Morrison Utility Services: Building customer relationships

“Institute membership enables us to access knowledge and expertise from outside our business. We’ve gained a great deal from being able to compare ourselves with sectors other than the utility sector, testing and challenging us to improve the way we do things."

Morrison Utility Services, a service provider within the electricity, gas and water sectors, recently joined the Institute of Customer Service.

It is a £500 million turnover business which focuses on the provision, replacement, repair and maintenance of utility network infrastructure on behalf of other utility company clients across the UK and Ireland.

Morrison Utility Services’ operational teams are continually at the frontline interacting with clients’ customers whenever they need to replace or upgrade infrastructure from power cables to gas mains.

Strategically embedding a new culture

In its first year of Institute membership, the company, which has four main offices in Stevenage, Leeds, Redhill and Dublin, has continued to build on successfully promoting customer service. This includes arming operational teams with the skills to better communicate with customers.

Dan Rhodes, Morrison Utility Services’ regional customer service manager for the North of England, says the company became a member of the Institute to support its mission to build relationships with the communities in which it works.

“We knew we wanted a structure, a framework and guidance so we would be able to offer a world-class model of customer care with minimising disruption to customers at its heart.” says Dan.

“We sought the advice of the Institute to help us strategically embed this culture within our business.”

Becoming more responsive to customers’ needs

“Traditionally in contracting productivity has been measured in terms of numbers such as the number of jobs completed in a day but this is changing. Our clients want to provide excellent service to customers and we must be their ambassadors.

“We have changed our approach entirely from an operational point of view to be more responsive to customers’ needs.

“For example, previously we may have arrived at a job to find access problems; perhaps a customer was not in if we needed to change a meter or we could not park. As a result we would need go back to the job several times, which is not only expensive but not helping the customer in anyway.

“We now phone ahead before going to an address to give the customer information about what we are doing. We also listen to any queries and concerns they may have and then plan how we will do the job with them so that any inconvenience is keep to a minimum.
“In this way, we are able to identify potential issues and overcome them before they arise.

“Unfortunately there will always be an element of disruption, but we find that if we explain to our customers what we are doing and why they feel included in the process and will suffer a short-term inconvenience for long-term gain.

“In the past year the number of customer complaints we have received about our service, especially site tidiness, has plummeted from 30 to 2.

“And because we share our best practice with our clients, they too have found their own complaints have dropped rapidly in one case from over 200 to 30 or so.”

Training and supporting the front line

Morrison Utility Services employs over 1,900 mobile operatives who are provided with a company vehicle, this makes them easily identifiable when they arrive on site.

With Institute support, Morrison Utility Services has adopted a number of innovative and imaginative training methods to support their frontline people.

Dan explains: “They are our ambassadors and they do an excellent job, but we found that PowerPoint and classroom-based training sessions just does not cut it with them.

“Instead we brought in a local theatre company to support our customer service agenda through role play. The feedback was brilliant and many of our teams have been inspired to go on to achieve NVQs in customer service.”

Dan says Morrison Utility Services benefits from the Institute’s expert forums and in particular the cross-sectoral sharing of best practice and benchmarking of performance.

“Institute membership enables us to access knowledge and expertise from outside our business. We’ve gained a great deal from being able to compare ourselves with sectors other than the utility sector, testing and challenging us to improve the way we do things.

“We want our clients to say in the same breath that Morrison Utility Service is synonymous with excellent customer service as much as exemplary health and safety performance.