Energy Company Customer Service – Comparing Octopus Energy and the Big 6 Firms

Energy Company Customer Service – Comparing Octopus Energy and the Big 6 Firms

Back in January I did some interesting research into the customer services of Octopus Energy . I had recently swopped my energy over to Octopus. Customer services of any company are really important to me so to be asked to test it out, well it’s a job that I fully embraced. I had a series of questions to ask across the phone, email and social media and the same tests were completed by a blogger friend who used British Gas for her energy. The results were close, both companies giving good answers to the questions, but with Octopus having the edge with their speediness in responding and the depth of their answers.

Energy Company Customer Service - Comparing Octopus Energy and the Big 6 Firms

Octopus found the results fascinating and asked me to expand the research and find fellow bloggers from all six of the big energy firms and repeat the experiment. We have adapted the questions a bit and have tracked energy usage and spend also over a two-week period. Exciting, can Octopus get the best scores for customer service against all the big energy companies? They are keen to compare the results to that seen in their trust pilot reviews.

The blogger panel

I have chosen six bloggers whom have similar sized households and whom work from home to enable a similar comparison. Each blogger has asked the same questions and has scored each task in terms of time, advice and satisfaction on a scale of 1 – 5. The questions were to be asked across several methods of communication from old school telephone and email to the more modern Twitter and Facebook messenger.

The bloggers who worked on the project were: –

Emma Maslin from the Money Whisperer, energy supplier Npower

Eileen Adamson from Your Money Sorted, energy supplier EDF

Ellen Finley from El Feelgoods Vintage, energy supplier SSE

Cora Harrison from Mini Millionaire, energy supplier Scottish Power

Michelle Rice from Utterly Scrumptious, energy supplier British Gas

Jess McGlynn from Catch a Single Thought, energy supplier EOM

And me, Lynn James, energy Supplier Octopus.

I have added a table with the full results and feedback from everyone at the bottom of each task, so you can see the full detail of each response.

Task 1 – Phone to say you’ve now decided to leave for smaller supplier, Octopus Energy, and is there anything they can do on price to stop you from leaving?

The first test was to call each energy supplier, not always as simple as it sounds! Most calls were answered within 5 minutes with Npower and Eon performing the best with the call being answered straight away/within 1 min. Octopus close behind at 90 seconds and for Octopus I asked about moving over to OVO. The speed losers were SSE and Scottish Power that took 5 min. But the ultimate loser was EDF where my tester couldn’t find a number from which she could get hold of a real-life person.

Mostly the advisor responses were good or adequate with Npower and Scottish Power doing very little to encourage the customer to stay. I think most energy providers are aware that people can easily switch and can do very little to stop the customer leaving.

Overall Npower performed the best here in terms of time, advice and satisfaction. Closely followed by Octopus, British Gas, SSE and Eon. EDF scored low due to the inability to speak to anyone.

Energy Company Customer Service

Task 2 – Tweet out of hours enquiring 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?

There were quick Twitter responses from Octopus and SSE. The slowest responses were from Eon, EDF and Scottish Power. My expectation is to get a Twitter response quickly, so a response of 12 hours is not acceptable. Most companies asked to switch to DM to confirm account details and to allow a check of the level of direct debit. There was a good understanding and response from Npower, British Gas and Octopus. There was some initial confusion from Octopus where I was informed of a big credit, I got a little excited until they double checked my smart meter readings and it turned out my bill was neither debit or credit. This affected my satisfaction somewhat.

The best performing brand in this test were British Gas and SSE, followed by Octopus and Npower. Again, EDF struggled with a low score on this test.

Energy Company Customer Service

Task 3 – Send an email out of office hours to enquire about a problem with a bill.  Ask your company to explain your bill and how the cost is worked out.

This was an interesting test that saw some very different results. Unfortunately, there were some suppliers who didn’t reply to the email query.

Starting with the super-efficient, SSE and British Gas were both speedy and good with their email responses with both customer being satisfied with their response. In the middle were Octopus, slower to reply, they were emailed in the evening and the email was replied to the following day but did provide a very helpful and comprehensive response.

At the lower end of the scale were EDF and EON, neither of which have replied to the customer query. Scottish Power also faired badly with a simple link sent to a website page with no personalisation to the email.

 Energy Company Customer Service

Task 4 – Send a Facebook message out of office hours (outside 9-5 Mon-Fri) to ask if you’re on the best tariff or is there anything they can do?

