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CAB criticises utilities' customer service levels

LONDON - Gas and telecoms companies have been singled out as having the worst performing call centres, with British Gas and BT experiencing high levels of dissatisfied customers, according to a study by the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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The study, which was conducted by the charity through an online questionnaire, found 32% of respondents had spent more than 30 minutes calling a utility company, while many customers were unable to deal with a query in one phone call and had incurred "huge bills" phoning from mobiles.

According to the CAB, 89% of respondents were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the way their last call to a telephone or gas company had been handled, with 87% saying they were dissatisfied with calls to BT and 71% to British Gas.

The CAB noted that BT, which has a 68% share of the domestic landline market, and British Gas, which has a 46% market share in domestic gas, were both the dominant suppliers in their sectors.

Meanwhile, the survey found that while there had been some improvement in call centre service standards since 2004, utility companies still had the worst performing call centres, with 27% of respondents saying they had been dissatisfied with the way their call had been handled in the last 12 months.

The charity has urged companies to improve customer service standards, but said there were currently too few incentives to make improvements, despite its survey finding "almost all people" would find accurate customer satisfaction information useful in choosing a utility provider.

The CAB said it had faced the same problems as customers in calling utility companies on behalf of its clients, and said if companies dealt with its requests in less than 10 minutes it would be able to help an extra 55,000 people a year.

David Harker, chief executive of CAB, said: "I would simply like to ask the chief executives of all the utility supply companies, and especially British Telecom and British Gas, if they could investigate the issues in our report and make improvements.

"Many companies say publicly that they support the work of the Citizens Advice service and one very simple way they could put that into practice and help us do our job is to improve the service they deliver to their customers on the frontline."

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