18th Feb 2016
Customer satisfaction in the utilities sector is improving faster than any other UK industry, but electricity, gas and water suppliers still face the difficult hurdle of improving staff engagement and rebuilding trust with customers, if these improvements are to lead to sustained business success.
According to the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), the utilities sector has seen a significant reduction in the proportion of customers experiencing problems. Just 12.8 percent of consumers highlighted a problem in the latest survey – the lowest level since 2011 – and a figure which compares favourably to the UKCSI average of 12.6 percent.
Customers also state that 67 percent of interactions with their utilities supplier is ‘right first time’. It is also clear, from the data, that when organisations get it right, first time, satisfaction levels increase. Amongst utilities companies, for example, satisfaction from a single interaction is scored at 80.0 compared to 57.4 when problems occur.
Overall the data, published by the Institute of Customer Service, also reveals that the utility sector scores 72.8 points (out of 100) for customer satisfaction, up 1.9 points since January 2015. Utility Warehouse and Ovo Energy are revealed as the highest scoring organisations within the sector.
Room for improvement
Although the sector has posted its best score since 2009 it still ranks near the bottom of all the sectors examined, coming in twelfth position out of thirteen.
Analysis of 1,500 consumers’ views suggests that staff attitude and behavior is a key factor behind the low ranking. Many employees fail to deal adequately with customer complaints, with the most common reaction to a complaint being to ‘make excuses’ (32 percent) or ‘seem uninterested’ (31 percent). Worryingly, just 13 percent took responsibility for dealing with problems and only 11 percent ‘dealt with it immediately’.
Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, says: “The utilities sector has shown strong signs of improvement over the past 12 months. It is particularly encouraging to see the effort some organisations are making to address the poor reputation the sector has for customer service, but there is still a long way to go. Real success will come by genuinely investing in employees to ensure they are able to respond more effectively to issues and challenges, we know there is a close correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction – where organisations really focus on this they will start to see a consistent and sustainable high level of customer service. ”
There are a variety of areas where the sector underperforms dramatically in comparison to other industries - recording the lowest score of all sectors analysed for 18 of the 54 metrics. These include areas such as trust, complaint handling, price and handling of enquiries.
There is also a variation across channels with customer satisfaction over the phone and via a website increasing, while ‘in person’ and written channels are decreasing. It means that utilities companies should focus on delivering a truly uniform experience in an omni-channel environment.
Notes to editors
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About The Institute of Customer Service
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 500 organisational members – from the private, public and third sectors – and over 3,000 individual memberships. For more information about the Institute of Customer Service go to www.instituteofcustomerservice.com.