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Big Six energy firms bottom of list

The "Big Six" energy companies are among the worst offenders when it comes to poor customer service, with npower finishing bottom in a poll of the UK's biggest brands.

The annual Which? survey found all of the big six - British Gas, EDF Energy, E.On, npower, ScottishPower and SSE - languishing in the bottom fifth of the table, with none of them scoring more than two stars for making customers feel valued.

The poll of more than 3,500 consumers gave npower a customer score of 57%, replacing last year's lowest scoring company Ryanair at the bottom of the table.

Second from the bottom is Scottish Power, with a customer rating of 58%, down from joint 62nd in last year's rankings.

SSE managed a customer score of 64%, giving it joint 94th position with BT and EE, while E.On and British Gas achieved 67% and EDF scored 68%.

Internet and telephone bank First Direct topped the table with a score of 87%, achieving the full five stars for making customers feel valued as well as for resolving complaints.

Others in the top five are Lush (86%), John Lewis (83%), Lakeland (83%) and Waitrose (83%).

However other banks fell well below First Direct, such as Santander and NatWest in joint 70th position with a score of 70%, and Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays/Barclaycard who all finished joint 60th with a score of 71%.

Automated phone systems were ranked as the top customer service gripe (43%), followed by "being passed around" (37%) and "annoying hold music" (35%).

Other grievances included staff talking to each other (34%), rude staff (33%), long queues (33%), assistants trying to sell unwanted products (32%), lack of knowledge about products (24%) and having to wait for help or a response (21%).

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "The Big Six energy companies have now hit rock bottom for customer service and, with record high levels of complaints, it is clear just how far they still have to go to put things right for their customers.

"Good companies know the value of customer service, so it's disappointing that some of our biggest firms seem to have a lot to learn about keeping their customers happy.

"This survey should be a wake-up call for the companies with the lowest customer scores."

:: Which? surveyed 3,621 members of the UK public in May and June.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "It is unacceptable that so many customers have not received the customer service they deserve.

"Our reforms are making it easier and quicker for people to switch energy suppliers, particularly to the growing number of independent suppliers, so all energy companies need to be doing more for their customers."

Energy UK said: "Our members are well aware that customer service - along with attractive deals and prices - is at the heart of what their customers are looking for. This is helping drive the sustained increase in switching we are seeing in the energy sector. Energy companies know they are operating in a competitive market and are working hard to improve what they offer.

"We agree with Which? that customer information should always be simple and clear and fair. It is therefore important that the changes introduced earlier this year as part of the regulator's retail market review are fully evaluated from the customers' perspective."

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