Getting things right for our customers

Following our letter of apology to all customers in December 2013, we've been working really hard and made real progress, both on problems we've had and the overall service we're now providing.

Paul Massara

In September, the energy industry regulator Ofgem published the results of its latest consumer research report into domestic and micro-business customer satisfaction with energy companies’ complaints handling. Ofgem felt that the results were unacceptable and called on all suppliers to provide a public response to the issues they raised.

The report stated that the level of customer satisfaction with complaint handling had dropped from their previous survey two years ago. Particular areas for improvement were identified. These included companies being proactive, taking ownership of complaints, communicating the next steps and timings with their customers, empowering complaints handling staff to take decisions and improving the speed of resolution.

All suppliers were asked to publish their response by 24th October.

Our official response to Ofgem, from our Chief Executive Paul Massara is published below.

Dear Mr Nolan,

Open letter – npower – customer satisfaction with suppliers’ complaint handling

I write in response to your letter dated 26th September and welcome this opportunity to publicly respond to the issues you raise. I want all npower customers to have confidence in us as their energy supplier and so it was with concern that I noted that your survey identified instances where we may have fallen short of meeting their expectations in how we handle complaints. In this letter, I will address the issues you have raised – as well as share some of the improvements we have been making.

Number of domestic complaints

Following the installation of a new billing system, we saw some technical issues, which resulted in a higher than usual number of complaints from affected customers. We focussed all of our efforts in resolving these problems - including rectifying the IT issues and deploying additional people. I am pleased to report that these actions have helped reduce the number of complaints we have received in 2014.

Total complaints received Q1 – 450,178
Q2 – 368,410
Q3 – 326,139
Complaints received per 100,000 customers Q1 – 8,303
Q2 – 6,890
Q3 – 6,258
Total complaints resolved Q1 – 446,606
Q2 – 399,424
Q3 – 341,946
Complaints resolved per 100,000 customers Q1 – 8,237
Q2 – 7,470
Q3 – 6,561
Resolved within 1 working day Q1 – 86.12%
Q2 – 81.43%
Q3 – 84.95%
Resolved within 8 weeks Q1 – 94.13%
Q2 – 94.43%
Q3 – 97.19%

Total complaints received
Q1 – 450,178
Q2 – 368,410
Q3 – 326,139

Complaints received per 100,000 customers
Q1 – 8,303
Q2 – 6,890
Q3 – 6,258

Total complaints resolved
Q1 – 446,606
Q2 – 399,424
Q3 – 341,946

Complaints resolved per 100,000 customers
Q1 – 8,237
Q2 – 7,470
Q3 – 6,561

Resolved within 1 working day
Q1 – 86.12%
Q2 – 81.43%
Q3 – 84.95%

Resolved within 8 weeks
Q1 – 94.13%
Q2 – 94.43%
Q3 – 97.19%

We believe the most important measure is how many complaints are outstanding after 24 hours – or ‘net complaints’. The following graph illustrates a 60% reduction since February this year in net complaints.

Domestic complaints graph

Your survey highlighted the importance of treating customers ‘as an individual’. We offer a choice of channels for customers to contact us. We also handle complaints using a more personalised approach already incorporating further skills into our specialist complaints teams with plans to roll this out further across our Customer Service teams.

We want to keep our customers up to date on how we are improving so we publish our progress on reducing complaints – including Ombudsman cases - on npower.com. We also outline our complaints process on our website. Any customer whose complaint has not been resolved within 24 hours is signposted to this.

In your report, you stated that 38% of complaints are about billing, whereas earlier this year, over 70% of our complaints were billing related. We recently announced that we had reduced the number of late invoices from 527k (equating to 340K customers) in mid-May to 100K (equating to c. 63k customers). This will significantly reduce the number of complaints we receive. We also saw issues with our transfer process (which had the second highest proportion of complaints in your survey). I am pleased to report that these issues have been resolved so we will also see significant reductions in this category.

Key improvements and changes

Since your February survey, we have focussed on addressing the issues raised and delivering significant changes across npower to improve how we look after our customers. We have a number of initiatives in place to do this.

1. Customer Transformation Programme (CTP)

This programme, which began in 2012, focusses on the entire customer journey. It allows us to identify and address the six areas which drive customer complaints, which we have named ‘I join’, ‘I move’, ‘I pay’, ‘I enquire’, ‘I leave’ and ‘my terms change’. Segmenting these areas has meant that we can quickly and efficiently make changes to our processes. For example:

  • We now have a dedicated team to support customers who may have experienced a delay in receiving a bill.
  • We have introduced a dedicated Bereavement Services Team to support customers who are going through a particularly difficult time. To date, we have seen a 60% drop in complaints in this area.
  • We now have senior advisors in our key customer service areas who can offer support to our front line advisors in resolving a complaint during the first contact with a customer. They also offer one to one coaching and the role is allocated to a single team of advisors which improves our ability to resolve more complex queries while the customer is on the telephone.

