Energy companies putting customer service on hold

New Which? research has revealed how energy companies’ customer service departments measure up when it comes to answering calls, with one supplier keeping us waiting on one call for nearly half an hour.

Energy companies receive an astounding 60 million phone calls a year to their customer service departments.

Our investigation shows that, on average, we were left waiting on hold for anything between 21 seconds (Ebico) to 17 minutes and 5 seconds (Npower) before we could speak to someone.  The shortest waiting time we recorded in one single call was 4 seconds (Ebico), however Npower had the longest waiting time, with our mystery caller waiting for 29 minutes before getting through. Consumers have told us that they are fed up with waiting, with three in ten (31%) saying that being left on hold for long periods before speaking to someone is one of their biggest bugbears when calling their energy provider’s customer service.

We called 16 energy companies 12 times each at set times of the day to find out just how long customers could be left on hold.  We recorded how long it took between finishing dialling the customer service number to getting through to an adviser.  We then calculated an average waiting time for each company.

Which? believes it is reasonable to expect that customer service calls are answered within two minutes.  Only six of the suppliers we called had an average waiting time of less than two minutes, including just one of the major six energy companies (EDF Energy).

Comparing these findings with a previous investigation we found that many firms are slower to pick up calls from existing customers than they are prospective ones. Of the six major energy providers, our findings showed that all but Eon were quicker to answer calls to their sales number than calls to their customer services.


Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“It’s unacceptable that some energy suppliers are leaving their customers dangling on the phone for anything up to half an hour.

“If energy companies want to restore trust in the industry they must work harder to make people feel confident that customer service is a top priority, and stop putting sales over service.

“We’d like to see calls to customer service centres being picked up within two minutes.”



Notes to editors:

1.    A full table of customer service waiting times and companies can be found here

2.    Bug bears survey: In March 2013 we asked 896 GB adults what their biggest bugbear was when calling energy suppliers’ customer service.  We found 39% said it was when the phone number wasn’t a Freephone number, 31% said it was having to wait a long time on hold before speaking to someone, 26% said going through an automated system before speaking to someone and 22% said automated messages being played while they were waiting such as “your call is important to us”.

3.    The reason why people call energy companies’ customer service departments include: questions about price tariffs, bill queries, submitting a meter reading and moving house.

4.    In Which?’s biggest ever energy company satisfaction survey earlier this year, we asked more than 10,000 of the general public about their experiences and satisfaction with their energy suppliers.  Energy survey tables for 2013 and 2012 can be found here.

5.    Information about our Energy telesales survey can be found here

6.    We are calling for radical new measures to increase competition in the energy market as part of our Affordable Energy campaign. These include speeding up the switching process and a single unit price for energy, so that prices can be easily compared.  You can find more information here.

7.    People can compare energy prices using Which? Switch.  You can find more information here.

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