British Gas has taken another step in its push to be more customer-centric after moving homeowners onto a new CRM platform it hopes will help it offset the loss of nearly 370,000 customers in 2014.
The business introduced the platform in the fourth quarter as the latest in a series of marketing changes designed to both quell customer complaints and win over new bill payers.
British Gas lost 368,000 customers in 2014, a notable increase on the 362,000 from the previous year. The mass exodus is heaping pressure on the company’s marketing and the energy supplier has said the new CRM system is helping deliver a more integrated customer experience.
Despite the customer churn, British Gas assured service levers were on the up. Service levels in British Gas Residential improved in the period with average call answering times lower than 2013, an upswing reflected in an improved contact net promoter score (NPS), it added. Last year, the business promised to make significant reductions to customer complaints by 2017, which would stem from simplifying key customer interactions such as direct debit and moving home.
The decline in customer apathy toward the brand played its part in a poor year for the business. British Gas’ profits from homeowners plummeted 23 per cent to £439m for the full year due to the impact of unseasonably warm weather and a drop in oil prices. Customers on average spent £1,152 on their bills annually in 2014, £100 lower than the previous year.
Iain Conn, chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, said: “Our priorities remain to serve our customers competitively and with integrity, to develop new offers and services, to provide secure and reliable energy supplies and to deliver long term value for shareholders.”
It is not all doom and gloom for British Gas. The company’s innovation and smart connected homes business emerged from 2014 in rude health.
Buoyed by its mobile controlled heating service Hive and its smart meter service, British Gas said it was a market leader in the connected home space. Hive products are currently sold at 3,000 week, it claimed while it has not sold over 170,000 thermostats and installed around 1.3 million residential smart meters in the UK.
To maintain momentum, the business plans to launch a connected boiler and a virtual home display later in the year following trials.
The connected homes business is being used as a way to understand what consumers need from their utilities providers, with British Gas using the insights to inform other parts of its marketing. Marketing is being refitted around the customer following a series of changes that included the appointment of its first head of brand Margaret Jobling.