We are fully committed to providing our customers with a good experience of dealing with npower and to selling our products responsibly and compliantly.
Every member of the npower sales team goes through rigorous training before they begin to sell our products to make sure they are always professional and courteous. The training process ensures they sell responsibly in line with strict legal and regulatory obligations, guidelines and policies.
We have a robust continuous improvement ethic in place and regularly review our practices and processes to make sure we respond to customer feedback and are fully compliant with all relevant regulation and legislation. We are self-regulated by an industry code of practice, which is backed up by an annual independent Energy Sure Code audit of our sales processes and compliance. We also have an accreditation register for face-to-face sales agents and a robust framework for assessing their recruitment, training and performance.
After reviewing our approach to doorstep cold selling and listening to what our customers were telling us about their sales experiences, we decided to stop this activity from 30th November 2011. We continue to sell over the telephone, at face-to-face events and shows such as Grand Designs, and at a range of retail establishments.
All face-to-face sales are validated before the sale is completed. Prospective customers are connected to a dedicated team in our Welcome Centre before they complete their purchase, where our customer care advisors describe all aspects of the new tariff to make sure that customers fully understand their contract and are completely happy before the sale goes through.
As a further check, we call at random around 40% of new customers within 48 hours of their sales experience to obtain feedback about the performance and behaviour of the sales agent.
In 2010, the energy regulator Ofgem introduced new regulations for telephone and face-to-face selling following its probe into the energy market. These aim to ensure customers are given enough information to make well informed decisions about what products to buy, including providing estimates of projected consumption during sales activities.
In the same year, Ofgem announced an investigation into the sales activities of four energy suppliers, including npower, to ensure that they are complying with these new obligations. The investigation continues and we are confident in our sales processes and training and are co-operating fully with Ofgem.
We work hard to reduce any complaints from our sales activities. Any expression of dissatisfaction from a customer with their sales experience is immediately referred to our complaints team, who resolve them to the customer’s satisfaction. We feel the most accurate way to report our performance is by the number of upheld residential sales complaints – any concern from a customer which cannot be immediately resolved is passed onto our compliance team for further investigation and resolution.
In 2011, we set ourselves a target to reduce the number of upheld residential sales complaints1 to 0.2% of total residential sales. In 2011, this number was actually 0.27%, a reduction from the 0.28% in 2010 and narrowly missing our target, although by the end of the year we had begun to achieve this target and aim to meet it consistently in 2012.
In September 2011, we also became the first major energy supplier to sign up to the consumer group Which?’s smart meter ‘no selling, just installing’ promise, to pledge that our installers will not use sales tactics whilst fitting smart meters in our customers’ homes.
1 An upheld complaint is an expression of customer dissatisfaction substantiated after investigation