switching trend
© Katie Nesling |

New survey results released by 383 Project reveal that UK bill payers are not as disloyal as the switching trend makes out, indicating that they would stay with current providers if only they were given a fair, simple and consistent service

New research shows that in spite of widespread distrust of the UK’s major water, electricity, gas and telecoms companies, there is a growing appetite for loyalty. Good news, at last, for those utility providers who are prepared to face up to their foundation-level failures and harness new technologies to put things right for their customers.

Respondents across all age groups demonstrated that access to clear and concise information would stop them from switching, with an average of 1 in 5 saying that getting this fundamental service right would encourage them to stay: 18-24-year-olds (21%); 25-34-year-olds (23%); 35-44-year-olds (20%); 45-54-year-olds (21%); 55+ year olds (25%).

Rewards for loyalty, stable rates and great customer service also topped the table when it came to convincing customers to stay.  Meanwhile, at the bottom end of the scale was the promise of engaging social media presences and easy-to-use mobile apps: just 4% and 16% respectively stated it would encourage them to remain with their current supplier.

“This is an important learning,” says commercial director, 383, Oliver Disney. “There is increased pressure across all sectors for businesses to embrace digital transformation, and with good reason, too. But harnessing digital for the sake of it and delivering a one-size-fits-all solution that you THINK your customers want, is not going to do you any favours. This survey shows that assumptions around customers’ appetites for social media platforms and mobile apps are off centre. These will only become important and prove useful once the basics have been addressed.”

Key findings include:

  • Incentives and rewards would encourage 50% of 55+-year-olds to stay with their current utility supplier, with stable rates also being attractive to 46% of this age group.
  • On average, only 16% of consumers would be persuaded to stay if there was an easy to use mobile app
  • Two thirds (66%) of respondents have switched providers (20% of respondents said they would stay if there was a better service!)
  • Only 39% on average, of customers who have switched, thought it a simple process
  • On average, 40% of consumers care about sustainable energy, but won’t pay more for it, raising the question of what energy providers need to do to better to help with sustainability agendas.

For utility providers, this research gives a good insight into what their customers actually want, and that personalisation must be at the core of their customer experiences. One-size-fits-all-solutions simply won’t work.

End of the switching road?

“While energy switching hit a new high in 2018, our new survey shows a different picture emerging,” said Disney.

“The energy sector, in particular, is under intense pressure, with 925K+ customers falling victim to a failed supplier in the last 18 months – with a quarter of a million of those being moved to a higher, standard variable tariff via Ofgem’s Supplier of Last Resort system. The promise of smarter, cheaper, quicker energy providers isn’t as alluring as perhaps it once was, with customers becoming more savvy about the superficiality some new players are bringing to the table. And if the feeling is that switching isn’t saving them money, and it is actually more complicated than is necessary, then the switching trend could be heading towards a significant roadblock.

However, utility providers aren’t off the ‘switching hook’ yet. New Ofcom regulations have made it easier than ever to switch mobile phones with just a simple text message. “So rather than relying on others failing, utility providers who are serious about their customers need to focus on getting the basics right. And that means listening to what customers really want.”

According to 383’s research, here’s how UK bill-payers ranked what they felt matters most and would, in fact, help build a better relationship between consumer and provider:

  1. Guarantees on best price (1,194 votes)
  2. A year off utility bills after 5 years of loyalty (1,072)
  3. Free vouchers (991)
  4. Conservation and environmentally related products and gizmos sent through the post – i.e. seeds to plant, metal water bottles (506)
  5. Great competitions and promotions such as a ‘round the world ticket a year (283)
  6. Amazing charity campaigns (222)
  7. Super cool digital interaction i.e. cool app, cool site – great journeys across all (182)

“This ranking clearly shows that cool digital gadgets and interactions are not the silver bullet to attracting and retaining customers. An excellent experience is. And that’s where digital can help power it. After all, what use is a chatbot if all it does is frustrate customers when they can’t get the information they need? The results of the survey are encouraging for largescale utility providers, but they have to understand, there’s no quick fix and no one-size-fits-all solution,” Disney concluded.


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