There was one clear standout winner here being Octopus who obviously focus on speed and quality of Facebook queries. Are Facebook queries now more common than telephone queries I wonder? The message was replied to within a few minutes, the query was answered, and I was moved to a cheaper tariff within the hour saving £4 per month. More than exceeded expectations and top scores received across the board.

A slower but good quality reply came from British Gas and hurrah EDF (who have struggled with the tests so far). Both customer satisfied with their responses.

Scottish Power, EON and Npower did not perform well here, particularly Npower. The response time was very long, and the reply was inadequate and not helpful at all. Likewise, EON are not equipped to help via Facebook and the query could only be answered by phone.

Energy Company Customer Service

Task 5 – Send an email asking for advice about whether a smart meter is a good and suitable option for you

Another email question this time asking about the smart meters, a very topical subject as the program is planned to roll out to all household by 2020. I tweaked my question as I already have a smart meter installed.

There was a quick and satisfactory response from SSE, maybe a bit simpler here as smart meters are not being rolled out in Northern Ireland. Octopus has a delay in timing of reply to my email, but their response was very detailed and answered my complex questions exactly. Both suppliers scored highly here.

Scottish Power, EDF and Npower performed poorly here for different reasons. Scottish Power very simply didn’t reply (or are yet to after two weeks) to reply to the email. EDF have been very slow with a final response although there has been come communication. Npower just provided an insufficient response with grammatical error, shock horror.

British Gas was an interesting response with the suggestion of a hard sell to get the customer to switch over to a smart meter. With little interest if a smart meter was the best option for the customer.

Energy Company Customer Service

A summary of the Results by Task and By Supplier

There was a clear group of three suppliers in the lead across all the customer service questions with Octopus leading the way in first place, British Gas second and SSE third,  with strong scores.

We then have Npower and EON in fourth and fifth place both struggling with Facebook and smart meter communication.

And then in sixth and seventh place we have EDF and the Scottish Power. Scottish Power scored low marks across the board. EDF redeemed themselves with their Facebook response but struggles with all other communication methods.

Energy Company Customer Service

The Final Information to look at is the Usage and cost of the energy. All has been measured across a two-week period from Friday 9th to Friday 23rd February.

Energy Company Customer Service

Okay lots of numbers to pour through and everyone has different usage, so let me pull out a few highlights

  • The high usage customers were British Gas, Npower and Octopus. British Gas does look expensive with the day time rate of 13.3p versus 12.74 for Octopus and 12.12 for Npower.
  • Some companies use daily standing charges and other don’t, this makes comparison between brands complicated why can’t every company charge in the same way?
  • The Scottish Power rates look to be low, but they are based on a deal from nearly 12 months ago.
  • The energy companies looking to provide the best value are Octopus, Scottish Power and Npower.

In Summary

Please do pour though the detail here. This is a really interesting and useful comparison of both costs and customer services. Both are important, so if you can choose an energy company winning at both then you will win as well.

Octopus is one of the better value for money energy firms and got the best scores in the customer service test. Now the second test I have carried out with Octopus being the winners! In fact, Which? and USwitch both agree that their customer services are great. Octopus are the only energy firm consumer champion Which? are recommending in 2018 and USwitch have awarded them with first place for overall customer satisfaction. To add to these accolades is an award from ‘The Energy Awards’ as the best energy supplier for 2017.

Add to all these awards that they are my energy provider and I do rate them and recommend them to anyone whom asks. Why not get a quote and see what your energy will cost if you can switch over to Octopus energy using this link.

This post has been sponsored by Octopus Energy but is an independent test carried out by 7 different bloggers.

Energy Company Customer Service


More to explore


Lynn Beattie

Aka Mrs MummyPenny

Personal Finance Expert

I write about personal finance made simple, lifestyle choices that will save you time and money, as well as products and services that offer great value.

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6 Responses

  1. Great piece of research Lynn! And some interesting results.
    I think suppliers do need to focus on all channels. I have only really used telephone before this experiment and it has never been a problem with my supplier. It was interesting to me how poor their email communication was.
    Fascinating reading…

    1. I know right, there is a lot of work to do here from the big 6 to make some changes to their comms channels. Why offer a way of communicating if you cant deliver a timely or good enough response?

  2. Hi Lynn, I hope you’re well. I have never considered looking at this as most of these things are very time consuming to understand properly.
    This is an excellent analysis and I will now be able to make an informed decision quickly.
    Many thanks,

    1. Hey Rory, great to hear from you, hope you are well too. It was such an interesting project with great results, glad to know it will help you make a decision.

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