a vital commodity, and firms have a responsibility to help customers feel assured that they can access the right support.

“Some customers may understandably be worried, or even angry, about rising bills. To enable as many customers as possible to raise inquiries, energy firms should offer a wide range of customer service channels, from telephony to social media and webchat.

“For particularly sensitive or challenging conversations, customers often prefer to speak to a real person and opt for a phone call.

In this type of situation, customer service agents’ tone of voice is more important than ever. Agents must take meaningful steps to listen to customer concerns and communicate patience, understanding, and empathy – even if a price reduction simply isn’t possible.

“Agents should also be trained to pick up on cues that could identify if a customer is particularly vulnerable so they can escalate the inquiry more quickly. Some of the more sophisticated AI communication tools can assist advisors in achieving these things. They can pick up on the tone of customer inquiries across digital communications, supporting customer service teams to understand where further dedicated support may be needed.

“Customers may well reach out with initial questions about what the price cap increase means for them following the announcement. As we move past the festive period and into what is likely to be another challenging first quarter for the consumer, it is likely that energy firms will experience a further uptick in inquiries, putting additional pressure on customer service teams.

“The customer remains a priority – from both a commercial and reputational perspective – and outsourcing additional inbound customer service during this period can enable energy firms to scale up and down to meet changing demand.”


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