Almost a third of UK households prefer to have receive support and advice on the phone or face to face when switching energy suppliers, according to research from price comparison site Money Expert.
The research was conducted for Money Expert by Opinium and involved a survey of 2,011 household decision makers. It showed that 29% of UK households (equivalent to just shy of 8 million customers) would “welcome phone or face-to-face support to find the most competitive gas and electricity prices with around two million preferring face-to-face support.”
The desire to speak to a human, whether on the phone or in person, was more prevalent among older customers, with 33% of over-55s preferring face-to-face or telephone contact when switching.
While the majority of customers still prefer to switch online by themselves, the research shows many still aren’t doing it. Just under a fifth of those surveyed said that they had not switched in the past five years.
The reasons for people sticking with their supplier vary, but just under a third said that they simply did not understand how to do it. The perceived complexity of the switching process is something that is often cited as putting people off. It is here, says Money Expert’s COO Mike Rowe, that face-to-face or telephone contact can help, by guiding people through the relevant processes.
He said: “Switching online suits most customers but it is clear that millions prefer guidance on how to it and would welcome face-to-face or phone support on making the move.
“That is understandable when price tariffs include a wide range of options including standard variable and fixed tariffs. Our own experience shows more than half of those who move supplier would never have done so unless they had been contacted.”
Lack of understanding of the energy market is a big barrier to further engagement. Money Expert’s research showed that just 36% of customers are aware that the region they live in affects the cost of their tariff, and 18% believe that “whether they pay by direct debit has no impact on the price they pay”.
However, studies have shown repeatedly that those who do engage in the market and change providers save around £232 a year, compared to those who don’t. And with energy prices increasing by as much as 18% this year alone, the importance of making these savings has never been higher.
Rowe explained that with “millions [who] are not confident about switching”, reaching out over the phone or directly is increasingly important. “Every gas and electricity customer should shop around”, he said, “as price rises are being pushed through by almost all major suppliers”.