A big focus in Utilities, as in many industries, is the evolution of customer service offerings in a post-pandemic world. How have the customer expectations changed? Which communication channels are being used, and how effective are they? Moreover, where can innovation make life easier for providers and customers alike?
As stated by Five9, the intelligent cloud contact centre: “It is important to understand that as a business grows, the technical capabilities need to continue to meet the organisational needs. Today, the contact centre is the front door to businesses, and companies need to provide fast and reliable solutions for their contact centres to serve customers’ needs, even if expectations continuously evolve.” Brian Atkinson, General Manager EMEA.
Customer Service as a Differentiator
When choosing an energy provider, the customer’s number one priority is cost (as per Which). But with rising energy prices, what is next in line? Unsurprisingly, it is better customer service – with Which highlighting it as ‘a key reason for a quarter (23%) moving their business elsewhere’.
As these figures exemplify, customer service is as important as ever and is becoming a matter of differentiation between suppliers. So, what should a business be focussing on here to keep their customers happy?
- Prevention as a cure: Successful customer retention comes when energy providers concentrate on creating a seamless back-office experience that reduces the likelihood of customers needing to contact them. They offer a range of self-service options to users so that they can handle their own issues. In fact, 40% of customers prefer self-serve options to actual human contact (as per Super Office).
- First contact resolution: Regardless of how great a business is at step one; the reality is there will always be a level of inbound customer contact. When this happens, it is vital to reduce customer effort. A key way to do that is to ensure issues are resolved the first time by utilising a team of people who are educated on services, empowered to implement resolutions and respond with empathy. Reducing the number of times a customer has to make contact about the same issue can significantly impact a business’s operational costs.
- Staying ahead of the game: It’s not enough to get things working well now, even though future-proofing processes and technology are ongoing challenges. Keeping up with the channels customers want to utilise for contact is challenging enough, but innovation as well? It’s a lot for any business to handle but is a vital element in delivering an exceptional CX.
Branding as a Support for Customer Service
A positive brand recognition can undoubtedly impact customer service, as it helps to build loyalty with your customers and therefore reduce the impact of negative interactions. As part of this, it is vital to show customers you are serious about the issues that matter to them, for example, with green credentials.
Recent YouGov research suggests that over 50% of adults in the UK make purchase decisions based on a brand’s eco-credentials, reinforcing the point that brands need to show interest and action in the areas that matter to their customers more than ever.
Our innovative friends over at Switchd and MakeMyHouseGreen shared with us their insight on this matter:
“If we think of ‘Brand’ as the collection of thoughts and feelings the customer holds about our business or product, it’s clear that it can’t be separated from customer service. At MakeMyHouseGreen.com and Switchd.co.uk, the brand we are striving for is one which puts service and the ‘effortless experience’ at its core while helping to deliver environmentally friendly energy solutions. That means delivering on our promises, communicating well and helping the customer feel they are in control.
With MakeMyHouseGreen, we aim to facilitate informed green home decisions by providing accurate and impartial data alongside expert advice. Likewise, with Switchd, our aim is for our members to feel confident and comfortable that they are always on their best home energy deal.
Linking our brand with our customer service also means that looking for feedback opportunities and measuring customer success is paramount. Mike, who has MakeMyHouseGreen to thank for the solar panels on his roof, left a five-star review on TrustPilot saying how he loved not having to deal with ‘your typical salesman pitch’. Mike had ‘tried for quotes from a few other places and their communication was terrible and this was what made MakeMyHouseGreen stand out’.”
Connecting the Dots
A major component of best-in-class customer service is ensuring that when a customer does contact you, they are dealt with quickly and efficiently by that initial person – guaranteeing a good first impression. As discussed in our recent blog regarding reducing customer effort, research showed that being passed to another person or department is the primary cause of customer dissatisfaction. With this in mind, we want to highlight the power of a back office and front office aligned solution.
First contact resolution rates are a core metric of high performing contact centres. The more times a customer needs to contact you, the more disgruntled they become and the more they increase your operational costs. To help reduce this, you could turn to the ‘super-agent’ approach:
A super-agent can handle almost any customer query; they understand key pain points and the relevant solutions. They have a broad understanding of the systems they work on to handle anything from a billing enquiry to a general supply question. It’s something we are proud of here at DDC OS; as specialists in both back-office processing and customer services, we have been able to harness that expertise and transfer that knowledge through extensive training and process mapping. This means that, along with prioritising first contact resolution, our agents can proactively look to fix everything they see on the account and not necessarily just what the customer is calling to resolve.
Moreover, as innovation begins to impact our customer interactions through self-serve options and proactive communication, contact centre teams will naturally focus more and more on complex tasks – increasing the demand for super-agents. This will amplify the importance of retention, career progression and pay – all critical factors in building this team of brand ambassadors.
Innovation can also help with the development of these super-agents. Here are a few options to consider:
- Knowledge Management Software: “With a well-organised knowledge base, agents can quickly find resources relevant to their customers’ problems. And, when integrated with chatbots, knowledge bases can answer questions automatically, reducing the time agents need to spend on simple, repetitive issues. Plus, knowledge bases provide additional context that allows agents to better assist customers one on one. In short, knowledge management software makes customer support agents more productive.” Zendesk.
- Quality & Training: there are a range of software providers on the market that focus on automating elements of quality and training. Providers such as Score Buddy promise to: ‘Engage and upskill your agents with dashboards that provide immediate feedback. Deliver targeted training & coaching using a full-service LMS to fill knowledge gaps.’ Such targeted training ensure agents are focussing on the areas they need to improve on as individuals, so they are not wasting time concentrating on areas they already excel at.
Do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how an outsourcer can help you deliver best in class customer service. We are happy to discuss how we have embraced collaborative innovation with our customers and partners and our network of suppliers who help drive improvements across our teams.