Three-year-old electricity retailer Flick Electric Co. has been honoured at the Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards with the Retailer of the Year award. We chatted with its chief executive about Steve O’Connor about what it’s like being a newcomer in the highly competitive electricity market.
O’Connor says the win is a reflection of the quality of Flick’s disruptive energy retailing model: “So many people didn’t think we would make it past a year, let alone three years.”
Rather than offering standardised pricing, Flick gives customers access to the wholesale cost of electricity, which changes every half-hour.
“Winning Retailer of the Year has topped off an extraordinary few months for the Flick team,” says O’Connor. “We’ve won a number of major awards, but to be recognised for being the best in the three ways that matter most to our business – innovation, growth and service – makes this win especially meaningful.”
The Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards recognise excellence and achievement across electricity, gas, petroleum and transport energy industries. The NZ Energy Retailer of the Year is an award for the energy retailer with the strongest overall performance in New Zealand for the year. Flick was up against retailers Electric Kiwi and Mercury Energy in this category.
Flick was also presented with Consumer NZ’s People’s Choice award for energy retailers on Tuesday.
O’Connor answered some questions for The Register below.
I note Flick customers have been suffering under unusually high spot prices lately. Can you tell us more about how Flick’s model enabled that situation and the broader customer reaction to it?
With lower lake levels this winter there’s been more pressure on supply which has driven up the market price of electricity. Because we pass through all of the wholesale costs of supply to Flicksters, this means they are exposed to the ups and downs of the wholesale market. While the past couple of months have seen higher bills for Flicksters (some of which is seasonal because people use more power in the winter) most of them understand that overall they’re still better off with us. Our customers saw average savings of $498 in the 12months before this winter kicked off and we fully expect savings to rebound quickly in the coming months.
What are the major issues facing electricity retailers this year and for the coming months?
As an industry, electricity retailers are still failing to deliver true value to consumers. We all have to have two eyes on the customer, not just one. Emerging technologies and heightened consumer expectations that comes off the back of disruption, will make it impossible for retailers to survive let alone thrive if they don’t completely pivot to be driven by customer needs.
In your opinion, what does Consumer NZ’s ‘fake review’ scandal of July say about the electricity retail market? It seems to indicate a very competitive environment.
The truth of human nature is that when people are under pressure they resort to bad behaviour. The environment is competitive and we’re all working with the tools we have to build great businesses. We have a highly differentiated customer value proposition, so we maintain a singular focus on growing our family of Flicksters. But if you don’t have a differentiated offer, then you’re forced to run down your competition rather than build your business on its own merits.
Has there been any further incidents of that type? Do you expect any more underhanded activity as Flick continues to grow?
We see suspicious behavior all the time. It’s disappointing but we’re confident that bad behaviour will eventually come home to roost like it did with the Consumer NZ fake review. What’s most concerning to us is that some businesses think it’s okay to mislead consumers.