Energy retailer customer service ‘still below average’

Frustrated male customer on mobile phone (customer services)
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Ease—the effort a customer expends to achieve their goals—improved for the energy retailers performing best on customer service, but performance is still below average, according to the latest SenseCX benchmarking results published by CSBA.

SenseCX is a Quality Assurance framework that measures the quality of customer interactions with organisations, based on three indices—Success, Ease and Sentiment. Results are published every quarter.

A total of 203 major Australian companies from seven sectors, including 14 energy retailers and 18 energy distributors, were covered in the study. The results, comprising 11,590 independent assessments using 30 key customer-focused behaviours for each interaction, were completed via anonymous telephone conversations with contact centre agents. 

Related article: ActewAGL ranks #1 for customer service in energy sector

Energy retailer, ActewAGL, ranked #8 across seven industries and #1 in the Energy Retail sector, with an overall score of 73.7%.

In the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022, the Top 5 energy retailers performing best in customer service improved their Ease scores by an average of 1.1 points from 40.9% to 42%.   

However, at the same time, the Median Benchmark was stable (33.2%) while the Bottom 5 Performers Average dropped 1.1 points from 31.5% to 30.4%.

From March 2019 to June 2022, the Median Benchmark for Ease dropped 2.7 points from 35.9% to 33.2%, while the Bottom 5 Performers Average declined 2.2 points from 32.6% to 30.4%.

Meanwhile, Success—the degree to which the customer can accomplish their goals—made the biggest improvement in the same three-year period, although performance remained unchanged in the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022. 

From March 2019 to June 2022, the Top 5 Performers Average improved 5.7 points from 66.7% to 72.4%, the Median Benchmark improved 9.2 points from 59.3% to 68.5%, and the Bottom 5 Performers Average improved 3.7 points from 57.8% to 61.8%.

Sentiment—how the interaction made the customer feel—which peaked at the height of the pandemic, remained unchanged at 62.3% in the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022.

From March 2019 to June 2022, Sentiment scores improved across the sector. The biggest improvement came from the Bottom 5 Performers, with an increase of 2.1 points, from 59.4% to 61.5%.      

Customers get resolution, but not easily 

CSBA CX director for utilities Sudipta Dutt said the Success scores show that agents are getting more effective at delivering clear resolutions for their customers. However, the drop in the Median Ease Index score suggests that while they are taking the time to address the customer’s enquiry, they are not making those interactions easy.

“Success is all about discovering the customer’s needs—asking questions to fully understand what is required to enable a resolution that is tailored for the customer,” Dutt said.

“But Ease remains a struggle for many agents, primarily due to agents not providing valuable information by answering unasked questions.”

Their biggest challenges included driving the interaction; adding value; and providing a clear summary of key points and next steps.

“An improvement in Sentiment scores indicate that agents are recognising the need to focus on the human experience while managing the transaction itself,” she said.  

“Our research shows that empathy and emotional connection drive customer satisfaction and behaviour.”

Energy Retail sector outranked

The sector’s overall performance remained stable in the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022, while Education, Commercial, and Water showed improvement. 

The Median Benchmark Average for energy retailers was 55.1%, compared to Education which improved 2.8 points to 61.5%, Commercial which improved 3.1 points to 57.4%, and Water which improved 0.7 points to 56.8%.

Ranking below energy retailers are energy distributors (53.7%) which improved 1.1 points, Banking (54.5%) and Superannuation (53.2%) which remained stable, and Local Government (52.8%) which dropped 0.7 points.  

And while the Top 5 energy retailers remained at 60.7%, the Top 5 performers of other sectors improved an average of 1 to 2.7 points for the Water (71.9%), Commercial (62%) and Superannuation (57.8%) sectors.

However, in the period from March 2019 to June 2022, energy retailers made the biggest improvement across all sectors—climbing 4.0 points from 51.1% to 55.1%.

Related article: ReAmped Energy advises customers to look elsewhere

Time for action

As Dutt puts it simply, energy retailers can’t afford to rest on their laurels at a time when customer expectations are rapidly increasing.

“The pandemic raised the bar for customer expectations. And organisations must work harder to make each interaction count,” she said.

“Now’s the time to implement a continuous cycle of improvement using regular analysis and independent feedback on customer interactions. It’s not too late to turn your customer service outcomes around.”

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