When it comes to customer service, getting it right first time is vital. For UK energy retailers, this is becoming ever more crucial, as customer service failings not only lead to reputational risk, but also attention from the regulator, which can often result in fines.

The recent consultation announced by from Ofgem, following research they carried out showing customer service levels were declining, asks energy retailers to extend their opening hours and offer more support to customers has come after an extended period of focus on how energy suppliers treat their customers – particularly the most vulnerable.  Well documented failings such as British Gas’s treatment of customers during the installation of prepayment meters, plus Ofgem fines handed down to E.ON News and Ovo for service issues means that the spotlight is on customer service as never before.

For energy retailers, optimising customer service whilst keeping cost to serve as low as possible is the perennial challenge. In the past, service standards may well have slipped in the drive to bring down costs and protect the low levels of margin that suppliers have traditionally seen.  But it’s clear now that Ofgem will be paying ever closer attention to this element of the suppliers’ performance.

One of the most challenging aspects of delivering excellent customer service is making sure that systems are performing optimally. Frequent occurrence of exceptions and errors in data flows can have knock on impacts on billing and communication with customer – which driven complaints and an increase in inbound enquiries. This not only causes frustration for customer – it also impacts demand on customer service teams, potentially pushing more enquiries into more expensive out of hours support channels. By focusing on the reliability and efficiency of their systems, energy retailers can minimize the need for customer interactions caused by system-related problems.

Digitalisation is also a key element of driving better performance by streamlining customer service – having inbuilt flexibility in your systems to enable customers to do straightforward tasks online can free up valuable time for customer service agents to deal with more complex issues.  Ofgem now also expects suppliers to offer multiple contact channels to meet growing customer expectation.   Embracing technology means that energy retailers can improve response times and enhance the overall customer experience.

In conclusion, getting customer service right the first time is a vital aspect of success for UK energy retailers. Getting on the front foot with modern technology, investing in systems and processes that work efficiently and effectively – reducing errors – and ensuring that retailers are using the latest technology to manage contact with their customers means that they can avoid regulatory oversight, and deliver a far better customer experience.