Existing customers, not wanted?

You know that old chestnut about how it costs five times/six times/ten times* as much to recruit a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer. Of course everyone has heard it, but how many companies really understand it?

It came to my mind once when I attempted to contact our home energy supplier.

You see I’d started getting calls from one of those energy saving companies advising me that I should switch supplier once again to save money. On this occasion however I figured that I should stay with my existing (‘non big 6’) supplier and ask them to move me on to one of their cheaper fixed rate tariffs.

Easier said than done.

First I tried phoning them. After negotiating the ‘press 1 for x’ and ‘press 2 for y’ I found myself on hold listening to music. This happened several times, each time for more than ten minutes, before I gave up – thankfully it was an 0800 number. I then logged into the “my account” part of their web site and used the online enquiry form. Nope, that didn’t work either – I waited at least 24 hours to get no response before sending a follow-up email via their online form. That again got no response another 24 hours later. (Quick question: Do online enquiry forms ever get answered?). So I tried the customer services 0800 number again, and again, and was left on hold for too long each time before hanging up.

At this point I was seriously regretting my decision to stick with my current supplier. After all, if I can’t even talk to them about renewing why should I stay with them?


Then I had a thought.

Since everyone spends so much effort trying to attract new customers and not enough effort on their existing customers maybe I should cheat the system…

So I tried the customer services line one more time. This time I followed the ‘new customer’ route, taking the options as if I was someone wanting to switch my energy to them from another supplier. Bingo. In less than 20 seconds I was through to a real person. I explained to this lady that I was an existing customer and so really should not have come through to her, but that I was getting nowhere as an existing customer.

She was brilliant. She explained that she could certainly help me and it wasn’t a problem that I’d come through to her. In no time at all she’d reviewed my energy consumption and recommended a new fix. I was pleased that this was the same tariff that I’d already identified from my own research as likely to be the best for us.

In summary, the good news was that I got what I wanted and, in the end, received efficient and polite customer service.

It is just such a shame the efforts we have to go through to achieve what should be easily available to existing customers – not just to new ones. Not to mention in this case the need to “pretend to be someone else”, in order to get through to this organisation.

And the other good news: well at least I didn’t have to do that again for another twelve months.



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