The Challengers: Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, Product & Marketing Director, Octopus Energy

The Challengers: Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, Product & Marketing Director, Octopus Energy

The UK energy market is notorious. Known for its challenging levels of customer service, difficult supplier switching mechanisms and impenetrable bureaucracy, entering this industry isn’t for the faint-hearted. But where there are problems, there are also opportunities. The team at Octopus Energy knows this. In fact, fixing these problems is their motivation for revolutionising the UK energy industry with transparency, honesty and simplicity. We spoke to Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, Marketing & Product Director at Octopus, to find out what it’s like working in the energy industry and how she’s meeting these challenges.

“I think that consumers like to feel they are taking a stand against the status quo. In a world dominated by multinational corporations, choosing a challenger brand is a way of pulling back control. Greg Jackson, our founder, set up Octopus Energy because he believed that the energy market was broken, dominated by large, inefficient suppliers and – with its continuing reliance on fossil fuels – accelerating global warming and damaging the UK’s transition to a low-carbon future.

We believe buying energy should be as simple as buying cornflakes. That’s why we’re using technology to create a leaner business from the ground up – doing away with long calls to call centres, letters piling up in mailboxes and the bureaucracy our industry is famous for. I worked for a famous market leader for years. But market leaders, in my opinion, are so often hampered by legacy systems and media and regulatory scrutiny.   I wanted to join a business where I could apply my industry knowledge, but also have the flexibility to change and improve things. At Octopus, I have the flexibility to move quickly, to think on my feet and to do things differently.

For example, at Octopus, we use data in a unique way. Data science at Octopus Energy is led by David Sykes, a former Reservoir Engineer for BP.  By visually analysing and exploring pricing data, David spots patterns and trends that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. A big discovery came when he saw that big energy companies were offering consumers a low ‘teaser’ rate at the start of a contract with a sudden increase a few months later – leading to a ‘squeeze’ on consumers’ wallets. This result was proof of an industry-wide practice that we called ‘tease and squeeze pricing’. As a relatively small player in the market, this discovery was a game-changer for us. It enabled us to educate consumers and the media on this industry practice and generated incredible media coverage from many national news outlets, including the BBC.

Once consumers become aware of these kinds of practices, we hope they will be motivated to seek out an alternative. And, hopefully, they will choose a company such as Octopus Energy, which doesn’t want to rip them off, and which has a genuine desire to move away from fossil fuels toward a low-carbon future.

Working for a challenger brand can be difficult. But the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. By taking inspiration from the companies I admire – for example, Virgin, with its focus on customer service, and Avis, who owned their USP with their ‘We Try Harder’ campaign (which addressed consumer concerns with market leaders without actually saying it) – I’m able apply novel methods and techniques. Because this approach results in real change, working for Octopus Energy is an absolute pleasure.”

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