There are less than three weeks until the final deadline for PR19 business plans. How are water companies planning to meet the first key theme set out in PR19 by Ofwat, that of delivering ‘Great customer service’? With significant incentives and penalties at stake, currently expected to be up to 12% of residential retail revenues over a 5-year period, it is critical that this sector is able to meet and exceed customer expectations wherever possible.
C-Mex and the Need for Customer Delight
PR19 has introduced a new measure of customer satisfaction for water companies, the Customer Measure of Experience, or C-Mex. These introduce the Net Promoter Score (NPS), and include people who have had no reason to contact their water company in surveys for the first time, increasing the importance of pro-active communications.
NPS surveys leave no space for ambivalent customers – to be viewed as ‘promoters’, a customer must rank you as 9/10 or higher. This is a metric taken from other vertical sectors, where it may be easier to deliver excellent service and customer engagement. For water companies, however, many customers do not contact their water company unless there is an issue.
So how to deliver customer delight? By connecting customers with the information they want and need, as soon as possible, over the channel of communication they prefer, and using an agent who is suited for the interaction. Our storm® platform has helped many organisations in the utilities sector meet similar challenges, leaving behind penalties and climbing the regulatory leader board towards incentives.
Self-Service and Pro-Active Communications
During peak situations, it is often impossible to answer all customer enquiries within the timescale desired. It is often not possible to scale up agent numbers as required, but delivering excellent customer service is still a priority. An effective way of managing this issue is through pro-actively informing customers of issues, or enabling customers to self-service. In other sectors, similar approaches are delivering incredible improvements to customer satisfaction.
Calls can automatically identify the caller through unique identification numbers and offer them information based on known issues in the caller’s area, in the same way that many banks now play account balances before connecting to an agent. If the customer needs further information, they can go through to an agent. If not, they will have just completed a rapid and simple interaction that has kept them up-to-date on all the information they need.
Our self-service technology has enabled UK Power Networks to automate 93% of enquiries during peak hours through a range of channels. For EDF Energy, meanwhile, the automation of tariff renewals over-the-phone has enabled 60-70% of their customers to completely self-service.
Consistent Service across Channels
The report mandates that organisations ‘will need to offer at least five communication channels, including at least three online channels, to receive contacts and complaints’. Most organisations will probably be running a wide range of channels. In order to deliver customer delight, it is essential that communications over all channels are of the same high quality.
Nevertheless, the complications involved in managing a multi-channel contact centre should not distract from the awareness that customers contacting your organisation usually have a goal in mind, and helping them to achieve this goal rapidly is key to excellent customer experiences.