The Big Six energy suppliers in Britain, yet again, performed the worst in a recent customer satisfaction survey. It is no coincidence that the poorest-performing Big Six suppliers also lag behind their peers in terms of investments in smart energy technologies. These suppliers have failed to effect the cultural changes required to improve the customer experience, and they are not preparing themselves for a future delivery model where smart energy services will be more important than basic supply.
In its annual survey of customer attitudes to British energy suppliers, customer advocacy group Which identified that, yet again, the largest suppliers perform the worst. With a score of 84%, renewables-only specialist Ecotricity came top of the performance table, followed by ten other smaller suppliers. The Big Six fall in the bottom seven places. SSE, E.On, British Gas, and EDF score around the 50% mark, while Scottish Power and Npower performed the worst, with 41% and 35%, respectively.
The Big Six make a great example of how customer-facing technology alone is insufficient in delivering consistently good customer experience. While smaller suppliers often have to make do without market-leading customer relationship management (CRM) and billing systems, all of the Big Six have made investments in this area. It is glaringly obvious that all six have a long way to go to implement the cultural changes needed to place customers at the heart of their businesses.
However, there is a gulf between the customer scores of the four leading Big Six suppliers and the bottom two. It is no coincidence that this gulf is characterized by companies that are embracing the new world of smart technology and those that are not. SSE, E.On, and British Gas have all invested in the development of smart meters and smart home technology. British Gas has pushed smart energy heavily and is focused on building out its residential energy services business. Conversely, Scottish Power and Npower lag behind the rest of the Big Six in the development of smart energy propositions; just 12 months ago, both called for the government to review the smart meter deployment with a suggestion that it should be halted.
Suppliers have to effect cultural change within their businesses to improve the customer experience, and investigate new ways to engage with customers – such as energy efficiency technology. Those that do not do this run the risk of being rendered irrelevant.
“E.ON separation redefines the disruptive nature of smart technology,” IT0002-000313 (January 2015)
Customer Experience Strategies for the Utilities Industry, IT0002-000296 (March 2014)
Stuart Ravens, Principal Analyst, Utilities Technology
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