While dissatisfied energy customers are turning their back on the ‘big six’ suppliers, smaller firms are increasing their number of customers, but their exponential growth is also leading to higher complaints.
Price increases, customer complaints and criticism from the government and the energy regulator Ofgem have led to a record number of customers switching energy suppliers over the past few months.
Many have opted for smaller companies, including renewable energy providers Ecotricity and Good Energy, who have historically fared very well in customer satisfaction rankings. The pair froze their energy tariffs last winter, at a time when many larger companies were ramping up theirs.
Good Energy revealed in April that its customer base had increased by 32% in 2013, while Ecotricity also said it had seen a 40% customer growth from October to March.
However, some smaller suppliers are also seeing their number of complaints rising, as a side-effect of having more customers. Good Energy registered a 466% increase in complaints, while Ecotricity’s rose by 9%. Complaints for Utility Warehouse and Ovo Energy also grew by 52% and 51% respectively.
The firms admit this is caused by the unexpected growth, but added that measures to handle growing enquiries from new and current customers are being taken.
Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said, “Many smaller energy companies, like Ecotricity, have experienced unprecedented growth over the past six months.
“This rate of growth can be expected to bring with it some problems in maintaining customer service levels and this looks to be occurring elsewhere within the industry.
“These figures also show that complaints to the big six continue to grow despite their relative poor performance on customer service because they have systemic problems with how they treat customers, while any issues with smaller suppliers should hopefully be a temporary problem.”
Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow, a Good Energy spokesperson said the company was hiring more staff to deal with the phone calls and emails from new customers.
“The increasing volume of interest we received from consumers keen to switch… combined with our customer service team getting used to a new system, led to a temporary dip in the quality of our customer service”, they said.
“We keep close track of our customer service performance, and we recognised immediately that we needed to take some remedial actions.
“We still think there’s more we can do to ensure all our customers receive great service from us, so we’re taking a number of additional steps.”
Photo: CIAT via flickr