OVO are an energy company with a difference: impressive green credentials, high customer satisfaction levels, a great company culture – and they work in the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. Shula Smith, OVO’s head of PR, gave us an insight into what makes them stand out from the crowd.
Business age: Six years
Length of time in the Enterprise Zone: Three years
Number of employees: 900 across two offices, with 800 in Bristol and 100 in London
What’s the story behind OVO? Wind back to 2009: customer trust in energy was plummeting; bills were going up; customer service levels were going down. You’d have struggled to find anyone who’d enjoyed a positive interaction with their energy supplier.
Because of this, OVO was founded. Not on the model of the traditional, dinosaur utilities companies. Instead, OVO was built around a simple principle: doing what’s best for customers, believing they deserve a better deal. It all came together in 2009 around Stephen Fitzpatrick’s kitchen table in a Cotswold barn, with one customer and two members of staff.
How far has OVO come today? Today, we have 500,000 energy customers and we’re the 10th fastest growing private company in the country, having quadrupled our customer numbers in the past two years. We were also voted the 25th best medium sized company to work for in the Sunday Times Best Companies report this year. And all this whilst maintaining our proud customer service record, as evidenced by customers voting us into top spots in all the major polls for customer service, including becoming the first and only supplier to be awarded Which? recommended provider status.
What makes OVO different, quirky and interesting? Since our foundation in 2009, we’ve been committed to being simpler, fairer and cheaper than our competitors when it comes to energy supply and, in doing so, to restore trust in the sector.
Innovation sits at the heart of this, especially when compared to the large, incumbent [Big Six] energy companies. Our approach? To constantly challenge the market norm from existing business models and mindsets, to regulatory structures and customer experience. It means we face plenty of obstacles in trying to do best for our customers, and hence thrive on a business model built on innovating to overcome these, to push boundaries, and adapt quickly and nimbly to the fast-moving, price and tech-savvy consumer.
So, if we don’t look or feel like the average energy company, that’s the point. We work very hard not think or behave like one either.
What are OVO’s green credentials?
- 33% renewable energy as standard
- One of the most competitive 100% renewable energy tariffs on the market
- Initiatives to manage the energy efficiency of our offices
- As a business we are meatless on Mondays
- We think coal should stay buried
What’s it like working for OVO? Our culture is entrepreneurial, and so we enjoy all the responsibility and autonomy we need to shape our role and have an impact on business success, confident in the knowledge that we’re all in this together. We work hard to make things simple, and so every day presents exciting new challenges that require fresh thinking and an innovative approach. We’re nimble too, and enjoy a lively, fast-paced environment because of it.
One of our main targets is to be a top 10 UK employer. Our people are just as important as our customers, and so we make sure they have a great environment to work in. There is something for everyone at OVO – our biggest challenge will always be maintaining our start-up culture as we grow and scale. It’s our biggest asset and we’ll hold on tight to it.
Does OVO make innovative use of technology? Absolutely – recent innovation highlights include:
- Launching ‘OVO Communities’: a ground-breaking new technology platform that gives community groups, local authorities and housing associations all the tools they need to run their own utility business and deliver savings to their constituents. The first Community went live in March 2015.
- Launching ‘OVO PAYG+: in April 2015 we went live with the UK’s first pay as you go energy app that allows people to top up and manage their energy supply wherever and whenever, without relying on the physical ‘key’ and trip to the nearest top-up shop. It follows our May 2014 launch of the OVO App and MyOVO that allows customers to manage their accounts, energy usage and costs purely online.
- Hackathon 1.0: This year we had our very first Hackathon. A hackathon is an event where a team works through the night to “complete” a project in the space of 24 hours – often something that ordinarily would take weeks or months to finish. The final product might not be perfect, but the aim is that by the end of the hackathon a brand new idea will have been taken from drawing board to a prototype will be made that is ready for demo. You can see a video of our hackathon on our website.
What are OVO’s plans for the future? We hope to have 1 million happy customers by 2017 and be a top ten UK employer.
What do you want to see happening in Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone in the near future? We’d like to see more and more businesses choose Bristol so that we can attract top talent from around the world to our city.
OVO in 3 words: Exciting, exciting, exciting