Gazprom entered the UK B2B gas market with the acquisition of Pennine Gas in 2006 and has gone on to become the second largest supplier in the UK.
This is in terms of volume, based on tailored service to some of the largest gas consumers in the country. This has culminated with the supplier topping Datamonitor’s Energy Buyer Customer Satisfaction Survey for the first time, dislodging Dong Energy (formerly Shell Gas Direct).
While there may be questions about the success of competition in the UK residential energy market, as highlighted by the current focus of the Energy Select Committee, competition is heating up in the B2B energy market, with independent suppliers beyond the Big Six gaining market share on the back of competitive deals and high levels of customer service.
Significantly, Gazprom top the table for major gas customers. Gazprom’s market share has grown rapidly, now accounting for more than 14% of gas volume sold to B2B customers. Shell Gas Direct, acquired by Dong Energy in May 2012, held the top ranking since 2008, making it the most consistent providers of customer service in the market but the transition period has had an effect on what customers are experiencing from the supplier.
The independent suppliers in the energy market are performing extremely well in terms of growing market share and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction,” says Rhys Kealley, lead analyst at Datamonitor Energy. “The agility of the independent suppliers in providing tailored service and efficiently handling customer queries is reaping tangible benefits which many of the Big Six simply cannot match.”
This is further confirmed in the power market with Smartest Energy topping the rankings for large power users for the second survey running. With a relatively smaller number of large energy users, the supplier can harness its flexibility to provide innovative products and customer service initiatives to obtain a market leading customer satisfaction score. However, not all the Big Six are suffering at the rise of independent suppliers in the market.
“E.ON Energy’s ‘Reset Review’ - which is intended to refocus the company’s efforts into improving the customer experience - is having clear benefits, with the supplier steadily increasing its customer satisfaction score to sit second in the rankings for SME customers,” Kealley added.
It is another smaller supplier, Haven Power, which tops the SME category ahead of E.ON Energy making it clear that business customers value premium levels of customer service from smaller suppliers.
“Although it may still be price that dictates a lot of a customer’s decision making, customer service is and will continue to be an incredibly important factor in a highly competitive and increasingly informed market place,” says Kealley.