Energy companies are breaking records for the worst customer service according to new figures published by Ofgem. The industry regulator claims that more than one in three customers who complained was ‘very dissatisfied’ with the way their complaint was handled – an actual increase of 10 per cent since the last survey in 2012.
Ofgem has in turn; written to British Gas, EDF, E.ON, npower, ScottishPower and SSE, and some smaller suppliers to ask what action they are taking. According to Ofgem in nearly half the cases where suppliers felt that a complaint had been resolved, the customer did not. Domestic customers surveyed by Ofgem said that they had to contact their supplier six times on average about a complaint.
Paul Thomas, VP Northern Europe at Aspect Software, stated: “Handling complaints is never an easy task, even for the experienced customer service agent. But the key to better managing complaints – and more importantly, reducing them in the first place – is all about making the customer feel like it is effortless doing business with you.
“The complaints handling procedure by customer facing organisations are still part of creating a good customer experience, as well as driving loyalty and customer retention. But more often than not, customer complaints stem from bad service, rather than something actually going wrong. Customers expect glitches or problems to occur from time to time – the complaints arise when companies do not deal with those problems effectively and communicate with the customers. The customers then have to make the effort to resolve the situation by proactively contacting the organisation.
“For example, if an energy company has a fault with its online payments service, it will dramatically reduce its complaints if it informs customers well before they are even aware of the problem; providing explanatory and helpful details will reduce the effort required of the customer. If the energy supplier does not inform its customers, they will notice the setback and the supplier will be flooded with calls, making the process to deal with each complaint harder,” Thomas explained.
“Pre-emptive contact, supported by analytics, will ultimately be the answer to making it as easy and effortless as possible for the customer. If someone calls a company after being issued with a bill, the customer service agent should be aware of this so they’re better able to pre-empt the content of the call, and therefore better equipped to resolve it.
“In recent years many organisations – especially those in the retail space – have begun to understand the concept of reducing customer effort; energy providers should follow suit. With functions such as click-to-chat, and social media interaction, customer effort has been dramatically reduced to the point where they don’t need to pick up a phone anymore. This has become reality through effective multi-channel, and now omni-channel systems. The choices on offer to customers today present a situation whereby we can contact an organisation through our preferred channel, at our preferred time of day. There need not be any restrictions of ways to contact a company due to the technologies available in today’s modern world,” he said.
Thomas concluded: “Through effective communication and implementation of successful technologies customer effort can be reduced, instilling greater loyalty and a higher satisfaction level. Ultimately, less customer effort equals less customer complaints which in turn promotes loyalty.”
For additional information see Aspect’s Company Profile