SSE, one of Britain’s so-called Big Six energy firms, has offered to compensate customers as a matter of course if they receive substandard service.
Keen to demonstrate its commitment to customer satisfaction at a time of record-high gas and electricity tariffs, the supplier has promised to reduce the energy bills of customers who do not receive a sufficiently high service.
Exactly how much will affected customers receive off their bills?
SSE customers may welcome whatever help comes their way, especially if they happen to fall victim to poor service; however, £20 may be considered a derisory figure in the circumstances. According to recently published figures, the average dual-fuel bill in England and Wales now costs £1,352 per annum. £20 represents just 1.48 per cent of the average annual bill.
Is SSE really doing enough to compensate customers for poor service? The supplier’s Deputy Chief Executive, Alistair Phillips-Davies, believes customers ought to be excited about the pledge.
Mr Phillips-Davies said: “We are going to put our money where our mouth is.
“It [the discount] will also drive internal performance, because if we start making thousands of mistakes it’s going to cost us money”.
The Deputy Chief Executive added that SSE had not set aside funds to pay for instances of poor service because he is unwilling to “budget for failure”. In any case, SSE would be expected to increase gas and electricity tariffs, as the firm last did in August 2012, should profits be hit as a result of the service pledge.
As for what can be described as poor service, Mr Phillips-Davies said: “Where people [SSE customer service staff] are not helpful, hang up on you, you get transferred around and around and then disappear into the telephonic abyss”.
SSE lost thousands of customers in the final quarter of 2012 after announcing that energy tariffs would rise. In November, the supplier defended its decision despite reporting half-year profits of £397.5 million (April-September 2012). Interestingly, £20 is 0.000005 per cent of 397.5 million, which can account for 19,875,000 instances of poor service.
Bill payers can control costs to an extent by improving energy efficiency in the home. Installing loft insulation,cavity wall insulation and double glazing can reduce bills by more than £200 per annum.