Annual Energy Supplier Survey Sees Small Firms on Top

Small energy suppliers crowded the top of Which’s? annual customer satisfaction survey, while the Big Six failed to impress their consumers, rankings released Monday reveal.

Octopus Energy, which launched in 2016 and now serves 400,000 homes, topped the league, with an 80% customer satisfaction score—more than 20 points higher than the best ranked Big Six provider, SSE.

All Big Six providers—British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power, and SSE—ranked in the bottom third of the table.

Consumer magazine Which? polled nearly 8,000 energy customers on the customer service performance of their supplier, to rate 30 energy companies in England, Scotland, and Wales, covering 90% of the energy market, and seven in Northern Ireland.

Octopus was the only provider to score five stars in every measure Which? queried consumers about, including bills, customer service, complaints-handling (online and over the phone) and value for money. Nine out of 10 Octopus customers said the supplier was “good” or “excellent” value for money, and 96% approved of its online customer service.

Octopus’ chief executive, Greg Jackson, welcomed the accolades and said they reflected the company’s innovate use of technology.

“As the only significant energy retailer to have built a 21st century digital platform, we’ve engineered Octopus from front to back to put customers first,” he said.

“Investing in disruptive technology is designed to not only provide outstanding service, but also pave the way to the smart energy system we all need.”

Octopus was joined in the top five by small suppliers Ebico, Robin Hood Energy, So Energy and Tonik Energy, all of which received five star ratings as value for money.

Robin Hood Energy and Ebico are not-for-profit, with Robin Hood Energy run by Nottingham City Council for local residents and Ebico reinvesting all profits into projects that help households affected by fuel poverty.

Tonik and So Energy are both green suppliers, only tariffs with electricity generated from 100% renewable sources.

Each of these suppliers serves under or around 100,000 households.

In contrast, British Gas, the biggest supplier in the UK, with more than 15 million accounts on its books, was ranked 26th. Its Big Six peers performed similarly poorly, with Npower and Scottish Power coming in last among the big suppliers, at a shared 27th place. A fifth of Npower customers consider if “poor” or “very poor” value for money, and a fifth of Scottish Power customers found their supplier was “poor” or “very poor” at handling complaints.

In general, just 69% of Big Six customers were satisfied with their supplier, compared to 82% and 90% of the customers of medium and small suppliers, respectively.

Reacting to the rankings that put his firm at 22nd, Tony Keeling, SSE’s chief operating officer and co-head of retail, said: “At SSE we take our commitment to excellent customer service seriously and it’s welcome to see we’re the only major energy supplier to receive four stars for our service both online and over the phone.”

“However, we know there’s always room for improvement and that’s why our team constantly looks for new ways to improve the service we offer our customers.”

Last year it was revealed that the market share of the Big Six has fallen to its lowest level ever, 75%, as customers have deserted the energy market giants in favour of upstart suppliers offering cheap tariffs and renewable electricity. New energy companies are cropping up regularly to take the business of savvy switchers.

However, the fortunes of these small companies have been mixed: eight went bust in 2018 and another, Economy Energy, failed at the beginning of 2019, some after censure from energy market regulator Ofgem for poor customer service.

And the worst-ranked supplier’s in Which?’s survey were also small suppliers. Renewable supplier Solarplicity came in at the bottom of the league and was the only energy firm to earn any one-star ratings, which it did for bills, customer service online and over the phone, complaints handling and helping customers understand and reduce their energy use.

Spark Energy came in at the penultimate position, although the company was purchased by better-ranked Ovo in November 2018 so its subscribers could see improved service shortly.

The mixed record of both small and larger companies shows that “a company’s size is no guarantee of its performance,” Which? concluded.

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