Back in July this year, energy supplier Iresa was shut down after gaining the enviable tag of ‘Britain’s most complained-about energy supplier’.

It shines the public spotlight back onto customer service in utilities.

In other industries, like banking, government initiatives are making it mandatory to publish customer service rankings in branches and online. And certainly, customer service is the battleground in the commoditised telco sector.

A lack of customer service has killed one energy company this year. Could it take more?

The state of play for utilities

Just like the big banks, the big energy companies are facing some big little competition.

Plucky startups like Bulb, and smaller companies like Utilities Warehouse are punching well above their weight, leading to what’s being billed as the biggest customer switching boom in four years.

Customer satisfaction data from Which? shows that the companies with the happiest customers are, for the most part, smaller providers:

But customer service failings pose a risk to both the Big 6 and these new energy players.

So, both need to be paying attention.

What does the Iresa saga mean?

The answer to that question has different meanings for different types of utilities companies.

For the big six, it means a change in attitude. They used to get away with just about anything, but increasing government intrusion is making it harder to do that.

For the newcomers, it means toeing the line. They still have some work to do to earn public trust – and they can be shut down much more easily.

Overall, however, the essential takeaway for utilities companies: get proactive about listening to customer needs, and make sure you’re set up internally to actually take some action around them.

All eyes are on the industry after the Iresa debacle. The CMA intervened in the banking sector, making all banks publish customer service rankings – and now the banks who didn’t deliver are being publicly shamed. They’ll do the same to utilities in a heartbeat. If you’re a utilities provider, it might be worth thinking about where you’d be on that list.

Lessons from Iresa: customer service is a must in utilities