With this week’s news that none of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers answered the phone to customers with a problem or query in the two minute standard set by Ofgem, utility companies need to do more to improve service with current customers, or risk losing them, warns Aspect Software.
The survey, conducted by Which?, made 384 calls to energy suppliers in October, calling each company’s customer service number 12 times at set times, while also doing the same for the companies’ sales departments. Results showed that out of the 16 suppliers called, 11 answered their sales lines quicker than the lines for existing customers.
Les Cooper, Head of Utilities at Aspect Software, stated: “The industry is falling severely short of expectations in one major area: the overall customer experience. This could be drilled down to a lack of strategic thinking around interaction avoidance – through pre-emptive customer contact – and reducing the overall effort a customer has to extend in dealing with a provider. This is something that these companies seriously need to address if they are to continue to be successful at a time where the public eye is firmly on the industry after a series of price hikes and tightening regulation.
“The complaints handling procedures used by customer facing organisations are important in creating a good customer experience, as well as driving loyalty and customer retention. If your business cannot provide the best customer experience possible, those customers will simply move on to another provider who can satisfy their needs. With suppliers under intense pressure to reduce prices in light of the increased public awareness around industry practices such as bonuses for senior staff and rocketing profits, the customer experience is more critical than ever,” he said.
Cooper continued: “Handling complaints is never an easy task, even for the experienced customer service agent. The key to better management of 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.
“For example, if an energy company finds that there is fault with its online payments service, it will dramatically reduce the volume of inbound interactions if it informs them about the issue well before they are even aware of the problem. Providing these helpful details in such a way 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, emails and social media interactions, making the process to deal with each complaint increasingly difficult,” Cooper explained.
He added: “Pre-emptive contact, supported by analytics, should be a focus for companies looking to enhance the customer experience, even when things do occasionally go wrong. For energy companies, this could be an outage, perhaps providing access to an interactive map where customers can track which areas are getting fixed and reconnected. Or even something as simple as pre-empting the content of a call based upon recent customer activity – perhaps they’ve just been issued with a new bill – and therefore agents are better equipped to resolve it as quickly as possible.”
Cooper concluded: “Through quick and efficient communication, combined with the application of successful technologies, customer effort can be reduced. This will instilling greater loyalty and a higher satisfaction level and mean there will be fewer customer queries and complaints, therefore improving customer loyalty and helping companies mean the demands set by customers and regulators.”
Les Cooper, is Head of Utilities at Aspect Software
For additional information see Aspect’s Company Profile