Investing in overall brand experience for customers is one of the most important aspects of any business. By building a happy, loyal customer base that makes brand interaction easy and enjoyable, businesses can ensure that they have the edge over competitors. With the rise of challenger brands, this has become particularly important for the utilities industry over recent years.
Findings of the UK customer satisfaction index (UKCSI) earlier this year revealed that the utilities industry found themselves with a customer satisfaction score of 74.4 out of 100, well below the all-sector average of 78.1.
Figures from Ofgem have revealed that the average number of complaints received by the leading utility companies per 100,000 customer accounts had decreased from 3,510 in Q1 2013 to 2,233 in Q1 2018, but the average number of complaints resolved by the suppliers by end of the next working day dropped from 81 percent to 60 percent in the same period.
Mandy Holford, customer service director at leading contact center Echo-U, looks at how enhancing customer experience could further benefit the utilities industry. She said:
“Consumers are currently finding themselves in a position where they are needing to spend more and more time trying to resolve complaints with energy providers, suggesting that an investment into customer experience could further improve that overall customer satisfaction.
“Although the results from Ofgem are positive to see that the number of complaints has decreased and a step in the right direction, the fact that it is taking longer for companies to resolve issues is causing consumers to become even more frustrated.”
This increase in the time taken to resolve complaints has provided a window of opportunity for challenger brands, who have invested heavily in a more user-friendly experience for utility consumers. In this year’s Uswitch Energy Customer Satisfaction Report, a huge gap was identified between the larger suppliers and smaller suppliers.
Companies such as Utility Warehouse, Bulb and Octopus Energy all boasted satisfaction scores of almost 90 or above, whereas larger suppliers hovered between the 65 to 70 percent mark.
Through investment into digital services and a simple use of language, challenger brands can provide an experience that is much less complicated, making it easier to solve any issues. With the introduction of nine new smaller energy suppliers into this year’s report, it couldn’t be more important for The Big Six to address any issues relating to customer service.
A recent study by Jaywing claimed that 73 percent of telecommunications and utilities marketers would rank improving their customer contact strategy as the top priority for data-driven marketing, so how can utility brands enhance the overall interaction between supplier and consumer?
1. Keep the customer informed
Communication with a customer is key when dealing with an issue or complaint. If the matter is more complex and likely to take extra time to resolve, be transparent with the customer and keep them in the loop as to what stage their enquiry is at. Ensure that communication is present throughout the whole complaint journey – if a customer must keep contacting the business for an update, this will only heighten their frustration.
2. Invest in digital platforms
Nowadays consumers expect an answer at the click of a button and this will often mean that they turn to digital platforms to get that answer. Investing in AI such as a chatbot on social media to answer common questions or allowing a customer to check their account easily through a mobile app could minimise the amount of unnecessary phone calls.
The ability to check something 24/7 is an attractive feature for consumers who operate outside of a general 9-5 lifestyle.
Leading market research agency Explain Market Research, which is one of the UK’s leading experts in utility/energy research, has been working on innovative ways to explore how utility companies can engage with their customers.
During Explain Market Research’s work at this year’s NWG Innovation Festival 2018, managing director Kim Davis explained:
“The topic of customer advocacy and ‘Fans for life’ is one that we recognise as being central to future proofing the success of businesses. One of the main ideas that we’ve explored is how we can encourage and develop meaningful exchanges between businesses and customers, including directly supporting communities in exchange for feedback that can improve services.”
3. Keep it simple
Consumers are turning to brands which are hassle-free and easy to understand. Even technical language and only offering certain times to speak to an advisor can make things both difficult and inconvenient.
Ensure that the journey for a customer is clear and simple both online and offline, with a clear point of call for each service that your business provides, including a separate area for complaints to be dealt with.
4. Invest in the team
A knowledgeable team that is confident, personable and that can reflect the company’s brand values will provide easier communication between the business and the customer. Ensure that the customer service team have a shared vision of resolving complaints effectively but quickly and that they are up-to-speed with any changes within the business.
Invest time in training staff members on how to handle complaints in a professional, friendly manner and put a process in place for a complaint journey.
A positive attitude, approachable nature and breadth of knowledge about the company from a customer services employee will make conversations much more pleasurable for both the team and the customer on the other end.
About the Author
Mandy Holford is the customer service director at Echo-U. Echo-U is committed to creating growth for its clients, including many of the UK’s biggest brands, by managing their customer relationships through combining quality conversations with the best customer experience.