The best and worst energy firms for customer service- is smaller necessarily better?

15 December 2014

So with ‘news’ that only a quarter of us trust our energy supplier, just how bad are the energy suppliers at looking after customer? And are the smaller, friendlier firms actually any better than the big bad Big Six?

One way that commitment to existing customers (over scrabbling for new ones) can be measured is the resources spent on customer care over sales- using the time taken to answer a customer service call over a sales call. Helpfully, the good eggs over at Which!!! have already done this for us and have compiled a table of the best and worst offenders in the length of time to answer a customer service call stakes.

Taking half an hour to answer call, the scrapings at the bottom of the barrel belong to Big 6 Scottish Power, who blamed a new IT system and a need for more staff for their shocking performance, which didn’t stop them answering a sales call in just 49 seconds, which earns them a second top prize for the worst customer service:sales call ratio. However, the second longest customer service call waiting time was found at the door of friendly smaller company First Utility at a little under 19 minutes, who recently came out as having finalised their faster switching service earlier than required- perhaps they should have employed those resources on looking after the people who had already switched first.

which energy calls

The shortest call times were found at Ebico, which has managed to answer calls in less than 30 seconds on average in all four of Which!!!’s  investigations so far, proving it can be done. It was also one of only five companies who prioritise existing customers over new ones, evidenced by a shorter call waiting time for customer service. The other four were Good Energy, Utility Warehouse, Sainsbury’s Energy and Spark.

But Which!!!’s investigation does not show that the Big 6 are necessarily the worst for customer service- nPower in particular has vastly improved its call answering times, down from a shocking 19 minutes in earlier years. But nor are the smaller ones necessarily any better.

OVO energy prides itself on offering 3% interest on credit balances to customers who pay by advance direct debit. The idea being that even if you do overpay, you’re getting compensated for the fact that they have your money instead of you. And 3% isn’t a bad rate. However it seems that OVO are less keen on actually giving you your money back, particularly at a time when you might need it, like before Christmas. Despite the fact that their own terms and conditions say that refunds requested will normally be paid within seven days, anyone requesting a refund is currently being told they might have to wait for fourteen working days (so 18 actual days) for their own money. Amazing in a time of two hour transfers. We did ask OVO for an official response but they declined to comment.

But it is worth pointing out that OVO, and a number of other energy firms don’t only allow customer service contact by telephone- customers can often get an immediate response by webchat, and OVO complaints (for example) are handled within one day even on a Saturday.

So, who is your energy provider and would you rate them as good or bad for customer service? And is the standard of customer service the main reason for investigating a switch?

TOPICS:   Utilities   Consumer Advice

2 comments

  • George C.
    I once had to call E-On, and the call was answered quickly and politely. Which is pretty good going, given that I was calling to tell them I was moving to Scottish Power. In fact the woman at E-On even told me about a plan *from a competitor* that might have been even better for me. As it happens, it wasn't really a good for my circumstances, but that honesty meant a lot, and when it comes to moving again, E-On will be one of the first I consider. Just saying.
  • Atilla
    I moved to the Co-op for my gas and leccy, from Scottish power in June this year. Scottish power must love me so much they won't admit I'm not a customer of theirs. They are still sending me bills and not replying to calls and emails. Worse, I let them take direct debit payments before I realised how jilted they were feeling...

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