The Institute of Customer Service has released its latest Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) which shows a modest decline for the utilities sector.
The survey, which is undertaken twice a year to provide an insight into the state of customer satisfaction across the UK, asked 10,000 consumers their views on companies across a range of sectors including retail, banking, transport and tourism.
For the utilities sector, 6,000 respondents gave their views on areas covering staff professionalism, quality and efficiency, ease of doing business, timeliness, problem solving, complaint handling and attitudes towards trust and reputation.
Customer satisfaction in utilities firms over the last six months improved by 0.3 UKCSI points in July 2018 (74.7 points) compared to January 2018 (74.4 points). However, it shows a dip of 0.4 points in July 2018 compared to the same period last year (75.1 points in July 2017).
According to the survey, billing is the most important factor customers want utilities companies to improve, with 29.4 per cent calling for the process to be a top priority.
Among the other top priorities for customers are better website navigation (25.3 per cent) and making it easier to contact the right person for help (28.3 per cent).
Despite representing 12 per cent of all the organisations included in the survey, utilities firms failed to make it into the top 50 companies.
Out of a possible score of 100 for overall customer satisfaction, Ovo Energy maintained its position as the highest-ranking utilities company with 81 UKCSI points. Ovo was closely followed by M&S Energy (79.7 points) and Bristol Water (79.6 points).
United Utilities (water) was ranked as one of the most improved organisations over the last 12 months, with a 78.4 UKCSI score in July 2018 compared to 73.3 in July 2017.
Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said utilities providers must focus on building levels of loyalty and recommendation among customers in the face of challenging market conditions.
“Alongside tangible financial measures, trust, reputation and recommendation are crucial benefits of a deliberate and consistent focus on achieving high levels of customer satisfaction,” Causon said.
“The UKCSI shows that customers who give the highest ratings for customer satisfaction express stronger levels of loyalty and recommendation, which utilities providers will need amidst challenging and unpredictable market conditions.”
She added:“Looking at the wider report, overall customer satisfaction has fallen. Although this downward movement is slight, it is the first time since January 2015 that two consecutive UKCSIs show an overall satisfaction decline.
“We are seeing a trend of divergence between the highest performing organisations and the rest, coupled with a growing body of evidence indicating that achieving consistently superior levels of customer satisfaction is a crucial enabler of sustainable financial results. Seven sectors have experienced a fall of less than 0.5 points in customer satisfaction compared to this time last year, including utilities, which ranks at number 10 out of 13 sectors.”
Commenting on the survey, Mel Karam, Bristol Water’s CEO, said: “I’m immensely proud to lead a team of dedicated colleagues who place the needs of our customers at the forefront of their work, and I’m thrilled this has been highlighted by the Institute of Customer Service and, more importantly, recognised by our customers.
“We know we don’t get it right 100 per cent of the time, which is why we haven’t hit the top spot for utilities. But we’re determined to get there, which is why, as part of our business plan, we’re setting out a target of being the top performing utility company. We are constantly learning from areas where we aren’t the best and ensuring we get better and better each time.”