SSE responds to Which? campaign
Will Morris, Group MD, Retail
Following on from my blog post before Christmas, I’d like to assure our customers that we value their loyalty and welcome the opportunity to address some of the points that Which? has raised. We strive to do more for customers and aim to provide a service that is simple, helpful and rewarding.
How do we reward customer loyalty?
First and foremost, we know that the price of energy is a key concern for customers and I hope that our promise to cap standard household prices this winter (until at least April 2017) provides some comfort. Our standard prices haven’t increased since November 2013 and, in fact, we’ve cut standard electricity prices once and gas prices three times since then. As a result a typical dual fuel bill is now 12% lower on average than it was at Christmas 2013. We’re currently one of very few suppliers offering a fixed price for three years, enabling you to lock in a low price all the way to 2020.
Because we want to reward loyalty, we’ve developed a range of offers that give extra value, available exclusively to SSE customers:
- A free ‘boiler rescue’ potentially worth over £300, according to GoCompare (currently only available in parts of Great Britain but with plans to roll out nationally).
- Our customers will be first to benefit from offers through our essential and connected home partnership with Dixons Carphone, a one-stop solution for managing and maintaining all the services and appliances in their home, which we will be developing through 2017.
- Our SSE Reward programme is free and exclusive to SSE customers and offers the chance to jump the queue for tickets at major venues and access ‘money can't buy’ experiences with some of the world’s leading performers. Customers can sign up for free here.
- If customers don’t already have one, they can register here for a free smart meter that could help save money by giving households real-time information about their energy consumption.
All this is in addition to providing a consistently high standard of customer service – earlier this year we set a new record for the best ever score in the Citizens Advice Energy Supplier Performance report. We also go the extra mile to support customers who may be vulnerable, investing in enhancing our training to help identify and support those customers and providing additional routes for them to communicate with us through Signvideo and Language Line. There’s plenty of help and support available, for example through our Priority Services Register, and if any customers have any concerns then more information can be found here.
Are customers ‘stuck on expensive tariffs’?
Despite this, many (including Which?) have suggested that most energy customers don’t get a fair deal or are ‘stuck on expensive tariffs’. We believe strongly that this isn’t the case.
Firstly it’s never been easier to switch and we actively and regularly tell all our customers if there is a better tariff available for them. So no-one should feel ‘stuck’. We’re also delivering a huge project to make switching much faster and easier by 2019.
Secondly, although around nine in 10 SSE customers are on our standard tariff, our public accounts show we make an average profit of around 5p in the pound in our energy supply business. We think this shows clearly that standard customers aren’t paying over the odds. We do sometimes offer time-limited discounts to pass on short-term cost movements, but standard prices reflect the risks and costs that go with managing volatile costs for millions of customers who are under no obligation to stay with us. Claims that energy customers are being over-charged by £1.4bn have been discredited, not least by a group of senior former (independent) regulators. After all, this is more than the profits of all the energy suppliers combined – so implies that we are expected to make a loss!
Some customers simply prefer the flexibility of a ‘no-ties’ variable contract. But we also agree with Which? that we must make sure customers aren’t simply disengaged. The key thing is to ensure customers are aware of all the options available to them and are making active, informed choices. That’s why we’ll soon be trialling new communications approaches to engage standard variable customers with the different products we offer.
Our customers’ satisfaction and loyalty matters a great deal to us. So we work hard to offer fair, stable and affordable prices and reward our loyal customers. That has been our focus in 2016 and we know we’ll have to work doubly hard in 2017.