A report shows discouraging figures as energy suppliers fail to meet customer demand
The latest report from Citizens Advice reveals general dissatisfaction with customer service standards provided by energy companies in the UK.
The energy market started going into a slump in June 2021, as millions of customers changed suppliers.
Measuring customer service between January to March 2022, the report shows standards are steadily declining, with Citizens Advice giving an average score of 2.8 stars – the lowest on record.
The highest score on the table of 3.6 is not promising either, compared to 3.85 in the previous quarter and 4.65 at the same time last year.
Between January and March 2022, the charity’s Consumer Service helpline received more than 70,000 cases related to energy issues, a staggering 63% increase from the same period last year.
In addition, the report shows that companies are generally slow responders, to both emails and calls.
The average waiting time to speak to an energy supplier is around six and a half minutes, while in the same period last year it was under four minutes. The longest average call waiting time of one supplier is more than 16 minutes.
When it comes to emails, suppliers responded to more than half of emails (62%) within two working days, compared to 66% during the same period in 2021.
Commenting on the disappointing findings, Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“At a time when customers need all the support they can get, it’s worrying to see service performance is the worst on record. This leaves people frustrated and in the dark at the end of the phone.
“For many families on low incomes, life will get even harder when the price cap goes up again in October, despite government support.
“We recognise call centre staff are working incredibly hard to answer as many calls as possible, but energy companies must do better. This should include improving support services for people struggling the most. Ofgem should make sure suppliers are following the rules, and take action where needed”, warned Moriarty.
With the global energy crisis currently affecting many aspects of our daily lives, it’s understandable that customers are more worried than before.
Still, energy companies should invest in AI technology which can take pressure off call centres and meet customer expectations.
Brian Atkinson, Vice President and General Manager EMEA, at Five9, suggests:
“While spiralling energy prices are putting huge pressure on suppliers, placing customer service on the backburner is a recipe for disaster. Customers are understandably anxious about bills and need reassurance and support from their suppliers now. Yet, unfortunately they are faced with long waiting times and no one on the other end of the line to help, which is only making them feel more worried and frustrated.
“Customer loyalty is the easiest thing to lose and hardest to win back. Therefore, suppliers must think about how they can better manage call volumes and support agents dealing with an increasing volume of queries. Investing in AI technologies will free up agents’ time, enabling them to prioritise the most urgent queries and access vital information on previous interactions in real-time.
“Ultimately, companies that invest in AI-enabled CX capabilities will be those that come out of the energy crisis stronger.”
Find out how Citizens Advice improved customer service with the help of Freshworks in this article: Public Sector CX Case Study in Focus: Citizens Advice and Freshworks