2. New way Of Working (NWOW)

This programme is key to successfully delivering our Customer Transformation Programme as it transforms the way we work using proven methodology. The programme has been introduced across our operational areas with specific focus on:

  • Voice Of The Customer - so our customers are at the heart of everything we do
  • Performance Management - so everyone at npower is fully accountable and their performance measured through a balanced set of KPIs, including key customer metrics
  • Organisation and Skill - so we can shape our company to focus more on our customers’ needs
  • Mindset and Behaviours - so we work collectively to increase employee satisfaction and empower them to bring forward new ideas and also drive continuous improvement
  • Process Efficiency - so we can focus on looking after our customers in a cost effective way by building efficient and standardised processes.

To date, around 2,000 of our employees have experienced the NWOW programme – with a further 400 currently undergoing training. We are already seeing significant improvements in the business areas, which have experienced the programme. For example, your report stated that for the industry only 54% of domestic customers felt their complaint had been resolved - we are confident that our approach through our CTP and NWOW initiatives has increased our success rate in this area. We are also seeing a reduction in call waiting times and have increased the number of ways customers can contact us – including live web chat and text messaging. Web chat in particular, is proving a success with our customers. In September alone, we took part in over 17,000 web chat conversations and have resolved 80% of complaints during the live chats according to feedback from our own surveys.

Actions we are taking in light of the Ofgem /Gfk report – microbusiness customers

The majority of our microbusiness customers are looked after by our specialist Small Medium Enterprise departments. This is an area which we have already begun to look to improve how we handle any complaints. To date, we have:

  • Started to change our operational structure to embed a business model that puts the customer at the heart of our services and products
  • Changed our products to remove unpopular auto rollover contracts and to offer products more closely aligned to our customers’ needs.

Your report highlighted that for this sector of customers, taking a proactive approach to resolving a complaint is the biggest satisfaction driver and that four key areas in which satisfaction has declined since 2012 – the supplier’s understanding of the complaint, the professionalism of the supplier, the ease at which the customer can find the correct person to contact and feeling that someone has taken ownership of their complaint. We are confident that the following actions we have taken will address these issues. We have restructured our complaint handling teams, empowered our frontline staff so they can resolve problems more quickly and improved our insight into what actually causes a complaint. If a complaint cannot be resolved immediately a designated complaint handler is allocated. While this is all very much work in progress, already, our own surveys indicate that we are seeing steady improvement in customer satisfaction.

Resolution of Complaints – Audit

After a competitive procurement process, we have engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to carry out an independent assessment of our existing processes to determine if a complaint has been fully resolved for our Domestic and microbusiness customers. It is important that the assessment is thorough and so we have committed to provide enough resource to fully support this activity across the 3 organisational service areas. PwC held a kick-off meeting with our teams on 20 October 2014 to ensure that all parties understand the objectives, timeline and information required to support this assessment. PwC will not only review our processes, but also how we internally monitor our complaint resolution procedure. They will also assess our commitment to fully resolve the complaint. The results will allow us to complement our own clear action plans for any areas which have been identified as requiring improvement.

Our brand values are absolutely aligned with our customer service improvements in getting it right for all our customers. With the progress we have made and the plans that we have in place, I am confident that our customers will see a significant change in how we look after them – and also how we resolve any complaints.

Yours sincerely

Paul Massara

Putting things right

We’re working hard to make sure we get things right for our customers but sometimes, things can go wrong. If this happens, we want to know as we value your feedback. This way we can make sure we put things right.

Total complaints

Total number of complaints we have received each month.

Chart showing the total number of complaints received

Complaints unresolved after 1 day

Complaints unresolved by the end of the first working day after the complaint was received.

Chart showing the outstanding number of complaints

Total complaints outstanding at the end of each month

Chart showing the total complaints outstanding at the end of each month

Ombudsman complaints outstanding

Complaints which have been received by the ombudsman and referred to us to resolve.

Chart showing complaints which have been received by the Ombudsman and referred to us to resolve

Ombudsman remedies >28 days

Cases in which 28 days have passed since ombudsman decision was made.

Chart showing cases in which 28 days have passed since ombudsmen decision was made

How to raise a complaint open/close

We can solve most problems straight away but if you’re not happy and would like to raise a formal complaint, you can contact us - we'll try to put things right straight away:

  • Call: 0800 316 9328 (free from most landlines) or 0330 100 8628 (included in any 'inclusive minutes' from mobiles)
  • Online: visit npower.com/complaints
  • Email: complaintsteam@npower.com
  • Write: npower Complaints, PO Box 97, Peterlee SR8 9AP

We also publish additional complaint information at http://www.npower.com/home/help-and-support/contact-us/complaints/complaints-performance/

You can see what actions we're taking by looking at our 'top 5 causes of customer complaints'.

Billing open/close

We want to make sure you know you’re paying the right amount for the actual energy you’re using, so:

  • We’ve changed how our bills look so they’re much easier to understand.
  • We’ve posted a video to explain the changes we’ve made to make things simpler for you.
  • We’ve also improved our customer service web pages to make sure information is available 24 hours a day – just when you need it.
  • Our Tariff Comparison Rate checker lets you compare your gas and electricity prices quickly and simply so you can check you’re on the right tariff for you.
  • You can quickly check your bills online – it’s really simple to sign up for this.
  • Regular meter readings mean accurate bills – you can send us a meter reading online – even if you haven’t registered as an online customer.

