Comparing Octopus Energy British Gas for Customer Service
The Challenge is set
Octopus have asked me to do a bit of covert and independent research for them. They are most proud of their customer support and asked me to give it a test. Could I get the answers quickly to some complicated questions? Would they answer my tweets and Facebook messages with speed?
To make the experiment a tad more exciting I have asked a fellow blogger Michelle Rice of Utterly Scrumptious to ask the same questions of her energy company, British Gas. Michelle works from home like me and has the same sized house and similar sized family. A good comparison.
As well as the tasks, we were both to ask across the telephone, social media and email, we both took meter readings at the beginning of the experiment and at the end to compare costs as well.
For each task to make it a fair comparison parts are rated on a score of 1-5, 5 being very good, 3 being average, 1 being not good at all. I have asked for ratings on time taken to answer the phone, reply to tweet, satisfaction at the end of the task etc.
Task 1 – Place a phone call to enquire about a problem with a bill. Ask the company to explain your bill and how the cost is worked out.
Both companies answered the call quickly at 90 seconds for Octopus and 2 minutes for British Gas. The subsequent answers were both well explained but there was a bit more of a personal touch with Octopus. I actually made this call twice to get meter reading and they spent much time helping with readings and converting it into KWH and £.
Scores – Octopus 14/15 British Gas 11/15
Task 2 – Send the company a tweet – what does KWH mean?
A very impressive response from both brands here. Timing wise at 16 minutes Octopus impresses, but 35 minutes is pretty good going for British Gas too. I would expect a company to reply within an hour to meet expectations.
I loved the YouTube video that explained my query and it was good to send a link to the British Gas website so both brands scored highly here on satisfaction.
Scores – Octopus 15/15 British Gas 14/15
Task 3 – Send the company an email – I would like to enquire about money saving tips for my smart meter or to get a smart meter
A slight difference between the tasks here as I have a smart meter with Octopus but Michelle is yet to get one with British Gas. The email response time was significantly quicker with Octopus, this is something they promote every time you call them so they must deliver on this promise.
In both cases the emails weren’t answered exactly. I was looking for way to use my smart meter to save money, despite getting a useful response it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. The British Gas email response was not sufficient.
Scores – Octopus 10/15 British Gas 8/15
Task 4 – Send the company a Facebook message – how do I change my direct debit date
This channel of communication was the most impressive in terms of timing and response to the query from both sides. The results were very close only with Octopus edging ahead with the 12-minute response time. This must be a very common customer query!
Scores – Octopus 15/15 British Gas 14/15
Task 5 – Place a call to enquire about level of direct debit, enquire about being in debit or credit. If credit enquire about getting that money back. If in debit what is suggested plan?
Again, we see a very quick response time from Octopus, it’s clear that they have worked hard to get these response times as low as possible across all forms of communication.
This question raises a big debate about my biggest annoyance with energy companies. Michelle with British Gas has been told that she has built up a £300 credit, and the phone call has prompted British Gas to arrange for a refund. But if Michelle hadn’t have made this call she wouldn’t have known about it!! Why do the big energy firms let credit balances build up? If I am in a credit with something I have paid for I want it back in my bank account earning me interest not my energy company!
I get an email every month from Octopus that firstly reminds me when my direct debit is coming out, the amount and how much in debit or credit I am so I can monitor it every month. I know that if it’s +/- £100 in debit or credit then my direct debit is the right amount.
Michelle left this call very satisfied with her refund but it leaves a slightly bitter taste with me. I left my call with the knowledge that I had a £40 credit, this will stay in my account to cover higher usage of energy in the winter months.
Scores – Octopus 13/15 British Gas 13/15
A summary of the results
Total Score Octopus 67/75 British Gas 60/75
The results are pretty close, despite Octopus leading the score across most of the tests. Octopus ahead by seven points only. Mainly driven by their super speediness to reply to questions. Both energy brands did well in their answers to the direct debits question and the KWH question. And both struggled somewhat with the smart meter question.
The final consideration is how much energy did Michelle use with British Gas and what did it cost compared to me with Octopus?
I am on the Octopus 12-month fixed energy plan costing 12.74p per unit of electricity with a daily standing charge of 18.9p. This is where I seem to be using a lot less energy than Michelle. In the same time period, I have used 343 units with Michelle using almost double. This seems strange as we have similar sized houses and families. Michelle is on the Home Energy Secure August 2019 rate.
Michelle says that she does about 30 washes PER week and also does a lot of baking. This could explain the big difference. We do around 10 washes per week. Wow that’s a lot of washing for poor Michelle!
Interesting that we in the Mummypenny household use more gas, so heating of house and water. Perhaps I am leaving the heating on for too long in the house during the day.
It is such an interesting exercise to compare usage and lifestyles in this much detail to see where savings could be made. Looking at the kwh hour charges it looks like our usage costs are similar just that Michelle on British Gas uses a lot more electricity. I would suggest the most economic washing machine going!!
This is a post in collaboration with Octopus Energy. If you are interested in switching your energy over to Octopus there is £50 cash back bonus for you and I and I would be ever so grateful if you used this link Octopus Energy