Auto-switching services for energy customers: can they help build customer trust?

Ambitions on increasing customer switching run into one problem: it’s a tedious business, and one that can leave you uncertain, on switching sites, whether you really have got a better deal. New auto-switch services could change that. Last month Janet Wood spoke to Flipper and Swuto, both hoping to take the pressure off domestic consumers, and Energy-Scanner, which aims to get small businesses more active.

Can they help disengaged customers take action? And will they bypass switching sites? Read the full article

 

Vanessa Clark, director, Energy and Resources Practice, Baringa, responds:

Our recent study on financially vulnerable customers provides one of the first dedicated reports into those in need within the energy sector. People within this category are 25 times more likely to struggle to pay their energy bills and only around 10% believe their energy provider knows they are financially vulnerable. This means they are struggling to pay their bills or having to make other cut backs in order to pay.

Energy providers have a role to play in helping these customers understand their bills and products through clear and honest communications. Only one in four vulnerable customers can easily comprehend their energy bills and this is even worse for those experiencing serious financial difficulties.

This presents a clear opportunity for auto-switching services and price matching guarantees as a way of helping customers access lower tariffs. If it can be presented in an easy to understand format, it will build consumer trust. Only one in ten customers who consider themselves financially vulnerable currently believe that they are given access to the best deals by their energy provider.

Clear pricing and easy access to support and advice can provide a lifeline to customers, enabling them to save money at a difficult time. It is also a potential opportunity for energy providers; our research found that clear communication and payment flexibility were amongst the factors most likely to engender customer loyalty.

In addition to helping customers access and understand lower tariffs, auto-switching may also ease the concerns they have about stepping forward for support.  Currently many vulnerable customers say they do not want to be proactively identified by their providers, perhaps because they feel uneasy about being contacted to discuss financially sensitive matters. Auto-switching services could provide an effective way to support vulnerable customers in finding more affordable tariffs, provided communication is delivered in a clear and transparent way.

As a closing thought, for those organisations set to enter the auto-switching market, our research revealed that vulnerable customers especially dislike automated menus and will want to talk through matters when they become more complex. Friendly and empathetic customer service will need to be on hand to support with any difficulties.

 

Read more responses to the article here

1 comment for “Auto-switching services for energy customers: can they help build customer trust?

  1. Dr Tony West
    April 8, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    This automatic customer switching implies the choice is only about price. What about customer service?
    Will there be controls to ensure suppliers can handle huge volumes of switchers because be definition, there will always be one supplier cheaper than the rest so all switchers will be directed to the same supplier. How will they manage their price risk?
    What if this supplier goes bust, what chaos will this cause and what will that do for trust?

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