British Gas suffers PR disaster at the hands of Stephen Fry in front of 5 million Twitter users

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19 February 2013, Gas

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On February 15, 2013 a clearly disgruntled Stephen Fry decided to tweet the fact that British Gas was "threatening to send in bailiffs" for a bill that he claimed he had already paid. Although customer forums on sites such as are frequently unearthing instances such as this, none have the reach that Fry can generate through his Twitter follower base, which numbers over 5 million people.

But what does this mean for British Gas? Well, on a purely market share estimate, of the 5 million followers who are located in the UK, over 20% of these will be British Gas customers who will now have a decidedly worse opinion of their supplier - an opinion that will be crucial when they next come to assess their energy supplier. Another factor will be that Fry's grievance seemed to be rectified relatively quickly according to his timeline, which will not be a good message if the "ordinary" customer cannot achieve the same results. Providing preferential treatment is not a welcome marketing image for a company that is already perceived as being untrustworthy and not acting in the best interests of its customer base, with its profit announcements regularly drawing sharp criticism from consumer groups over a profiteering attitude.

What is clear, however, is that Fry's problem is a common one, and not just for British Gas customers. In fact, a quick sweep of online customer forums shows that all of the Big Six are culpable of putting customers in similar positions. Due to this, smaller suppliers such as Good Energy, Ecotricity, and Ovo Energy are using the niche customer acquisition strategy of simply treating customers well to entice them away from the larger suppliers. This is reaping benefits, with smaller suppliers growing at a steady rate since entering the market.

Datamonitor's forthcoming research brief, titled "Customer Satisfaction Strategies in the UK Domestic Market" (due early March 2013), will use firsthand customer opinion data to analyze what the smaller suppliers have done to provide outstanding service compared to the behemoths of the industry, and in what areas some suppliers have been failing to provide stellar service. / / @DatamonitorEN

Source: MarketLine

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