According to the Energy Ombudsman, customer complaints about energy firms have rocketed to more than 10,000 in the first six months of 2014, their highest-ever level and double that of the previous six months, with the majority of the complaints focused on billing.
Les Cooper, Head of Utilities at Aspect Software, suggests that there is an inherent disharmony between back office and front office in many utilities companies, and it is one of the major root causes of customer complaints – not the contact centre.
“Unhappy customers want to be able to sort out their issues with minimal effort, as quickly as possible, something I think we all agree on. After all, most customers that have complaints to make are in no mood to be hanging around on the phone or waiting to be put through to the right department in order to get their issue resolved. Let’s face it, this will only exasperate the situation further, so quick and effective solutions are key to satisfying the customer’s expectations.
“The issue peculiar to energy and utilities companies is that the product is a commodity. Prices between suppliers don’t vary enough to be competitive, but they do compete with service. And it seems by these latest figures that service is failing them,” he said.
“It can seem like a monumental task to balance good customer service with a high first contact resolution rate, but having a skilled, highly trained workforce that can deal with a variety of customer issues, and can easily switch work and multi-task in order to meet peaks in demand is a good start. One way to achieve this is through seamlessly blending the front and back office; training agents to work across engagement channels including voice, SMS, web chat etc. and fully prepared to switch to working on back office tasks whenever required. In this way, you’re using your employees’ time more efficiently, and creating a highly productive working environment – great for the business!
“It also means that customer interactions then don’t need to be shifted back and forth between the front and back office in order to find a satisfactory resolution,” he said.
Cooper concluded: “Customers are always going to have concerns and issues – this unfortunately cannot be helped – however what can be helped is the experience the customer receives when trying to get a resolution. Customer happiness is vital to a businesses success, and happiness is feed by satisfaction – they don’t care if you made a mistake, it’s how you fix it.”
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