Abysmally managed customer service, including that offered by power & utilities suppliers, imposes productivity losses of £11.4 billion every month on Britain’s economy, a study out today claims.

Employees are spending nearly 20% of their time at work – an average of 4.8 working days every month –  in chasing providers across 13 consumer-facing industries to resolve account management problems, according to the latest six-monthly survey of 10,000 consumers, conducted as the UK Consumer Satisfaction Index.

No sector in the 13 ranks worse than power & water retailing in wasting Brits’ time, keeping them hanging on phone lines.  Late 2022’s rating is the sector’s lowest since July 2015.

Glowing exceptions to the sector’s rule of mediocrity and time-wasting are UK Power Networks – which dropped from first spot across all sectors in July 2022 – and Northern Powergrid.  The two DNOs are the highest rated organisations among utilities providers.

In 2015, the Office for National Statistics estimated that UK workforce productivity lagged G7 rivals by as much as 20%.

The malady continues to worry Westminster & Whitehall. Far from curing it, Brexit has if anything made it worse.

Overcoming low productivity was among reasons behind Liz Truss’ un-funded ‘growth-at-any-cost’ spasm, during her 45-day premiership.   In 2012, Truss had been among contributors to the notorious “Britannia Unchained” pamphlet, which condemned British workers for their supposed laziness.

Before its closure in 2017, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills attributed the cause to bad British management, and bosses’ inability to organise work and working practices efficiently.

The Institute of Customer Service has run the UK Consumer Satisfaction Index every six months since July 2008.

Its latest report is based on 45,000 survey responses and completed online questionnaires relating to customer experience within specific organisations. The responses are provided by over 10,000 individual customers.

Nearly one in four respondents, or 23.3% of customers, experienced a problem with a power or water company in the past six months. That’s up 2.5 points on last year, and 6.8 percentage points more than the UK all-sector average.

Across all supply sectors, headline UK customer satisfaction has fallen by 0.7 points year on year, to 77.7, out of a maximum possible 100.

The utilities sector’s UKCSI score of 71.7 is 2.8 points lower than January 2022, and six points below the UK all-sector average, the tracking survey finds.

Leading high-level causes of problems in the energy sector are quality or reliability, suitability and availability of goods and services, meaning trust is being eroded.

Predictably after eighteen months of eyewatering tariff rises, the energy sector’s reported predominance of problems concerned with cost is the highest of any sector.

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, said: It is perhaps unsurprising given the volatility in the energy market that satisfaction in the sector is so low.

“But today’s results are a timely reminder that we cannot keep taking a short term, fire-fighting business approach. The productivity hit of staff spending nearly a day a week handling problems cannot be overstated. As consumer finances are increasingly squeezed, taking the time to lay the foundations of an effective, long-term service experience will be key to pulling the nation out of recession.”

The UKCSI’s top rated utilities organisations for January 2023 are:

Relative rank in sector
Organisation (in bold are those in overall top ten)
1 UK Power Networks
2 Northern Powergrid
3 Wessex Water
4 Northumbrian Water
5 Utility Warehouse


Across all 13 industrial sectors, the top 10 rated organisations in January 2023 were:

Jan’ 2023 rank Organisation Sector  Jan 2022 rank Change in score, year on year
1 First Direct Banks & Building Societies 2 0.5
2 John Lewis Retail (Non-Food) 7 0.9
3 UK Power Networks Utilities 4 0.0
4= Tesco Mobile Telecommunications & Media 22 1.5
4= M&S (Food) Retail (Food) 11 1.0
6 Starling Bank Banks & Building Societies NO DATA NO DATA
7 Next Retail (Non-Food) 63 3.6
8= Suzuki Automotive 17 0.6
8= M&S Retail (Non-Food) 17 0.6
10 Amazon.co.uk Retail (Non-Food) 21 0.6


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