Over the last few years, efforts from Government and regulators have increased in order to try and encourage UK consumers to engage more with their energy supply. There has also been much more widespread coverage in the news and other media. We have also seen the emergence of challenger brands in the energy sector promising to offer consumers a compelling mix of low prices and excellent customer service.
Q: Have you ever switched your energy supplier for gas, electricity, or both of these services? (Base: Dual Fuel – 692; Electricity – 297; Gas – 149)
Recently published figures suggest that 2016 was a record year for energy switching. Energy UK said almost one million more people changed supplier last year, an increase of 26 per cent on 2015.
In light of this, Harris Interactive, in conjunction with Utility Week, recently launched a survey to a nationally representative audience of just over 1,000 consumers to measure switching behaviour and attitudes. This research is the first of a regular iteration conducted by Utility Week and Harris Interactive.
We found that, although there are still about a third of consumers that have never switched energy supply, the majority of people stated that they had switched once and when you look at switching within the last 12 months, 37% stated that they had completed their first switch. This is encouraging and suggests that the measures put in place to get UK consumers to engage with their energy supply more is paying off.
When it comes to where consumers are switching, however, the vast majority (over 75%) are sticking with the traditional Big 6, which suggests that many still have doubts over the challenger brands despite often offering lower prices. Perhaps the mindset of consumers is that if they can find a well-known supplier that it is “in the right ballpark” in terms of price then they’ll switch to them. Whilst customer service will be important to some, particularly those who have had a bad experience, many of us have no need to contact our energy supplier so service isn’t as much of a consideration. This is backed up by the fact that that saving money was very clearly the main motivation for switching (75%), way ahead of getting better customer service (just 10%).
Q: Which of the following best describes how you found the process of switching energy supplier the last time you switched? (Base: 704)
Another encouraging finding from the research was that, when asked how they found the process of switching energy supplier, those who switched overwhelmingly said that it was easy and straightforward. What was interesting was that 1st time switchers were much more likely to say that it was very easy and straightforward than 2nd time switchers which suggests that 2nd time switchers may have encountered issues with the incumbent or new supplier or it perhaps reflects the fact that they have a benchmark from their previous experience to measure against? When asked why they found the process easy or difficult, the role of the supplier came through strongly for both those who found it easy and difficult so it demonstrates how crucial their role is. Double billing was the biggest worry for energy switchers (33%) followed by the concern that a new deal might leave them worse off (25%). Given the proportion of people that found the switching process easy and straightforward, however, continued promotion of how easy it is should hopefully overcome any concerns that consumers still have.
Click here to see the full report.