Energy Uncovered

First Utility invests more than £10m in customer service improvements

First Utility is the fastest growing energy company in the UK and now the largest alternative to the Big Six. Central to this success has been our commitment to offering the lowest gas and electricity prices and helping our customers reduce their energy use through clever technology.

However, for some, our customer service has let us down and not been to the standard we strive for. We wanted to take the opportunity of outlining the steps we are taking to make things better and some of the improvements made so far.

The first thing to say is that we are never happy when things go wrong or when customers have a poor experience with us.  We are absolutely committed to offering great service alongside great prices which means being able to contact us in a timely manner and being dealt with in a friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable manner.

£10m investment
This year alone, we are investing £10m in vastly expanding the First Utility customer service team and investing in new systems and processes to resolve problems quickly and seamlessly.  This investment includes:

Quadrupling the number customer service agents
To keep up with our growth we have been recruiting at a phenomenal rate. Since September last year, we have quadrupled the size of the First Utility customer services team, which is now the single largest team in the company. This is a continuous process and we’re adding scores of agents each month to support our team.

If you are passionate about delivering great customer service and want to join our team, view our current vacancies and send us your CV.

Creation of the Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement team
We have created a dedicated team whose job is to ensure that our quality of service is the highest it can be. They routinely monitor and review the First Utility service experience to identify where more training is required or where processes are falling down and can be improved.  This new structure alongside other process improvements is enhancing our complaints process to ensure we have fewer complaints and those we do receive are resolved quickly.

Bringing in best practice from other industries
The energy industry as a whole isn’t the best example of customer service excellence which is why we’ve looked outside the industry for inspiration.  We’ve recruited strong senior managers from companies with good customer service reputations in other sectors such as First Direct, TUI and Lastminute.com.

Making it easier to do everything online
The First Utility My:Account online portal and new mobile app let you take control of your account to pay bills, set direct debits, submit meter reads, switch tariff and view your usage.

We’re proud of the improvements we’ve made to our services so far and will continue to put all of our efforts into winning your trust and delivering a standard of customer service which goes above and beyond your expectations.

Challenging and changing antiquated industry processes
Unfortunately, many of the processes that govern the energy industry in the UK have remained very much the same since privatisation 16 years ago.  We think many of them can and should be improved so are constantly engaged with all the industry stakeholders to make things better.  A good example is our ‘Fix the Switch’ campaign which has led to improvements in the switching process - cutting the time from five weeks to just over two weeks by the end of the year.

Being fair to customers
Because we think there is a better way to operate in this industry, we have a number of pledges to our customers to ensure they are fairly treated:

  • A Price Promise which means our standard variable rate tariff will always be cheaper than those of the Big Six at typical consumption*
  • We only have £2 a month difference when paying by direct debit or non-direct debit which simply reflects the administrative cost

Improvements to date
None of these actions are one off measures; we are continuously improving and will continue to invest as we strive to offer customers a great level of service alongside our low prices.  

Our customer service is already ranked above the all of Big Six suppliers, with the Which? Energy Satisfaction Survey 2014 reporting that we made the biggest improvement of any energy company.  We also received fewer complaints than any of the Big Six providers as a proportion of its customer base in Q1 this year (Jan-Mar 2014).

We know we still have a way to go but we have made some great strides already.

* The price promise relates to the following competitor tariffs (or any replacement tariffs as that company's Standard Tariff): British Gas - Standard, E.ON - Energy Plan, Scottish Power - Standard, npower - Standard, EDF - Standard (Variable), SSE - Standard Energy, in each case as offered directly by the relevant company with a Direct Debit payment method and paperless billing

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About the author: Alec is a 'thirty-something' Londoner, father and husband. He finds energy a perversely fascinating topic which has wide ranging societal, environmental, economic and political impacts. He enjoys challenging the status-quo and wants to see a UK energy market that works for everyone.

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