It’s no secret that the last 18 months have been extremely challenging for consumers. The cost-of-living crisis, post-pandemic recovery and soaring energy bills have all contributed to customers being more vulnerable and reliant on customer service.
In response, Ofgem has completed a full review, engaging with businesses, consumers and energy suppliers alike to understand more about the challenges they are up against.
The result is a new proposed set of standards designed to drive up standards and protect consumers – both domestic and business owners – this coming winter.
What are the proposed standards?
Ofgem’s new standards focus on enhancing the customer experience and contact center interactions. The key areas are:
1. Extending energy supplier enquiry lines to operate longer hours
That includes greater evening and weekend availability to serve customers as and when they need help.
2. Providing multiple contact methods
Ofgem’s placing greater emphasis on accessing help digitally, through email and web chat.
3. Providing effective support for customers struggling with bills
Ofgem wants to see consumers supported – highlighting early intervention and offering temporary repayment holidays.
4. Prioritizing immediate assistance for customers in vulnerable situations
Customers need to be triaged effectively to access the help they need.
5. Establishing 24/7 emergency support
This is for customers experiencing power or gas supply issues due to supplier-related problems.
6. Suppliers should share customer service performance information
Helping customers make an informed choice when switching suppliers, with transparency ultimately encouraging improved service overall.
What do Ofgem’s new standards mean for contact centers?
Of course, this should come as great news to customers – but the logistical implications for contact centers are far-reaching. Implementation of these standards is forecast for December, with Ofgem having finalized the standards in October.
That’s some tight timing for energy firms. After all, these are significant changes involving not just longer opening hours, but a potentially wider tech stack and revisiting internal processes to help the most vulnerable. From agent resourcing to potentially leveraging outsourced support, energy firms will have their work cut out for them to make the changes in time for this coming winter.
What are the wider implications of Ofgem’s standards?
Regulated industries often set customer service standards that influence other sectors. These changes only impact the energy sector and related service providers – for now. Other sectors should be eyeing these changes with interest, as customers start to expect more from companies and transparency, accessibility and prioritization become the norm.
At a customer service level, this can only be a good thing. But businesses will no doubt want to allow themselves enough time to shift their standards to meet the increasing demands of both customers and regulators alike.
Want to see what good looks like? Take a look at our E Gas & Electricity customer story today.
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