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EDF Energy has raised the possibility of introducing a common set of standards relating to the pay of customer service staff, the company’s customer service director has revealed.

Speaking during a panel session sponsored by Capita at Utility Week Live last week, Barry Adley gave a presentation in which he outlined the support EDF was giving to its customer service teams, who have faced unprecedented challenges as a result of the pandemic and subsequent energy crisis.

During a Q&A, Adley was asked how the role of customer service agent has evolved since March 2020.

He said: “More often we are finding our advisors are becoming councilors…we do hear regularly that customers are threatening suicide or something like that.

“It’s an increasingly challenging role, it’s not a highly paid role. There’s a conversation we are having internally about whether there should be common standards across the industry in terms of payment for advisors.

“Because at the moment it’s a non-technical role and everybody trains their advisors as much or as little as they like. But actually, if the energy industry is going to change and change in this direction for good, perhaps there should be some common standards, so that’s the conversation we are having internally.”

Adley was later asked about the state support which the government has tasked retailers with dispensing. Specifically, whether energy companies themselves were being given enough support to help their customers.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Adley responded by saying he thought the £200 rebate was not “particularly great”.

“I think the challenge is it was worded as ‘this is a loan from your energy supplier’ and many people are proud, they don’t take loans, they don’t want loans. The truth is, I am going to give them £200 whether they like it or not and ultimately I am going to recover it through networks charges via their bill for the next five years.

“We talked about challenges for later on this year. You’ve got markets going to reopen in September-ish, you’ve got a £200 rebate that’s going to stimulate a huge amount of customer contact – they don’t understand it, they don’t want it – plus you’re going to have another price increase. It is an increasingly complex time.”

Save the date! Utility Week Live 2023 will take place on 16 and 17 May 2023 at the NEC in Birmingham.

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