United Kingdom

Challenger suppliers trump the Big Six again in satisfaction survey

Small energy supplier Outfox the Market has claimed the top spot in Which?'s annual customer satisfaction survey, rising from a lowly 19th position last year.

The provider, which frequently offers some of the cheapest deals on the market but but has not always been renowned for its customer service, received an impressive customer score of 82 per cent - with five-star ratings for billing accuracy and value for money.

It beat last year's winner, Octopus Energy, which dropped down to second place.

As households rack up higher energy bills under lockdown, with many having to contact their provider, finding a good-value supplier that offers decent customer service has never been more important.  

Survey: Outfox the Market was named as the best energy supplier by customers this year

The full energy satisfaction table shows which energy suppliers are the best and worst ranked

However, it seems customers of challenger providers are much more satisfied with the service from their suppliers than those of the Big Six, as all major firms languish at the bottom of the rankings yet again.

Which? surveyed more than 8,000 people in September 2020 about their experiences with their energy provider across a range of categories including bill accuracy, customer service, complaints handling and value for money.

It found Outfox the Market had the highest proportion of customers, 93 per cent, experiencing no issues in the last 12 months.

However, it was not named a Which? Recommended Provider as it did not provide enough information on its procedures and was ordered to make its payment into Ofgem's feed-in tariff scheme.

Following two years at the top, Octopus Energy was second in this year's satisfaction survey but still achieved an impressive 80 per cent customer score.

It is now one of the UK's largest energy providers, supplying 1.5million homes, however this rapid growth has not stopped it from keeping customers happy.

The provider achieved a five-star rating for bill accuracy and four stars for bill clarity, customer service, complaints handling and value for money.

For the fourth year in a row, Octopus Energy was also named a Which? Recommended Provider, along with digital-only challenger Pure Planet for the second year in a row. 

Greg Jackson, CEO and founder of Octopus Energy, said: 'We're thrilled to be endorsed by Which? for the fourth year in a row – something no other energy supplier has ever achieved before. 

'It proves that our tech-enabled operational model can handle rapid growth whilst maintaining excellent customer service.' 

Steven Day, co-founder of Pure Planet, added: 'We are thrilled that our customer satisfaction is among the highest of any provider while having among the lowest number of customers experiencing problems - this is a major endorsement of our unique digital-only model which delivers great service and low-cost renewable energy.' 

Ensuring customers have excellent customer service and a good value supplier is important

Along with excellent customer scores, energy firms must meet additional criteria including no regulatory intervention, with good procedures and performance when it comes to complaints and customer waiting times, to be named a Recommended Provider.

Avro Energy rounds off the top three firms, with a respectable 76 per cent customer score.

The challenger firm finished in 16th place last year but has made improvements and 89 per cent of its customers said they've had no issues in the past 12 months.

It received a five-star rating for bill accuracy and four-stars for all other categories including customer service and value for money.

Also among the top energy companies were People's Energy, Pure Planet, So Energy and Utility Warehouse - and all four impressed customers when it came to billing accuracy and clarity.

The Big Six energy suppliers have failed to impress their customers compared to smaller firms

The Big Six flounder compared to challenger suppliers

The rise of challenger energy companies and major acquisitions has meant the end of the traditional 'Big Six' energy companies.

However, the former giants, excluding SSE, which is now owned by Ovo, still account for more than half of the energy market and continue to score below average in Which?'s satisfaction survey.

These traditional big firms including British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower and Scottish Power, plus SSE, make up six of the bottom eight energy firms.

Npower was the lowest-ranked energy provider with a customer score of just 54 per cent.

While it received three stars for bill accuracy and customer service, customer feedback meant it got two stars for bill clarity and complaints handling and a dismal one-star rating for value for money.

Scottish Power finished second from bottom with a customer score of 55 per cent. 

It also received a one-star rating for value for money, and just two stars for bill clarity, customer service and complaints handling.

Eon finished third from the bottom, tied with SSE, receiving a customer score of 60 per cent. 

While it received four stars for bill accuracy and three-stars for customer service, it managed just two stars for value for money.

SSE received three stars across most categories but also performed badly when it came to value for money and achieved just one star in this category.

Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which?, said: 'Year after year, challenger and small energy companies outperform the traditional providers in our satisfaction survey - delivering better customer service and offering excellent value for money.

'There are impressive energy companies, from small firms such as Outfox the Market to rapidly expanding companies like Octopus Energy, so customers do not have to put up with substandard service from any provider.

'Anyone unhappy with their provider should do their research and consider switching to one that can offer a better experience overall - you could save more than £150 a year.'

Could you cut your energy bills... or help the planet and go green? 

Millions of people could be needlessly overpaying for their energy as they fail to switch to providers who offer cheaper deal.

They may also be missing out on the opportunity to help the planet and fight climate change, by switching to green deals that offer electricity from renewable sources and more environmentally-friendly gas.

With our partner, Compare the Market, you can compare energy tariffs and exclusive deals.

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