London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — November 1, 2007 – The J.D. Power and Associates 2007 UK Electricity and Gas Supplier Customer Satisfaction Study released today reveals that failure to communicate changes in pricing tariffs to consumers impacts customer satisfaction.
In the past year, the average annual domestic gas bill has decreased by 9 per cent-from £510.60 ($1020) in 2006 to £466.44 ($932) in 2007, while electricity bills for the same period have increased by 19 per cent-from £453.24 ($906) in 2006 to £540.84 ($1080) in 2007.
"Our research shows that communications around the many changes to price tariffs have strongly impacted levels of customer satisfaction," said Caspar Tearle, director of service industries research at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, the study finds that suppliers who inform their customers of any planned annual service fee adjustments all at once, rather than incrementally throughout the year, fare better in customer satisfaction, even if these service fees are increasing. Customers are more comfortable with this type of communication, as they believe they are better able to acclimatize and have a clearer view of their monthly household budgets."
The study also shows that companies should inform their customers well in advance of any fee adjustments, rather than leaving them to hear of changes through the media. Approximately 44 per cent of gas customers and 30 per cent of electricity customers report that they heard about pricing changes via the media or by word of mouth.
"Utility bills are cutting deeper into consumers’ pockets and account for a larger proportion of monthly household budgets," said Tearle. "Gas and electricity suppliers could, therefore, increase customer satisfaction levels by giving customers information on how to reduce their monthly bills. However, fewer than one-third (28 per cent) of customers say they have received information from their gas supplier on how to do this, and this rate is even lower among electricity customers – 26 per cent."
Many customers take advantage of various discount programs offered by their utility supplier in order to reduce their utility bills. Some key findings include:
- Nearly one in four (22 per cent) gas and electricity customers say they are interested in fixed-price contracts, and 7 per cent of gas customers and 5 per cent of electricity customers say they already have a contract that guarantees no price increases.
- Almost two-thirds of gas customers (59 per cent) receive a discount for taking both gas and electricity from their supplier, which is up from 47 per cent in 2006.
- More than one-half (58 per cent) of gas customers and 55 per cent of electricity customers receive a discount for paying by direct debit.
- Less than one-fifth (18 per cent) of gas customers and 17 per cent of electricity customers say they receive a discount for paying their utility bills promptly.
- Approximately 5 per cent of gas users and 6 per cent of electricity users receive a discount for submitting their own meter reading.
Scottish and Southern Energy ranks highest among gas suppliers for a second consecutive year with an index score of 662 on a 1,000-point scale. Scottish and Southern Energy performs particularly well in the areas of supply quality and reliability, price and value, image, billing and payment and customer service. Experiencing the largest improvement among suppliers examined in the study, EDF follows in the segment rankings, earning a score of 646 points and performing particularly well in billing and price and value.
Scottish and Southern Energy also ranks highest among electricity suppliers with an index score of 628, performing well in power quality and reliability, price and value, image, billing and payment and customer service. EDF Energy (606) and Powergen (606) tie to follow Scottish and Southern Energy in the electricity supplier ranking.
The 2007 UK Electricity and Gas Customer Satisfaction Study is based on 2,649 online interviews with domestic electricity customers and 2,655 online interviews with domestic gas customers throughout the UK.