15th Apr 2015
As energy companies cut gas prices the utilities sector should not lose their focus on improving customer service to provide a competitive advantage. The utilities sector continues to rank as the lowest of 13 industries when it comes to the delivery of customer service, according to the latest findings from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), yet it is one of only two sectors to register an improvement since January 2014.
Registering a score of 70.9 (out of 100) the sector remains at the bottom of the index, yet has shown signs of improvement. Customer satisfaction amongst companies in this sector has improved by 1.5 points since July 2014, a greater leap than any other sector in the same time period, and the top three most improved companies came from the utilities sector.
This increase in standards is a clear reflection of the efforts companies have made to focus on customer service in the light of pressure from regulatory body Ofgem to pass on wholesale savings.
Jo Causon, CEO, Institute of Customer Service, comments: “Companies must be careful not to see the price reductions that Ofgem has been encouraging as a silver bullet. Sixty-one percent of customers would not compromise service levels in pursuit of a cheaper deal, making it abundantly clear that offering better customer service than a competitor will have a significant impact on revenue.“
There is clear evidence that the utilities sector is heading in the right direction in terms of customer service. While customer satisfaction is at its lowest point since 2010, it is one of only two sectors to have improved. Yet, improvement must not be mistaken for offering a high level of customer service. The sector is still bottom of the pile in terms of customer satisfaction and lags 5.1 points below the average cross-sector score of 76. Efforts must be redoubled to build the trust and loyalty that is essential to the success of the business.
”Disparities in performance across the sector also conceal poorer performances, with four organisations scoring below 70 points, in contrast to the best performing company, Yorkshire Water, which registered a score of 80.8.With 45 percent of utilities customers choosing not to report an existing problem because they “didn’t think it would make any difference” it is clear there is a lot of work to be done to rebuild this trust between customers and the industry.
Pressure from industry regulator Ofgem has had a clear impact on efforts in the past year with 9 utilities companies from 13 seeing customer satisfaction rise by more than one point. This is a positive trend in contrast to the cross-sector results which saw 113 of 196 companies actually record drops of more than one point in the same time period.
Causon added: “There has been a lot of flux in the utilities sector over the past twelve months. What is crucial now is that these companies continue to improve on the progress that has been made in the last year and recognise that attracting and keeping hold of customers goes a lot deeper than simply cutting prices.”
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The Institute of Customer Service is the professional body for customer service delivering tangible benefit to organisations and individuals so that our customers can improve their customers' experience and their own business performance. The Institute is a membership body with a community of over 400 organisational members - from the private, public and third sectors - and over 5,000 individual memberships.
For more information about the Institute of Customer Service go to www.instituteofcustomerservice.com