We have made further investment in our customer service by opening a new call centre in Peterborough. To better serve our existing customers and in anticipation of a sharp growth in district heating systems across the UK, our dedicated call centre, which has recently transferred from London, now has 30% more capacity. The move complements our new online self-service customer platform and a number of recently added high-tech back-office IT systems.
Insite Energy is already one of the heat network sector's largest and longest-established billing and payment providers. Via our investments in people and digital systems, we are in a very strong position to meet the new incoming business, and we can grow to twice our current capacity within three years if required.
Through a new customer website offering alternative ways to pay, e-contact forms, moving in/out forms, development-specific brochure downloads and FAQs, we have already enabled more customer journeys to be self-managed, resulting in a 34% drop in incoming calls. When customers do need to speak to someone, they are receiving industry-leading levels of customer satisfaction, getting the information they need quickly and easily.
In its first quarter of operation, service quality at the Peterborough call centre increased by 60% and complaints dropped by 30%. Call waiting times average just 90 seconds, compared to sector norms for large energy companies of ten minutes or more, with some smaller companies averaging nearly half an hour's wait per call, according to research by the Competition & Markets Authority. Government regulatory body Ofgem generally deems anything below five minutes to be acceptable. The call centre has longer opening hours, from 9.00am to 8.30pm Monday to Friday, and until 5.30pm on Saturdays.
Heat network growth
Heat networks form a crucial part of the government's strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change estimates they should account for around 18% of UK heating by 2050 if the country is to meet its net zero target; around 2% of UK buildings were heated by communal systems in 2018.
Furthermore, the government recently announced £40 million of additional heat network funding, together with new measures to give greater protection to end-users, designed to remove barriers to take-up. We are expecting an upsurge in demand for low-carbon district heating systems, as well as for associated metering and billing platforms and services that meet the new, stricter requirements for information and transparency.
Heat providers – from housing associations and local authorities, to developers, contractors, managing agents and private landlords – want a metering, billing and payment company that can offer a proven track record of great customer service, hassle-free heat network operation and lower costs. We’re able to do that with a proper dedicated, state-of-the-art call centre that is at the heart of everything we do.
We're investing in our staff, as well as technology. Peterborough is a great location as it’s a hub for customer contact centres, meaning there is a skilled local workforce to draw from. We’re offering a lot of benefits and amenities and building the right working culture so that we can attract good people and have them stay with us for a long time.
We’ve also made significant investments in our backend systems to deliver improved customer service to residential customers and clients. We have embedded two new software packages – Big Change and Gentrack Velocity – into our day-to-day operations. Big Change is an all-in-one mobile workforce and job management software tool, designed to enhance productivity by removing the need for manual planning and paper job forms and introducing live tracking of engineer vehicles. Gentrack is a powerful billing and customer engagement platform. We have collaborated with Gentrack to tailor the system to deliver first class customer and client billing services specific to the needs of the heat network industry.
We're focusing on technology and systems that provide not only excellent customer service, but also data security and regulatory compliance. It's an exciting time to be with Insite Energy.