British Gas has announced that it is on track to complete the implementation of a new billing system and the migration of customer accounts onto a new CRM system this year.
The energy provider has previously said that the new SAP system for its 500,000 business customers, being implemented by Cognizant, will improve its billing processes, better equipping its staff to deal with customer queries.
“In BGB (British Gas Business), we are implementing a new billing system, which is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2014,” the firm said today in parent company Centrica’s interim results for the six months to 30 June.
“Alongside an ongoing programme of process simplification, this should enable us to deliver improved service and lower costs, and we are on track to achieve £100 million of annual operating cost and bad debt reductions by the end of 2015.”
British Gas Business said it was cutting costs to help offset the pressures of a competitive market and its decision last year to be more transparent by ending the automatic rollover of contracts at renewal.
Meanwhile, one of British Gas’ priorities for the second half of 2014 is to complete the migration of customer accounts onto a new combined energy and services CRM system for its residential customers during the third quarter. This will enable British Gas to provide a better and more ‘integrated’ customer experience, the company said.
“We are targeting a significant reduction in customer complaints over the next three years,” said British Gas.
British Gas’ residential customers are served by a separate SAP billing and customer relationship management system.
In a bid to grow its domestic customer base, which stabilised in the second quarter after a one percent decline in the first quarter, British Gas said it is simplifying key customer interactions with the company, for example, for direct debit payments and moving home.
It is also benefiting from digital investments. Around two-thirds of its customer interactions are made through digital channels, with about half of these initiated from a mobile or tablet device, British Gas said. Further, its mobile app has been downloaded 1.3 million times.
In addition, it said it is launching innovative new propositions, such as a trial of the smart-meter enabled ‘free Saturdays and Sundays’ energy tariff. It plans to launch this fully next year.
Smart meters progress
British Gas claims to have installed more residential smart meters than any other energy supplier. It expects to have installed about 1.3 million residential smart meters by the end of the year, and 2.4 million by the end of 2015.
It said it was on track to support the ‘go live’ of the Data Communications Company - set up by the government to establish and manage the smart metering communications infrastructure - in December next year and to lead industry testing of the new systems in mid-2015.
“We encourage the industry, government and regulatory bodies to maintain momentum on all fronts to ensure the smart rollout is delivered on schedule,” it said.
Over 350,000 smart meter customers regularly receive a Smart Energy Report from British Gas, which provides them with an analysis of their energy consumption, benchmarks against similar homes and personalised energy saving tips.
“The report is helping improve levels of customer satisfaction and the overall perception of British Gas,” it said.
The firm is also currently trialling smart meters to prepayment customers, which it plans to launch in 2015, a year ahead of the government’s target.
British Gas said it has now sold 100,000 smart thermostat products - which allows customers to turn their heating on and off remotely via a mobile app - in the UK, mostly under its Hive brand.
This is just one of a number of innovative products that the firm has developed through its Connected Homes business unit.
“We have a strong development pipeline of further innovative products and have now commenced trials of a ‘smart connected boiler’ product and a ‘virtual in home display’, both of which we plan to launch next year,” it said.
It said it is also on track to have sold over 150,000 smart thermostats by the end of the year.
British Gas Residential operating profit fell by 26 percent year on year. The company blamed the decline on ‘warmer than normal weather’ which led to customers using less heating.
Earlier this year, British Gas was forced to pay a penalty of £4.25 million when regulator Ofgem found that a computer system error caused British Gas to incorrectly stop its business customers from switching to other suppliers.