Roll back 12 months and UK utility providers were caught in the eye of a storm; literally.
As the country was battered by some of the most severe weather experienced in decades, various major energy and telecom providers received a surge of customer service calls, with some subsequently lambasted for failing to cope with the crisis. The timing couldn’t have been worse; energy companies had just announced plans to hike prices for the following year, which did little to help their images.
Move forward 12 months and customer perception of utility providers is still at rock-bottom, with record complaint levels and the ‘big six’ all being ranked as having some of the worst customer service records among big businesses across the country.
Scottish Power has even been warned by governmental energy regulator, Ofgem that it must dramatically improve its customer service or risk having its sales operations suspended – the third move of its type in the last 12 months.
However, with figures showing that between October 2013 to March 2014, more than two million people in the UK alone switched energy supplier, and a recent report showing that poor customer service cost US companies over $41 billion in 2013 alone, it appears that the only possible way is up now, for energy suppliers. It’s a view echoed by Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO of WNS, who has highlighted three key points he expects utility suppliers to adhere to in the coming 12 months, in order to put a halt to the downward spiral of customer perception:
1. Making the most of Value Stream Mapping
Murugesh suggests: “Most of the utility companies still rely on old IT systems and processes that often limit the ability to be agile and deliver flawless customer service. If an organisation really wants to improve its interaction with customers, then Value Stream Mapping will help them to get a broader sense of the business and how it works.
“It can show the effectiveness of various channels and pinpoint exactly where improvements are made to customer service. If you strategically map out these existing processes then you’ll get clear insight into the best ways to streamline workflow and deliver integration between sales, customer management, billing and other functions. Integrating customer feedback from all channels into analytical models can deliver new insights into the customer experience.”
2. Making smarter use of customer data
“Making smart use of customer data is an imperative now for any organisation to sustain today," Murugesh adds. "But, still there number of organisations that are facing a challenge to handle and make efficient business use of the customer data.
“Utility providers have a goldmine of customer information that they should be analysing to get to know their customers. This could be anything from whether they prefer to receive their bills via email or by post, to which time of the day they prefer to be contacted. Using the data proactively can counter for a lot of small customer bugbears.”
3. Using social media to better engage with customers
“With almost every second Internet user in the UK using social networks every day, utility companies need to incorporate social media in to their customer service mix to engage more effectively. This means a dedicated team who can actually interact with customers, rather than just issuing a series of pre-programmed tweets as an extended advertising strategy.
“Many companies don’t have the resource to be able to do this internally, so increasingly organisations are partnering with business process management (BPM) companies who have a strong track record in this space to ensure they’re getting their social media strategy right. Mature BPM solutions don’t just enhance online brand reputation and participation in social conversations, but also offer a way for customers to connect more closely with the brand, and get quick responses to their queries.
“By using social media platforms, utility companies can benefit from immediate and long-term revenue opportunities, as well as recover customers, manage lead generation, track and manage influencers, and a whole host of other benefits.”
About Chris Ward
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.