Energy suppliers are stopping the practise of doorstep selling, despite the fact that it is effective in winning new customers. Why would an entire industry stop doing something that makes money? To improve its reputation.
In July, Scottish and Southern Energy announced that they would stop the practise (because they were fined for mis-selling) and last week British Gas announced they were suspending doorstep sales for three months because it is ‘increasingly outdated’. That’s two of the big six in the space of a month. It’s likely that the rest will follow in due course.
The end of doorstep selling is a sign that energy suppliers are listening and responding to powerful groups like Consumer Focus who have requested an end to doorstep selling. It is a small step in a wider move by energy suppliers to improve their reputation among the public and among those who represent the public, namely legislators, Ofgem and consumer groups.
Other recent moves by energy suppliers include npower chief Kevin McCullogh’s appearance on Channel 4’s Undercover Boss and Centrica’s Sam Laidlaw talking of the need to educate consumers about rising domestic energy prices, telling The Times (£):
“It’s not a message that people want to hear. There is not going to be a sudden Damascene moment when everyone understands it. It’s going to be a slower process of education.”
Laidlaw is right, it will be a long hard road. YouGov’s Stephan Shakespeare noted that Scottish Power, the first of the energy companies to announce price rises, had a big drop in its buzz score on YouGov’s BrandIndex tracker when it announced price rises. Notably, the big six all score negatively, even before the latest wave of prices rises. Obviously, putting up prices will always go down badly with consumers, however, domestic energy prices will continue to rise because of the need to invest in cleaner, more efficient ways to generate, supply and use energy.
Energy suppliers are right to focus on listening, engaging and changing business practises where necessary to minimise consumer anger, and mitigate possible legislative and regulatory changes.