New boss wants to make SSE ‘the next John Lewis’

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INCOMING SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies has said that he wants to turn the owner of Scottish Hydro Electric into a brand as loved as John Lewis or Marks & Spencer – but that he will forego his £140-a-year staff discount and will instead donate the cash to charity.

Phillips-Davies, who will step up from his current role as deputy chief executive when incumbent Ian Marchant retires in July, said Perth-based SSE gets “tarred a bit with the bad press of some of the other suppliers”, despite ranking near the top of customer satisfaction surveys.

He told a Sunday newspaper: “Some of them probably deserve it. I think we deserve it less. The way customers feel about M&S and John Lewis, both of those are good examples of the way we want customers to feel about us.”

SSE runs a joint venture with M&S but – even though SSE supplies all of the call centre staff and management team for its operations – M&S Energy still receives higher customer satisfaction reports.

“It shows how much brand counts,” Phillips-Davies added.

During his ten years at the helm of SSE, Marchant took the 12 per cent discount on his utility bills that is offered to all of the group’s staff.

But Marchant’s discount drew criticism from some consumers, leading to Phillips-Davies deciding to instead donate the money to charity through a scheme introduced by SSE and which Marchant also now uses. Phillips-Davies said: “If people think I can afford to not take the discount I’ll not take it, it doesn’t bother me.”