There has been a period of sustained instability in the electricity industry. C & I customers have been faced with large price rises, resulting largely from increased network and distribution costs. Further consolidation of the market has also occurred with the NSW government selling the retail businesses of Energy Australia, Integral Energy and Country Energy. The Tru Energy brand has been subsumed under Energy Australia just as the Country Energy, Energex and Integral Energy brands have been folded into Origin Energy and The Ergon Energy brand has been folded into AGL.

Against this consolidation, disruptive brands have entered the market and are making their mark. From being a small entrant only five years ago, ERM Power has burst on the scene with very high customer satisfaction and not only has it maintained its high customer satisfaction dominance, but it has grown its customer base to the point where it is now considered ‘one of the majors’. Red Energy is a new entrant too and is achieving high customer satisfaction scores from its small base.

Increasingly business is starting to set goals and programs in place to ‘reduce energy consumption’ or have in place an ‘energy efficiency program’. Many businesses, apart from the largest corporate and industrial customers, are holding off from doing sustainability activities such as purchasing green power or carbon offset products or generating their own electricity until guidelines from the government become clearer. These are areas however that many businesses are investigating for the future.

To achieve greater customer loyalty and to pass savings onto business, energy companies need to build relationships with their customers by understanding their business and its energy requirements. Customers are expressing that they want their retailer to be more proactive in offering their expertise particularly in the areas of energy management and market information and regulation.

At the same time, energy companies also need to meet customers’ base requirements in terms of:

  • Billing accuracy
  • Quality customer service (particularly speed of response and dealing with inquiries)
  • Price competitiveness
  • Understanding the customer’s business
  • Providing advice on using energy efficiently
  • Inability to provide consistently accurate bills is a key criticism of retailers and is probably one of the main reasons that customers have turned to intermediaries, and additionally their ability to handle queries promptly has retained the business.