Utility Week

UTILITY Week 21st July 2017

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Customers 28 | 21ST - 27TH JULY 2017 | UTILITY WEEK I am the customer Jo Causon "Customer requirements will become even more exacting" With negotiations on the UK's exit from the EU under way, the outlook for the economy and for customer service is uncertain. In times like these, organisations tend to cut costs by default – but this short-term approach, in my view, doesn't create sustainable relationships with customers. This is evident from the results of the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index. Customer satisfaction in the sector may have reached its highest point in nearly a decade, but customers and social media mean that a consistent experience across channels is crucial in the sector. With the continued growth of challenger brands, the utilities sector is at a pivotal moment. Add to this the current political and economic uncertainty, and I believe that now is the time for organisations to be brave, to drive the customer experience agenda harder, if they want to ensure long-term survival. Jo Causon, CEO, Institute of Customer Service still believe they are spending too much time and effort dealing with organisations and there are far fewer advocates than there are detractors in the sector. With prices predicted to rise faster than incomes in the next year, I believe customer requirements will become even more exacting. For me, this means the quality and consistency of customer experience design and imple- mentation is key to creating expe- riences and relationships that connect with customers' needs. Also, the continuing impor- tance of the telephone, website and email channels, combined with the growth of interactions through text, web chat, apps This week Ofgem and consumer reps discuss price cap Regulator meets consumer groups to establish who should be eligible for safeguard tariff Ofgem has met consumer bodies to discuss the possible shape of its safeguard tariff to protect con- sumers from what government has called "abusive" billing. The energy regulator met a group of consumer representa- tives to debate who should be eligible for the tariff, and how it might be structured. The meeting followed an announcement a fortnight ago that Ofgem was drawing up plans to protect vulner- able customers and encourage more engagement in other parts of the market. The regulator made a preliminary suggestion that a safeguard tariff might be extended to customers who are eligible for the Warm Home Discount, a move that Citizens Advice, the statutory consumer champion for the energy sector, has long advocated. Speaking aer a summit with consumer bodies, Ofgem's senior partner for consumers and competition, Rachel Fletcher, said discussions had been "productive". She added the regulator will formally consult energy companies on its proposals "soon". Fletcher said Ofgem remains "committed to taking prompt action" to protect vulnerable customers during a transition to a "smarter, more competitive market". Ofgem was asked to set out proposals for fixing energy market failings by energy secretary Greg Clark aer the recent general election. Clark has insisted he remains ready to legislate for the introduction of an energy price cap if Ofgem's proposals for market intervention are not seen to be bold enough. JG ENERGY Energy switching up by 12 per cent The number of customers switching supplier has risen by 12 per cent, according to the lat- est figures from Energy UK. More than 400,000 custom- ers changed provider in June, compared with about 360,000 in the same month last year. There were 143,155 switches in June from larger to small and mid-tier suppliers, and a similar number (145,028) switched from one large supplier to another. But former Npower chief executive and current chief executive of North Star Solar, Paul Massara told Utility Week "an increase in the churn rate of 33 per cent of the market is not by itself a sign of health". "The reality is that the market is split into two with 33 per cent of the market actively switching and 66 per cent not." ENERGY Convince customers on low-carbon heat Winning over consumers will be the biggest barrier to the de ploy- ment of low-carbon heat, accord- ing to a senior Ofgem figure. Speaking at a Westmin- ster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum, Martin Crouch, Ofgem's senior partner for improving regulation said: "We said last year we thought decar- bonisation of heat was probably the biggest challenge in energy policy that we face. That's largely not for technical reasons… It's the consumer impact." He said the decarbonisa- tion of heat, which may require changes to consumers' homes and appliances, will be a much harder sell than the decarboni- sation of power or transport. WATER Retail water market goes 'off the boil' Only 1 per cent of businesses have switched water retailer since the non-household market opened in April, prompting broker Utilitywise to suggest that market liberalisation has "gone off the boil". In a letter to environment sec- retary Michael Gove, seen by The Times, Utilitywise chief execu- tive Brendan Flattery insisted that the regulator should be "empowered to force suppliers to publish tariffs so businesses can compare prices". Ofwat said its data shows there have been 30,000 switches since the market opened, includ- ing multi-site businesses. There are about 3.5 million supply points in the non-house- hold market, suggesting that only 0.85 per cent of the market has switched. Utilitywise said the figures are "actually far worse", because about 11,000 switches were made before 1 April. Fletcher: Ofgem will protect vulnerable customers

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