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Revealed: the energy firms that leave customers on hold the longest

Written by: Emma Lunn
Boost Energy, part of Ovo Energy, took an average of 40 minutes and 58 seconds to answer calls, according to Which?

In a mystery shopping investigation, the consumer champion made 384 calls to 32 energy providers to reveal how long it took for customer service teams to answer. Which? called each provider 12 times at different times of the day and days of the week.

Call waiting times

Boost Energy is a pay-as-you-go supplier owned by Ovo Energy, and was the slowest to answer calls, taking almost 41 minutes on average. That’s longer than the entire first half of a rugby match.

One caller was left waiting for two hours, 39 minutes before their call was answered – the longest single call waiting time. On four other occasions, Boost took more than an hour to answer phone calls to its customer service team.

Many call centres have faced challenges as they adapted to new ways of working due to the pandemic. But at the time of the Which? investigation in September and October, it was clear that while some were coping well, others were struggling to provide an acceptable level of customer service.

British Gas was the second slowest provider to answer calls in Which?’s snapshot investigation. It took 23 minutes and 32 seconds on average to pick up calls. This was closely followed by Orbit Energy, a small energy company, which left customers waiting for an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds.

About a third of energy firms kept customers waiting for more than 10 minutes on average before their calls were answered – including three other large energy companies.

On average, Npower took 21 minutes and 46 seconds to answer calls, while Eon only picked up calls after 19 minutes and 40 seconds. EDF Energy customers were left waiting 13 minutes and 26 seconds on average before their calls were answered.

So Energy was the fastest company in a similar study last year, answering calls in 38 seconds on average. However, the challenger brand struggled to maintain its top spot this year and slipped to the slowest 10 after it left callers waiting for 16 minutes and 52 seconds on average.

Together Energy, which recently acquired the domestic customer base of Bristol Energy, was the fastest energy provider to pick up calls in 2020, with customers left waiting for just 51 seconds on average.

Octopus Energy, which has rapidly grown its customer base since launching in 2016, was the fastest of the energy firms with the largest market share and only left customers waiting for two minutes and four seconds on average.

Of the 10 energy companies with the largest market share, Scottish Power was the second best and on average answered calls in two minutes and 28 seconds. This is a massive improvement compared to last year when the Glasgow-based energy firm was the worst provider for answering calls and left customers waiting for 21 minutes and 24 seconds, on average.

Live chat waiting times

Which? also contacted the 18 energy suppliers that offered a live chat function for customers and found Shell Energy was the worst when it came to responding. It took 33 minutes and 39 seconds on average to respond to queries on live chat.

Outfox the Market was the fastest energy company on live chat, responding in an average of 10 seconds.

Which? pointed out that many people have seen their circumstances change due to the pandemic and may need support from their energy company to pay bills. This makes it more important than ever that companies answer calls and respond to customer queries quickly.

Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: “We know the pandemic has made things difficult for call centres, but it is unacceptable that some firms are still wasting customers’ time with such long waits, especially at a time when consumers may need additional support from their provider.

“Customer service is an important factor when choosing an energy provider. Those who face lengthy waits just to speak with a customer service adviser should consider moving to a provider that can offer better service – customers could also save hundreds of pounds a year by switching.”

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