Utility Week

UW 07 02 14 Uberflip

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

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UTILITY WEEK | 7Th - 13Th FEbrUarY 2014 | 27 Customers This week Energy's high profile sees complaints soar as politicians and the media maul the big six, the public responds with complaints of its own There was a spike in the number of complaints made to energy companies and the Ombuds- man Service in the wake of Ed Miliband's speech and promised price freeze in September. Speaking at an Ombudsman roundtable event in London this week, chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said "there was certainly a spike in phone calls [following Miliband's speech]". He also said that the number of complaints increased throughout 2013. Shand Smith said: "We've seen an increase over the whole of the last calendar year. It started to rise at the start of the year and it's constantly gone upwards." The number of complaints made in December 2013 was 1,805, an increase of 106 per cent on the 872 com- plaints made in December 2012. Neil Clitheroe, chief executive of retail and genera- tion at Scottish Power, agreed that there had been a rise in the number of complaints, which he put down to "heightened awareness [of energy] over the past four months" because of speeches, media coverage and changes to the green levies. He said the erratic nature of the complaints numbers made forecasting difficult. "There are real peaks and troughs and it's very hard to manage the cycle," he said. He conceded that if suppliers could solve basic prob- lems such as billing and payments, it might stop many complaints being made in the first place and "create the space to deliver good solutions to difficult issues". EnErgY Green Deal payment plans simplified The Green Deal Finance Com- pany (GDFC) has simplified Green Deal payment plans for providers and their customers. The reforms include intro- ducing "Green Deal in a day", which will begin this month; cutting provider accreditation times from three months to three weeks; reducing data require- ments for new applications; and an "easier to use" template document for consumers. The GDFC has reduced the data required for credit and affordability checks so it is "on par or marginally below" that sought by other consumer finance providers. Mark Bayley, GDFC chief executive, said: "We have taken important steps to help our growing numbers of providers make the process of accessing a Green deal Payment Plan easier for their consumers." EnErgY Energy efficiency ignored by many An "alarmingly low" proportion of people plan to improve the energy efficiency of their homes this year, according to a survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). The poll revealed that just 9 per cent of people were con- sidering installing solar panels, while only 6 per cent said they were likely to have cavity wall insulation fitted. Even "simple and low cost" ways of improving a home's energy efficiency, such as LED light bulbs, were only being con- sidered by one in four people. IET spokesperson Marjan Sarshar said: "People are not planning to spend money on energy efficiency because the returns are too intangible and the long-term Green Deal loan remains with the house." EnErgY 2.2m children now living in fuel poverty Some 2.2 million children are liv- ing in fuel poverty, a 26 per cent rise on last year, latest figures show. Another 460,000 children live in cold homes, using a new definition of fuel poverty intro- duced last year. Under the old measure, the figure rose from 1.2 million to 1.9 million. The updated definition of fuel poverty counts 7 million people, rather than 9 million under the old measure. However, it shows a greater impact on families with children. The figures were gathered by researchers at the Asso- ciation for the Conservation of Energy, to support campaign group Energy Bill Revolution in efforts to push insulation up the national agenda. Shand Smith: public disquiet on the rise I am the customer Jo Causon "Customers want a balance between price and service" During 2013, the utilities sector became the subject of growing public and political scrutiny; there were many calls for energy providers to curb price increases and improve service. New research from the Insti- tute of Customer Service – the UK Customer Satisfaction Index January 2014 – shows that the utilities sector has the lowest scores of all the 13 sectors, scor- ing 69 out of 100 – the overall average is 77.1. The research also demonstrates the link between of those surveyed said they are seeking a balance between price and service and are not prepared to sacrifice service levels in pur- suit of the cheapest deal. With increasing pressure from the regulator and the potential of growing competition, those organisations that put the cus- tomer at the heart of their opera- tion will improve their reputa- tion, increasing trust, loyalty and organisational performance. Jo Causon, chief executive, Institute of Customer Service good customer service and trust and the importance of deliver- ing consistent customer service across the whole value chain. The research shows that organisations that deliver a good customer experience are easy to do business with, resolve cus- tomer problems promptly, deliver on promises made and train staff to ensure they are able to cope with a range of customer issues. In the utilities sector, organi- sations achieve a wide range of scores for each of these aspects, with more than 18 points between the highest and lowest in each area. Customers in the utilities sector are undoubtedly sensitive to price, however, more than half

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