Which energy firm is willing to spend its profits looking after you?
Even though it's gradually and sporadically getting warmer, energy companies are still the villains of the hour, with the biggest bugbear being the big six energy firms’ reluctance to drop energy prices to reflect the fall in wholesale oil prices, in a manner not matched by swift price increases when wholesale prices went up. SSE will be the last of the big six to make a ‘token’ reduction in prices, with a 4.1% reduction for gas-only customers and 2.2% on dual fuel tariffs taking effect today. Still, according to uSwitch, the big six come in at an average of £338 higher than the cheapest tariffs on the market. But is this because the big six spend more in looking after us- after all, good customer service is worth its weight in gold, so might reasonably be expected to be an element of higher prices?
Telegraph Money decided to find out by asking seven energy firms how much the spent of customer service. Although it’s not looking good already- last month Ofgem banned Scottish Power from making sales calls for 12 days after the firm failed to clear a backlog of complaints. And earlier this week, British Gas promised to spend £50m over the next three years on improving its customer service, in an effort to stem the tide of customers fleeing the brand- with almost 400,000 customer lost last year alone. This brings the spend per head on customer service up to around £16.
The Telegraph defined customer service to include “complaints handling as well as simple requests such as a change of address, alongside any technology that customers can use to communicate with their supplier.” Not every company provided full information, but the information collated looks like this:
While Npower would not disclose total spending, adding that it had recently increased its customer service budget by £20 million, which equates to around £6.67 per head, so we know it’s at least that much, but given the record number of complaints they received last year, possibly not much more. Npower said complaints were already 42% lower than at the same time last year as a result of their investment in customer service.
So would you accept paying more if you could guarantee better customer service? £338 per year more? Or is energy a trade off between price and quality, same as much else in a consumer’s life…?