Customer service standards worst on record: How does your energy firm rank?
Energy firm customer service standards have fallen to a record low, at a time when people need it the most, a charity warns.
Between January and March this year, the average rating score has plunged to just 2.8 stars as customers experienced longer call waiting times and delays in email responses.
According to the latest Citizens Advice star rating table, standards have been falling since June 2021 when energy firms started to go bust and millions of customers were transferred to other providers.
It found that service is slipping across the board, with those at the top of the table seeing their customer satisfaction levels fall. The highest score is now just 3.6 stars (EDF Energy), compared to 3.85 in the previous quarter and 4.65 at the same time last year.
The charity revealed that the average time to wait on the phone to speak to an energy supplier is now around six and a half minutes, compared to just under four minutes during the same period last year. However, some customers faced an average call waiting time of over 16 minutes.
It said companies are also getting slower to respond to emails. On average, suppliers responded to 62% of emails within two working days, compared to 66% during the same period in 2021.
And the decline in service appears to fit in with the charity seeing an increase in energy complaints. In the three months to March, its consumer service helpline saw more than 70,000 energy-related issues – a 63% increase on the same period last year.
‘Energy companies must do better’
In one case it dealt with, a long-term ill billpayer in receipt of Universal Credit got in touch as he was concerned about how he’d cope since his energy bills more than tripled from the £50 a month he used to pay.
He said: “I’ve asked my supplier to take the payment on a certain day to make sure there’s money in my account, but they take it whenever they want. When I try calling them it’s so hard to get through to someone. And if I do, they basically say there’s nothing they can do.
“There have been a few times that they’ve left me with no money. This has meant I’ve either had to contact my bank to get the money back or go to the food bank.”
Citizens Advice explained that energy suppliers are obliged to help people who can’t afford their bills. But it is particularly worried about people on prepayment meters, who are at risk of having no gas or electricity if they can’t afford to top up.
As such, it is calling on energy companies to urgently improve processes and ensure staff are able to support customers who are struggling. It warns that without swift action to tackle poor customer service, standards will only worsen when bills are expected to soar again this winter, as even more people will need support.
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.”
Energy customer service ratings
Citizens Advice launched the star ratings in December 2016. It compares energy suppliers’ customer service by looking at complaints it receives as well as information supplied from energy firms and Energy UK.
It then scores energy suppliers out of five, with one being poor.
These are the star ratings for energy companies between January and March 2022:
*SSE Energy Services brand is owned and operated by Ovo Energy.