Utility Week

Uberflip 24 01 14

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Page 26 of 31

Customers This week Consumer groups to identify 'broken markets' and outline priorities for government to address Consumer groups to audit competition Labour leader Ed Miliband has said consumer groups will be asked to work with regulators to draw up an Annual Competition Audit of Britain's economy. Under the plans outlined by Miliband, consumer groups such as Which? and Citizens Advice will be able to identify "broken Miliband: families being 'ripped off by big six' markets" and outline priorities for the government to address. Ministers and government departments would then be given a "strict" three-month deadline to respond to the concerns raised. Labour said the move will combat a lack of action by regulators and politicians, who "drag their feet" in dealing with some of these problems. An example provided by the opposition was Ofgem, which had highlighted 16 problems in the energy sector in 2008, and by 2011, it said 12 had stayed the same or got worse. Miliband said: "For too long families have been ripped off by the big six energy firms," and that better regulated markets will benefit consumers. He added: "We will reset these markets by working with the best of British business and consumer groups. "No longer will consumers have to shout from the outside. Under the next Labour government they will be given a direct say in the priorities for tackling abuses or concentrations of power which hold Britain back." Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "With trust in essential markets at rock bottom and millions still feeling the financial squeeze, there is much to do to put the consumer at the heart of policymaking." MB Energy Eon making the best progress under Eco Eon has made the most headway in achieving its targets under the Energy Company Obligation (Eco), according to the latest figures published by Ofgem. The German-owned supplier had reached 41 per cent, 66 per cent and 105 per cent of its Carbon Emissions Reduction Obligation (CERO), Carbon Saving Community Obligation (CSCO), and Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation (HHCRO) targets respectively by the end of December. The three Eco targets must be met by the end of March next year and aim to install solid wall insulation; insulation and district heating measures in low-income and rural areas; and measures that reduce the overall cost of heating to low-income and vulnerable households in UK properties. Scottish Power has also made steady progress, meeting 26 per cent of its CERO, 35 per cent of its CSCO, and 51 per cent of its HHCRO targets. First Utility has achieved 305 per cent of its HHCRO target, but has yet to make any impact on the other targets, although a spokesperson told Utility Week the company was "well on track". Of the big six suppliers, British Gas has the most ground to make up, having only met 12 per cent, 14 per cent and 67 per cent of its obligations respectively. Electricity EMR could add costs for businesses Electricity Market Reform (EMR) could cost businesses an extra £30/MWh by 2020, according to research by Npower. The energy supplier published the figure on Monday, along with the results of a roundtable with energy buyers from high street retail chains, manufacturers and other major energy users. Contracts for difference (CfDs), designed to guarantee stable revenues to low-carbon generators, could introduce price volatility for buyers and cut the incentive for generators to enter into longterm power purchase agreements (PPAs), the report found. Energy End of last year saw one million switch The latest switching figures show 1,006,435 consumers changed their energy tariff in November and December 2013, according to data from Electralink. The smaller suppliers gained a total of 229,863 new customers – a 23 per cent net gain from the major suppliers. There was an end of year peak – just under a third of the 3.5 million switches made in 2013 occurred in those two months. I am the customer Andrew McMillan Are our people a good experience? That's the first question any utility looking to appraise its customer service strategy should ask. Lessons from sectors in which customer satisfaction is a core component of successful business strategy are instructive. In such sectors, the role and the attitude of the workforce is often critical as it is these people who hold ultimate responsibility for understanding, believing and delivering company strategy. "Employees become the brand in customers' eyes" Utilities should firstly define how they wish to be perceived in terms of reputation, personality and behaviour, by employees as well as customers. The key is then to ensure the customer experience delivered by staff is so consistently strong that the employees themselves become the organisation or the brand in the eyes of customers. Establishing consistency in clearly defined values will engender employee engagement and help to sustain strong service levels. Tracking progress and measuring the outcomes of desired behaviours is also crucial, as is consistent and sustained internal engagement. Equally, enhancing employee experience through effective and consistent reward, recognition and appraisal can play an instrumental role in reducing costs through improved productivity, lower staff turnover and more "right first time" responses. Andrew McMillan is former head of customer service, John Lewis Partnership. He presented these views at the 2013 Morrison Utility S ervices Customer Service and Innovation event UTILITY WEEK | 24th - 30th January 2014 | 27

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