Responded to Ofgem’s latest review on customer service standards, Energy UK’s CEO, Emma Pinchbeck said:
“The scale of the cost of living crisis has seen average household energy bills more than double, resulting in huge challenges for customers. As things stand, the end of Energy Bill Support Scheme payments and the reduction in Energy Price Guarantee support in April 2023 will lead to large increases to most household energy bills. While suppliers continue to provide support to millions of households, they can’t solve the wider affordability problem alone which is why we are urging Government to not let prices rise further in April.
“More people than ever are contacting their supplier for support and advice on their energy bills. Call centres are reporting that call volumes have quadrupled, often including more complex calls which can take longer to resolve.
“Energy companies have both hired and retrained hundreds of staff to be able to cope with the significant increases in enquiries, set up dedicated affordability and vulnerability teams to provide specialist advice and implemented extra training, new technologies and processes to identify, communicate with and assist customers who need additional help.”
Notes to editors
If people are struggling to pay their bills they should still contact their supplier in the first instance to let them know of their situation. It’s worth checking which contact methods are available as many suppliers offer multiple channels which may resolve issues more quickly.
Examples of supplier support by company
Energy UK’s Vulnerability Commitment is a voluntary initiative which goes above existing regulations. It’s independently assessed and the companies signed up cover over 80% of the retail market. This good practice guide is a summary of evidence sessions held during 2022 which outlines the additional measures suppliers have implemented to identify and support vulnerable customers, and support their staff in doing so.
- Proactively communicating with customers when their account triggers a missed payment, cancelled direct debit or lack of meter readings
- Continuous development of apps and other channels so it’s as easy as possible to get in touch
- Hiring hundreds of extra agents and providing support 24/7
- Training agents to offer specialist advice and automatically routing customers to the correct team based on their account information
- Unprecedented market conditions have presented real challenges to suppliers over recent months
- Energy suppliers have reported receiving four times as many customer service enquiries, often including more complex calls which can take longer to resolve as agents try and find the best support available for customers.
- Training staff to deal with these kinds of calls is not simple – it requires more than a script to read off, which is why many companies have put in place additional, specific training, tools and processes to help their staff give the best support possible.
- Ahead of the 2022 winter, Energy UK held a roundtable with Ofgem, Citizens Advice and its members to share ideas for good practice in supporting customers, as well as representatives from the finance industry to share learnings. This resulted in a good practice guide that was shared with all Energy UK members to ensure good practice across the sector. https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/files/docs/Factsheets and guides/EnergyUKReport_CustomerServiceDuringTimesofHighPressure_GoodPracticeGuide_Sept2022_FINAL.pdf
- Retail suppliers have worked extremely hard to ensure multiple Government schemes have been implemented at pace so people receive the discounts available to them.
- It’s worth also noting that even before the gas price crisis, on average the retail sector was making a loss. Since August 2021, around 30 suppliers have not been able to recoup their costs and subsequently existed the market – the cost of which is being borne by all bill payers. More supplier failures would result in higher bills.