The Client

Providing gas and electricity to over 140,000 homes across the UK, GB Energy Supply (GBES) became part of Co-op Energy in 2016. 

The Challenge

GBES customers were identified as being unable to be fulfilled by their supplier, leading to Ofgem searching for a Supplier of Last Resort. Ofgem ran a competitive process to find the best supplier to serve GBES customers, with Co-op Energy being chosen to do this. This was the first time the market had seen this in around 20 years.

This came with a number of challenges for Co-op Energy, who kept the GB Energy branding and provided customers with a seamless transition. With around 150,000 customers, GBES had experienced an unsustainable amount of growth, leading to process issues and failures across the whole customer journey.

Tackling the process issues straight away was a priority to ensure customer impact was minimised, ensuring the key people were in the right roles. They identified all areas with backlogs and began building a strategy with GBES existing outsource provider, DDC Outsourcing Solutions UK (DDC OS).

As a Supplier of Last Resort, there is no ‘instruction manual’ or list of steps to follow, so Co-op Energy and DDC OS pulled a plan together to complete this significant challenge.

They were completely flexible to the constant changes we needed to make as a business -Paul Robinson, who managed the acquisition for Co-op Energry

The Solution

DDC OS were delighted to be able to support Co-op Energy in this and together we began to quantify every backlog and identify customer service issues.

Our initial step was to identify how many customer service agents we would require to effectively overhaul our position and move forward, so, we transitioned quickly from a team of around 70 to 127 full-time employees over a period of 3 months. This recruitment exercise was an excellent example of our ability to adapt to client needs. 

Phase two saw us target billing, identifying why certain accounts were not billed and then implementing the required fix. This led to reducing 30,000 outstanding billing issues to, at the time of writing, less than 100 – an industry-leading figure. To put that into perspective initially we were looking at an unbilled customer base of 25%, which now is tracking at <0.2% consistently.

Phase three was debt quantifying. We completed 120,000 Direct Debit reviews.  Naturally, this meant communicating the change to customers, inherently increasing call volumes which at peak led to over 17,000 in a week, all handled at our customer service centre in Worksop. 

These initial steps were prioritised to ensure customers were paying for the energy they use in an efficient way, ensuring their accounts don’t move into debt. This was the best way to ensure the health of the company, but also the best way to support customer service issues down the line. 

Our next move was to deal with GB Energy’s’ poor practice around debt management, which did not meet Co-op Energy’s high standards. Our focus was on developing an effective communication plan. The work undertaken halved the debt book, with customers’ ability to pay and any vulnerabilities fully considered. At each stage we analysed our performance, looking for improvements as part of our new continuous improvement culture. To further this, Co-op Energy’s complaint process was successfully implemented. 

After these initial core areas were improved, we were able to move from fixing processes to improving them. We wanted to smooth out the customer`s journey and improve their experience. An example of this was proactively refunding customers who had moved to an alternative supplier to reduce the volume of contact, which hadn’t happened under GBES. Our nearshore team based in Sarajevo, enabled us to do this in a cost-effective manner, producing fantastic results and feedback.

Moving to a state of business as usual, we questioned at every turn how we could save the client money and how we could improve our knowledge of the industry. We actively moved to a culture that celebrated our successes and took time to listen to calls to identify the biggest contact drivers, in order to develop new processes to reduce the level of contact. The biggest area we targeted was the website, implementing over 20 changes to the site to improve its usability. Further, it encouraged customers to provide meter reads and to review their tariff, saving time for both us and the customer.

Then came the process of upskilling our agents to meet Co-op Energy’s high standards, ensuring they had all the knowledge and information required to give the customer a positive experience. This in turn reduced the volume of repeat calls – the first contact resolution rate went from 50% to 79% in 6 months. Our attrition rate also reduced as employees felt more satisfied and confident in their role.

All of these steps were supported by a new quality control process and the team reduced contact by 20% in around 15 weeks, leading to significant savings for Co-op Energy and big improvements in customer service.

The Benefits

  • Ability to upscale quickly to satisfy Co-op Energy and Ofgem`s timeframe for improvement. 
  • Industry expertise and consultation
  • Award-Winning Campaign (read more) 
  • Cost savings and efficiencies  

Summary

Under challenging circumstances, DDC OS UK and Co-op Energy were able to come together and implement a transformational solution that has led to award winning customer service. This has been a fine example of how to successfully handle the Supplier of Last Resort situation and move forwards in a positive way.

 

We decided from Day 1 to work in partnership with DDC OS and work in a consultative and constructive way to quickly to improve the business performance post the appointment of Co-op Energy through the supplier of last resort process.  We found they were completely flexible to the constant changes we needed to make as a business and within 6 months we were getting the level of performance and service our customers deserve and expect.

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