A brand new product in the UK market better serves not only energy customers but also the economy, our content writer Amber-Ainsley Pritchard looks at how British Gas secured a Utilities and Telecoms Award
At Credit Strategy’s Utilities & Telecoms Awards in 2016, our judging panel awarded British Gas with the Innovation of the Year award.
Entries were judged on the implementation of a product, service or process that proved to be unprecedented in its sector.
The criteria dictated that these new or modernised products must have been offered to customers and demonstrated a significant advance on the scale of previous and similar developments.
FreeTime, the product that led the energy company to become award winners, offers customers periods of time they can use electricity for free - enabled by the free installation of smart metres.
The trial of FreeTime began in X and was fully launched in the summer of 2016.
Based upon its own research, British Gas found the product to be the UK’s first “time of use” tariff in the market.
The offer of free time had to be between 9am and 5pm on either Saturday or Sunday and customers had to agree to manage their accounts online.
A modern approach
According to its research, British Gas said FreeTime has been its best-performing proposition, in research and trials, compared to all other of its energy tariff propositions such as fixed price deals and variable contracts.
The company said customer relationships and engagement has also improved as a result of this product being implemented into the market.
“British Gas has seen great improvement in its brand sentiment which is translating into boosted customer retention and acquisition performance,” the energy giant told Credit Strategy.
The product was also found to employ a modern approach to the way customers engage with the company. The customer experience for FreeTime, according to the firm, has been designed to adopt a digital-first self-serve approach.
Customers will have an online account enabling them to check savings made on their electricity-free days and view an estimate of future savings.
British Gas said this is improving the proportion of customers transacting online, therefore reducing the reliance of call centres.
The bigger picture
The implementation of FreeTime has also begun to meet government standards for smart meters to be installed in all UK homes by 2020. In the long-term, the company foresees the overall impact of the product benefiting the UK’s electricity grid.
It said this proposition could play an important role in managing the grid and help support a lower carbon economy through reducing the need to build new power stations.
British Gas added: “FreeTime will incentivise moving electricity usage from peak periods to non-peak periods.”
“Analysis of electricity consumption has shown material changes in behaviour of FreeTime customers, both on peak times and during the FreeTime period.”
According to the energy supplier, 86 percent of customers reported they changed their electricity usage with FreeTime, saving £60 on average per year.
Andrew Harper, head of energy at British Gas, said: “This change in behaviour has also translated into a different customer relationship with energy, with 64 percent of customers feeling more aware of energy usage.”
These statistics were composed from research of 1,184 British Gas customers who signed-up to an early version of the FreeTime in 2014.