Energy firms urged to tackle 'unsatisfactory' customer service failings

British Gas, Boost, Scottish Power and Ovo Energy are among firms with the lowest customer scores in the annual Which? survey.

Energy firms have been urged to improve “unsatisfactory” customer service as several major providers fell to the bottom of an annual league table.

While British Gas came bottom in Which?’s annual energy firm survey, the watchdog found there was little to separate the remaining firms with the lowest customer scores – Boost, Scottish Power, Ovo Energy, Shell Energy, EDF Energy and E.ON Next.

At the other end of the scale, Octopus Energy, Ecotricity and E (Gas & Electricity) achieved the highest customer scores.

The watchdog surveyed more than 9,000 energy customers in October for its annual customer satisfaction survey and also assessed 18 energy firms’ behind-the-scenes practices and policies to compile an overall score.

Octopus Energy received an overall score of 73% and was the only firm to achieve a five-star rating for overall customer service.

Ecotricity and E (Gas & Electricity) scored 72% and 71% respectively, and also received four stars for their overall customer service and quality of communications about energy costs.

The findings come as households suffer a price cap of £1,928 a year for the typical household, with prices predicted to remain above pre-2021 levels until the end of the decade.

While fixed deals have been slowly returning to the market, Which? said it had seen few that were significantly cheaper than the price cap, meaning the quality of a firm’s customer service was the major factor in differentiating providers.

Which? carried out its annual energy firm customer satisfaction survey iStock

British Gas, Boost, Scottish Power, Ovo Energy, Shell Energy, EDF Energy, E.ON Next and British Gas all received customer scores of less than 60%.

However, Which? named British Gas the worst performer overall after factoring in its assessment of its customer service practices, followed jointly by Boost – part of Ovo – and So Energy.

British Gas, which supplies more than a fifth of households in Great Britain, received an overall score of 56% and scored just two stars for most categories, including accessibility – or whether a customer can engage with it effectively, value for money and accuracy of energy payments.

It received three stars – an average score – for customer service overall.

British Gas received just over half marks for customer service and just one point out of ten for performance against its smart meter targets.

It also received four out of ten for how it handled complaints, losing points primarily for the volume of customer complaints it received per 100,000 customer accounts in the first half of 2023 in comparison to other suppliers.

Overall, a quarter of people Which? surveyed who had engaged with their energy firm in the last year to get help with a problem said the company had made it difficult.

Which? director of policy and advocacy Rocio Concha said: “With energy prices still punishingly high and limited chances for consumers to save money by switching suppliers, good customer service is more important than ever.

“While Octopus Energy, Ecotricity and E were all named Which? Recommended Providers and scored highly for their customer service, others fell short of customers’ expectations.

“Which? is calling for any providers who are falling short on customer service to up their game and ensure customers are able to contact them easily and get the answers they need.”

A British Gas spokeswoman said: “This survey is behind the curve and is based on data that is up to a year old.

“Since that period, we’ve targeted more than £25m of investment on improving service and customers are seeing a difference – this includes hiring 700 new contact centre agents and extending our opening times.

“We continue to be focused on customer service and helping our most vulnerable customers through our sector leading £100m customer support package.’’

Which? surveyed 9,025 energy customers in October 2023.

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