Payments open/close

The amount you pay can depend on the time of year, the tariff you are on and the amount of energy you’re using. We want to make sure you’re paying the right amount so:

  • We’ve changed how our bills look so they’re much easier to understand.
  • We’ve posted helpful videos on our website to explain how payments are calculated.
  • Our online direct debit web page tells you all you need to know about paying by direct debit.
  • We’ve recently launched a handy app, for smartphones, which will also provide access to these details.

Metering open/close

We read your meter regularly so we can make sure our information is up to date – such as checking it’s correctly recording your energy use and working safely.

  • We’re working closely with our metering agents to make sure they keep their promises when they say they will visit your home.
  • We’ll also remind you when your meter needs a safety check.
  • Regular meter readings mean accurate bills – you can send us a meter reading online – even if you haven’t registered as an online customer.
  • We’re moving forward with our plans to fit Smart meters and we’ll be doing this over the next 6 years. Smart meters come with a portable Smart energy display that makes it easier for you to understand how much gas and electricity you’re using and gives you a good idea of how it affects your bill - helping you make smarter choices about the energy you use. Smart meters also send us your energy data to us remotely so you won’t need to stay in for someone to read your meter or give us a reading yourself. You don’t need to do anything - we’ll let you know when we’re installing Smart meters in your area.

Switching / transfers open/close

You’ve told us how frustrating it is if you have to wait longer than expected to switch your energy.

  • Our online guide explains the switching process. And, if you’re moving home, this guide will make it simple.

Debt open/close

No one likes the idea of money worries, so:

  • We work closely with organisations like National Debtline and Citizens Advice to help customers who are finding it hard to pay their bills.
  • Our Spreading Warmth Programme help to those most in need such as the elderly, low income families, disabled and chronically sick. We offer help to manage your bills, keep warm and reduce energy costs.
  • We have a dedicated Energy Efficiency Helpline to help you make your home more energy efficient, there by potentially reducing your energy use - and your carbon footprint.
  • Our npower Energy Fund helps npower customers who are struggling to pay for energy debt.
  • So, if you’re finding things difficult, please get in touch. We’d like to help.

For further information and to see how we're doing, please view our quarterly complaints performance figures.

Late invoicing

We previously saw some problems with our new billing system, which meant we couldn’t bill some of our customers on time. We’re working really hard to make sure we can bill all of our customers on time although there will always be instances where this may not be possible. For example if we have conflicting meter readings, which need investigating.

Here’s our progress to date.

Chart showing how we are getting on with clearing our backlog of late invoices

Between June and the end of August, we met all of the targets Ofgem set us for reducing the number of late invoices.

Did you know?

  • We send 9,788,406 paper bills per year, 815,701 per month and 194,214 per week.
  • We send 4,417,011 online bills per year, 368,084 per month and 87,639 per week.

What can we help you with today?

Have a question for us? Use this tool to search our Q&A database as we may already have an answer for you!

Or, you can click on one of our many frequent Q&As:

What is Ofgem’s position on your customer service?open/close

We have been working closely with them since June this year to demonstrate our commitment to reducing our complaint and late invoice numbers. While we’re pleased to report we have met the targets they set us for late billing and complaints and continue to make progress, and we remain under investigation for these. This work is ongoing and we remain fully committed to significantly improving the way we look after our customers.

Where's my bill?open/close

We're sorry if you have experienced a delay in receiving your bill. We're working really hard to reduce the backlog caused by our billing system issues and hope to be back to normal by September.

I'm worried about getting a bigger bill, what can I do?open/close

Call us. We know it may be hard to budget for a bill if it doesn't arrive when you expect it to.

What happens if I can't pay the bill?open/close

Please call us. If, as a result of our system problems, you weren't expecting to pay the amount that's shown in your bill, then we'll give you longer to pay the bill.

I left npower a while ago but still haven't received my final bill. Will I have to pay it?open/close

If you left us before 1st December, and didn't receive your final bill by 1st June, we'll clear any unbilled debt. If you owe us money from a previous bill, that part of the balance will not be reduced.

If you feel you're struggling to pay the bill, please do not worry - do get in touch with us as we can offer help with longer payment periods. You can call us for free on 0800 073 3000 from a landline or 0300 100 300 from a mobile.

Related questions

Still have a question? Use this tool to search our knowledgebase. We may already have an answer for your enquiry and may be able to help you immediately. Please rate the answer.

We're here to help

 

Our continued promise to our customers is that no customer directly affected by the problems with our billing system will lose out financially. We appreciate that you may need to talk to us, that you’ll have questions, and you want to let us know how you feel. For that reason, we have more people on the phones who are ready to listen, and ready to help. If there’s anything we can do then please call us:

From landlines:

0800 073 3000

From mobiles:

0330 100 3000

View our opening times and call charges

Everyone at npower is dedicated to making these changes and resolving these problems. We are absolutely committed to treating our customers fairly, not only complying with our regulator Ofgem's Standards of Conduct, but also putting our customers at the heart of everything we do.

Our Standards of Conduct