UK Utilities Companies Improve Customer Satisfaction But Still Rank Lowest of All Sectors

Utilities industry sees high level of customer satisfaction improvement, but the Institute of Customer Service warns that more needs to be done.

The UK utility industry has been under fire for providing poor customer service, but over the past twelve months companies have focused on creating a better experience and as a result they’ve seen the highest levels of improved customer satisfaction of all sectors.

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Despite the visible improvement, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) has found that the Utilities sector still ranks below all others in terms of customer satisfaction.

It is closing the gap though, as since January 2014 it has almost halved the difference between its levels of customer satisfaction and the all-sector average.

Leading the way in the turnaround is Ovo Energy, which is the only Utilities organisation in the UKCSI top 50. The company ranks top of the Utilities sector and 13th overall in the all sector standings.

It has also been a strong year for EDF Energy, which has improved levels of satisfaction at a significantly greater rate than any other organisation in the sector.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, said that organisations within the Utilities sector have taken positive steps to improve levels of customer service over the past 12 months but the overall picture can be misleading.

She warned: "There is a great disparity between the best and worst performing organisations. With such polarisation, some high-performing companies are concealing the amount of work that many others still have ahead of them."

So what can companies do to turn this customer sentiment around and pave the way for further customer satisfaction improvements?

In a statement accompanying the latest UKCSI findings, The Institute of Customer Service said that if the sector is to continue to raise the bar for customer satisfaction, the key area it must focus on is complaint handling as 41 per cent of Utilities customers claimed that they did not report problems to their provider because they felt it would make no difference.

This stems in some ways from the attitudes that they have encountered when dealing with staff, with 33.6 per cent claiming employees ‘seemed uninterested’ when dealing with a complaint as opposed to just 17.1 per cent who were ‘sympathetic’. As a direct result, Utilities businesses have the lowest loyalty index score of all sectors.

"The sector as a whole must realise that customer satisfaction is heavily influenced by elements such as recommendation or loyalty and, in turn, impacts the bottom line. If customer service is not treated as a strategic business concern, on the boardroom agenda each week, there is a risk that customers will turn to competitors in search of better service," Causon continued.

"Strong customer service isn’t just nice to have, it is central to the success of a business and a key competitive advantage."