Complaints - How we're doing
Our latest complaints performance for the fourth quarter of 2013 covers the period 1 October to 31 December. It includes British Gas and me (mobile energy) performance and that of our partnership brand Sainsbury’s Energy.
Quarterly complaints performance – British Gas Residential
Top 5 complaint reasons
|As a percentage of the total complaints received||Q4 2012||Q1 2013||Q2 2013||Q3 2013||Q4 2013
We know that, regrettably, sometimes our customers do not receive the level of service they expect from British Gas. This can cover concerns about the level of service we’ve provided, or the actions we've taken. This area is a key priority for us as we strive for service excellence, getting things right for our customers first time and keeping every promise we make.
This year we have also been through a rigorous process to upgrade all of our systems and train our staff on how to use new features and we believe this will improve customer service over the long term.
The increases in customer service complaints during Q4 can be linked to the higher than expected call volume we received. This is following the 10 million letters/emails we sent to our customers explaining the changes to our product range and pricing structures required by Ofgem's Retail Market Review. The letters/emails also explained the background to our price rise and advised what we can do to help. Unfortunately, these higher than expected volumes resulted in customers having to experience longer than acceptable call waiting times. However our website successfully handled record volumes of activity throughout this period.
Actions we're taking
- We’re investing in our front line customer service teams to reduce the time it is taking to respond to our customers and resolve their complaints.
- We’re continuing to focus on the root causes of complaints, as well as using customer insight to create sustainable improvement to our processes and customer experiences.
- We’re also introducing a new and improved quality assurance measure to monitor performance, which will help us improve the level of service our customers receive.
Payment related complaints can be linked to seasonality, tariff changes and explanation of Direct Debit plans. We review payment plans at least twice a year and also when a customer rolls off a long term contract on to a new tariff and after a price event. In Q4 2013 we reviewed over 4.6 million payment plans. We do this to make sure plans are as accurate as possible and this can mean some payment plans are adjusted more regularly. When we carry out a review, some of our customers get in touch to understand the adjustment we’ve made.
Actions we're taking
- We’ve included a message on our reassessment statements to advise our customers that their plans now include our recent price reduction.
- We’re trialling a personalised online video explaining how we’ve carried out the Direct Debit review. This will be sent to our customers as a link within our bill notification email and to customers who have had either an increase or decrease at their annual review.
- We’re also improving our final refund process for customers moving home, to reduce the time taken to receive any refund that is due to them.
The issues our customers have had within the billing category predominately relate to disputing the amount billed, understanding the information that is displayed on the bill and queries relating to their tariff.
We’ve already taken steps to address these concerns, for example by introducing a new, clearer bill and ‘Tariff Check’ - a personalised half-yearly review for our credit meter customers using their actual energy consumption. Customers are informed via their bill if they could save money by moving to a different British Gas tariff and our Prepayment customers will be informed via their annual statement.
We’ve also been working with Ofgem, the energy regulator, to make energy pricing more simple and easier to understand. As a result, we’ve introduced a fairer new pricing structure in order to help consumers better understand and more easily compare tariffs across the energy industry.
Following the Government’s decision to make the UK’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) programme less costly, from the 1 January 2014, we’ve been able to reduce our dual fuel energy bills by an average of £41 for our residential energy customers and customers will also benefit from a £12 rebate on the Warm Home Discount.
We’ve also launched Hive Active Heating, a mobile-based remote heating and hot water control. This is the first of a series of British Gas Hive products that will use technology to help customers better connect their homes and their energy usage, to their lives.
We believe that the key to reducing billing complaints will be the reduction of estimated bills. We continue to lead the industry by installing smart meters in customers' homes, with over 865,000 smart meters installed to date and our plans are to continue this rigorous programme during 2014. This will help lead to more accurate billing.
Actions we're taking
- More and more customers are choosing to provide us with their own meter readings and we’re making it easier for them to do so through online, phone, mobile Apps and text message services.
- As Britain’s biggest supporter of the ECO initiative, we’re investing hundreds of millions in free or subsidised loft and cavity wall insulation for people who need it most. You don’t even have to be a British Gas customer to apply. Check online to see if you could benefit or call 0800 107 7793.
- We’re also introducing an exciting new online tool which will be accessible through a mobile App. This will make it much easier for all our customers, including those without an online account, to provide us with their meter reading in just a few simple steps.
Metering complaints can be linked to the number of meters being exchanged or where a customer experiences a fault with their meter. During Q4 we continued to focus on ensuring that jobs are being booked correctly. This will improve the number of jobs completed first time.
We’ve also introduced a new management information tool, to further improve the information we receive on why appointments are missed.
Actions we're taking
- We’re continuing with our root cause analysis to understand the key causes of metering complaints. From this, specific action plans have been developed around the key drivers to ensure that actions/results are being tracked.
- We’re identifying further opportunities where we couldn’t complete the job on the first visit, for example issues with commissioning the smart meter.
- We’re also trialling the effectiveness of some recently improved customer communications, by measuring the reduction in the volume of jobs where we’ve been unable to gain access.
We know that this is an area of increasing concern, with more customers finding themselves in a challenging financial position.
Through our British Gas Energy Trust, we continue to work with Citizens Advice, Shelter and other agencies and now have fifteen localised Energy Advice Centres across the country. We’ve increased the funding available to the Trust, are working hard to ensure this is promoted and hope to increase the network of our Energy Advice Centres over the next few months.
In 2013 we helped 10,735 consumers through the British Gas Energy Trust; awarding more than £7m in grants to help with outstanding bills and replacement household goods. Our Warm Home Discount Scheme also offers broad criteria of eligibility and during this winter could provide £135 off a customer’s electricity bill.
All our agents are trained to offer help and advice and agree an affordable repayment amount, whilst ensuring that all appropriate services are offered to our customers, including discussing the best tariff available.
If you're having trouble paying your gas or electricity bill you can find further information in our ‘Lots of Ways to Pay' booklet.
Actions we're taking
- To support our customers in paying their bills, we’re offering a wide range of payment options from Direct Debit to pay as you go meters.
- We’re planning on supporting more than 500,000 customers through the Warm Home Discount Scheme this winter and we’re promoting the Energy Company Obligation, Green Deal and energy efficiency advice as ways to help customers reduce their energy bills. To support this we’ve introduced a new online tool to help customers check what extra help they may be eligible for.
- We’re also working closely with third party agencies, e.g. Step Change and Money Advice Trust to help customers with wider financial struggles. We’re now able to transfer customers straight through to the Step Change advice line for further financial advice and support with debt issues.
View our Annual Consumer Complaints Report, which details how we’ve performed in relation to the number of complaints we weren’t able to resolve on the same, or next working day.
 Previously reported volumes have been amended retrospectively by the Ombudsman Services: Energy following re-categorisation after investigation.
 Customer Service complaints have been re-categorised from Q4 2013.
 Previously known as debt.