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Best and Worst UK Utilities Providers Named

July 9th 2018

Customer satisfaction research: Why utility companies need to lower customer effort to raise satisfaction, plus the best and worst UK utility providers named

The UK’s Utility sector is often called on by regulators and consumer groups to sharpen its customer service. To its credit, many gas, electric and water companies have put significant effort into implementing digital strategies aimed at improving customer service and responsiveness. But is it working? 

Our latest benchmark report reveals the customer interactions which scored highest and lowest for customer satisfaction, the processes requiring the most customer effort and the best and worst utility companies as named by their customers. 

Why Does Good Customer Service Matter?

Good customer service makes a significant difference to the way customers feel about a company. Get it right and customers are likely to stick around, get it wrong and customers are likely to take their business elsewhere.  According to research customer experience will be the key brand differentiator by 2020, overtaking price and product. For companies intent on delivering a proactive, personalised customer experience, the benefits are many, including:

  • Higher customer loyalty
  • Higher customer retention
  • Increased Customer Lifetime Value
  • Higher market share
  • Increased sales and revenue growth

Utilities Customer Satisfaction Shows Minor Improvement

TTi’s latest figures for the Utility sector show a slight change in customer satisfaction over the past six months. Data shows that gas, electric and water providers received an overall satisfaction score of 7.3, a minor improvement on the score six months ago (7.2). Compared to other sectors, Utilities were outperformed by Online Retail (8.7), Retail (8.2), Restaurants (7.4) and Banking and Insurance. (8.0).  

Utility Companies Need to Reduce Customer Effort   

Customers contact their utility provider for an array of reasons. The interaction that achieved the highest customer satisfaction score was installing a meter (8.7), followed by making account changes (7.6), paying a bill (7.5), reporting a problem (6.9) and changing supplier (6.6).  

Achieving high satisfaction requires making services online and off as effortless as possible for consumers. A scan of most utility companies’ home pages reveals a call-to-action button to ‘request a smart meter’ linking to a short online form. However, fulfilling a task such as switching provider involves several steps, such as calling a customer service centre or completing a detailed online form, providing details from a recent bill, choosing a new plan from a list of options, and confirming the switch by providing address and bank details. 

Customers having to expend effort in this way is a no-no when it comes to creating customer satisfaction. Our benchmark results offer further insight into interactions which scored undesirably high for customer effort:

  • Making contact by phone: 8.5
  • Meter problems: 8.2
  • Customer Service: 7.3 

Repairs and emergency work scored lowest for customer effort (5.5) as this often requires little input on the customer’s behalf other than notifying - usually via dedicated helpline - the provider of a problem.  

Customer effort scores for Utilities

Reduce Customer Effort, Raise Customer Satisfaction  

Making customers work hard to achieve what they want is a sure-fire way to turn them off. For time-strapped customers, spending time making calls and form-filling is one of the biggest barriers to satisfaction.   

Undertaking processes from a customer’s perspective and tapping into the Voice of the Customer by speaking to consumers direct about what they want at each point of their journey will help understand customer pain points - the obstacles that stop them from solving a problem quickly – and improvements needed. Optimising the journey to reach a swift, effective resolution will help create contented consumers who are much more likely to stay loyal to a company brand.  

Utilities Customers Need to Work Harder to Get What they Want

Customer effort varies according to the sector a consumer is dealing with. Statistics show customers awarded Utilities an overall customer effort score of 6.5 compared to 5.6 for Online Retail.  While this makes sense in terms of the sector’s offering - Online Retail is purposely designed to minimise customer effort - there are interactions common to both markets where Utilities scored much lower. 

When it came to assess the helpfulness of staff, customers gave Online Retail a relatively low customer effort score of 5.5, indicating staff were able to assist and resolve problems easily.  On the other hand, encounters with Utility companies’ staff were given a higher customer effort score of 8.3 for helpfulness, suggesting staff were less effective at problem-solving.

Helpfulness of staff by sector YTD

This could stem from a variety of issues, from call centre agents being given insufficient information to sew up customers’ problems in one call (identifying a training need), or low staff motivation making employees’ less willing to help further the company. Thorough research examining customer experience across all communications channels can help determine why customer effort is so high, informing a subsequent action plan to reduce customer effort.   

Utilities Fourth Lowest Sector for Customer Recommendations 

TTi’s benchmarking report reveals that of all the industry sectors surveyed, Utilities received the fourth lowest score for customer recommendations. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very likely, the likelihood respondents would recommend their utilities provider scored 7.0. Although customers were less likely to recommend their Mobile Telecommunications provider (6.6), Telecommunications provider (6.0) or Distribution company (5.6), they were much more likely to endorse their preferred online retailer (8.8), bricks and mortar retail outlet (8.30 and supermarket (8.2). 

Likely to recommend by sector, YTD

Utility Sector Employees Suffer Low Engagement 

Attributes ranked the most important for employee’s working in Utilities over the last 12 months were:

  • Understanding what’s required of you (34.3%)

  • Flexibility in your role (34.0%)

  • Working closely with your immediate team (31.5%) 

All utility companies work towards regulator targets, facing rewards or penalties depending on whether they’re reached. Staff needing to know what they must do on a day-to-day basis to keep themselves and their wider team on track is reflected in this survey response. 

Overall Employee Engagement is low within the Utility sector. Our benchmarking statistics show on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is high engagement, employees gave an engagement score of 7.7. The only sector with lower employee engagement was Insurance with a score of 7.3. However, this score was slightly improved on year-to-date results at the end of Month 9 (7.0).  

Employee engagement by sector, YTD by Month 9 and current YTD

                                                                                                    

Customer Satisfaction and Employee Engagement – the extent to which an employee is passionate about a company and is committed to achieving its goals – are closely linked. Find the way to raise employee engagement – again research is key - and you find the way to unlock an entire raft of employees committed to delivering exceptional customer service.  

Customers Name the Best and Worst Utility Companies in the UK  

Statistics from our benchmarking survey reveal that gas and electricity supplier First Utility achieved the highest customer satisfaction score with 9.0, followed closely by Affinity Water with 8.9. UK’s largest energy company British Gas and EDF Energy scored on par with the industry’s overall satisfaction score (7.3) with respective scores of 7.2 and 7.3. The utilities provider with the lowest customer satisfaction rating was Scottish Gas with an overall score of 6.2. 

Benchmark scores for utilities companies

First Utility Customer Satisfaction ‘on par with John Lewis’

Observing UK’s biggest companies in the round and how customer satisfaction of individual utility companies compares to other leading organisations, First Utility and Affinity Water ranked the highest, with respective customer satisfaction scores of 9.0 and 8.9. This was only marginally lower than high street favourite John Lewis (9.9) and higher than Marks & Spencer (8.6). 

Mature benchmark, customer satisfaction by company

What’s Your Customer Satisfaction Score?

We help all companies of all sizes sift the data that matters, equipping them with insights to deliver award-winning customer service. To find out more about our customer research or customer benchmarking solutions, contact Glyn Luckett at TTi Global Research: gluckett@tti-global.com or call 01753 214000. 

About TTi’s Customer Satisfaction Benchmark Survey

The survey was conducted across 3,875 UK respondents in all sectors over 12 months between 1 June 2017 and 1 June 2018.Respondents were asked to provide customer satisfaction and customer effort ratings, as well as answer questions about their loyalty and recommendation intentions relating to interactions with different service providers.

Customer satisfaction scores were rated on a 0 to 100 scale, with 100 being the most positive.

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