In November 2011, the British Gas managing director Phil Bentley sent a letter to residential customers inviting them to contact him directly with the aim of establishing an Honest Conversation. Within three months he had received 8,300 responses, including suggestions on about 2,500 topics which Centrica used to improve performance. The most frequently raised topics were energy prices, billing and customer service.
Centrica introduced a series of initiatives targeting these issues, including simplified tariffs, processes to help customers ensure that they are on the right tariff, and a facility that allows customers to book a call back rather than waiting on the phone. Other initiatives included improving how the company communicates with customers through bill design and annual statements. It continues the Honest Conversation by sending out letters, telling customers about what the company is doing and and providing more information on energy bills.
Centrica has explored ways of building trust on other issues. One such example is the development of a panel of customers, the British Gas Customer Board, which enables the company to have long-term, strategic input from a small number of customers into operational plans. The company has also developed an online panel of 50,000 customers, called Your World, for customer feedback, as well as a business customer panel, made up of about 1,000 companies. In July 2012, British Gas rated top of the list in the energy sector in the organization’s research on customer service.