Utility Week

UTILITY Week 24 10 2014

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26 | 24th - 30th OctOber 2014 | UtILItY WeeK Customers I am the customer Nick Hague "Customers who like you find it hard to say goodbye" The sustained political buzz we've seen, trumpeting the ben- efits to customers of changing their energy supplier regularly, has led to a greater proportion of them feeling the itch to switch. For energy suppliers, this has intensified the need to focus on customer loyalty. Aer all, a customer retained is a customer won; it's much harder for a business to maintain growth if it is losing customers, however effective its marketing strategy for gaining new ones might be. with quickly? Are staff pleasant to deal with? If customers like dealing with you and feel you deliver good value, they will find it hard to say goodbye. It's also important to monitor levels of loyalty among different segments, so you can focus your efforts in the most effective way. With competition as fierce as it is, loyalty is not an area in which energy suppliers can afford to compromise. Nick Hague, director, B2B International So what can energy suppliers do to secure customer loyalty in a sector where it can be difficult to differentiate the quality of service from competitors? The answer is that loyalty is not driven by the core "hygiene" factors that every supplier must get right to stay in the market. There is a basic standard of value for money and service provision that is simply expected, and if a supplier falls below it, their issue is not one of customer loyalty but commercial competitiveness. No, loyalty in the energy mar- ket is achieved through smaller, soer things that might be diffi- cult to measure and might seem inconsequential. Are issues dealt This week Comparison sites 'hiding best deals' The Big Deal website accuses the UK's five biggest comparison sites of behaving 'unethically' The Big Deal website on Monday accused the UK's five biggest comparison sites of being unlaw- ful by keeping the best energy deals from customers. The company, which also helps customers find the cheap- est deals online, put forward its complaints in a letter to uSwitch, Compare the Market, Money- SuperMarket, Go Compare and Confused and copied the letter to government, the Competition and Markets Authority and the EU Competition Commission, asking them to take action to protect consumers. "This research shows that these sites are hiding from customers the cheapest deals. If they don't get paid by an energy company for a deal then they will hide it from people even if it's the best deal in the country," said the Big Deal. "We believe this research raises major con- cerns about the activity of these sites and whether they are behaving dishonestly and unethically," it added. The Big Deal claims that when rival price comparison companies prompt customers to say they wish to switch "today", all the deals that do not earn the site commission are filtered out. Only if a consumer clicks "no" for this option are they shown other deals, which can be cheaper. The Big Deal adds that some websites have a default "yes" for this question, which makes it even harder for consumers to see the best deal. It claims almost a third of energy deals get hidden in this way. In response, the regulator Ofgem said: "We're propos- ing tougher new rules to the [Ofgem confidence] code to make commission arrangements clearer." JB energY GDF Suez to help track business use Business energy supplier GDF Suez Energy UK has launched a service for commercial and industrial energy users to help track their energy use ahead of tight supply periods expected this winter. Currently, the supplier warns customers ahead of periods of peak winter demand through as many as 25 emailed alerts every winter. But the new offering will also alert clients to their current energy consumption patterns ahead of a predicted period of high demand to allow them to adapt their usage before the peak. The data could help cus- tomers to avoid Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) charges that appear on busi- nesses' electricity bills each year, which are based directly on average electricity consump- tion during "triad" periods – the highest three half-hourly periods of peak demand per winter. GDF Suez said it has accu- rately predicted 20 of the 21 triad periods over the past seven years. Water Thames defends debt collector letters Thames Water last week defended its practice of using alternative branding on debt collection letters, saying it is a "cost-effective" way of dealing with the problem of bad debt. Thames is one of three water companies that still use "rebranded" debt collection let- ters to try to recoup some of the money owed to them by custom- ers. The practice was criticised by the BBC as "unacceptable". Thames issues the letters from its wholly owned debt col- lector subsidiary County Wide Collections aer a "long pro- cess" of contacting the customer with a series of three letters which "increase in severity", it said, explaining: "It is important that we manage the collection of outstanding debt as efficiently as possible, as ultimately the costs are borne by our customers." energY Eon to hit 17-day target for switching Eon will hit the 17-day switching time target by the end of this year, it confirmed last week. Residential customers will be able to switch to the company in just two-and-a-half weeks – half the current average switching time of about five weeks. This includes a 14-day cool- ing off period that fits the "14 +3 model" called for by energy secretary Ed Davey. Davey's ambitious long- term goal is to achieve 24-hour switching, through the imple- mentation of 53 million smart meters by the end of the decade. Site unseen? Best deals are 'being hidden'

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