People power to switch
The Energy Switch Guarantee launched last week, and whilst it has been a long time coming for me, I think it represents a fairly sudden development in consumer engagement in the industry. The Guarantee contains ten commitments which are designed to empower consumers by de-mystifying the process of switching energy supplier and outlining what they can expect from their energy supplier during the switch.
Despite record levels of switching, many customers have not switched their supplier. These customers may not be on the energy tariff most suitable for them. But these consumers needn’t feel stuck; the Energy Switch Guarantee provides reassurance to consumers that switching is quick, easy and reliable.
I was involved in the Energy Switch Guarantee from the initial discussions and to finally make it to the launch I think is a tremendous achievement. Designing a common standard is a complicated process, especially with so many stakeholders involved as there will inevitably be different expectations.
Despite this, I think that the Guarantee is a good demonstration of what can be achieved when suppliers and stakeholders work together with a common objective. Citizens Advice, Ofgem and DECC were engaged at every step of the way to ensure the Guarantee is fit-for-purpose by providing oversight and challenging the assumptions underlying its design. Robust compliance metrics were tested, and governance arrangements developed to create a stable framework for the Guarantee. An independent chair has been appointed to hold the signatories to account.
At the launch Citizens Advice, Ofgem and BIS welcomed the Guarantee, not only as a means of empowering consumers to switch, but as a driver to improve customer service standards across the industry. If consumers feel empowered to switch, suppliers will compete in a race to the top on standards of customer care. Acknowledging this, and the potential for the Guarantee to have a dynamic impact on consumers, I think, is crucial.
The success of the Guarantee will ultimately rest upon its engagement with the market as much as the market’s engagement with it. Seventy per cent market coverage at launch represents a huge success, given the demanding requirements of the Guarantee, with several additional suppliers already showing an interest. The challenge now is for the Guarantee to make customers aware of its commitments and deliver on them.