A watershed moment for customer service

9th Nov 2016

When Scottish Water set out to improve its levels of customer service, the company chose to benchmark its performance against the best. This meant measuring itself not only against other utilities companies, but also against leading service providers in different sectors – something the firm was in an ideal position to do, thanks to its longstanding relationship with The Institute of Customer Service.

Scottish Water, which services 2.4 million households and 160,000 businesses in Scotland and employs 3,750 staff, wanted to go beyond levels of customer service demanded by the Water Industry Commission for Scotland.

“Customer service is fundamental to what we do,” emphasised Peter Farrer, chief operating officer at Scottish Water. “We’ve also shown that, with the right focus, it is possible to drive up customer service and operational efficiency at the same time.”

The Institute has played a significant role in these achievements, particularly after the chief executive, Jo Causon, invited Farrer to become one of The Institute’s Vice Presidents. Scottish Water was already an Institute member, but Farrer explained: “Being a vice president means that I rub shoulders with other senior executives from some of the best customer service organisations in the country. We can share learnings and experiences, and I can take things back to try them at Scottish Water.”

Additional benchmark

The company also makes great use of The Institute’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), which has provided the firm with an additional benchmark based on the responses of Scottish customers in the UKCSI.

Scottish Water has achieved ServiceMark, too – a national accreditation awarded by The Institute that recognises an organisation’s achievement in customer service – and has been involved in The Institute’s forum on providing service to vulnerable customers.

This all-round commitment to customer service has paid off. When Scottish Water first featured in the UKCSI nine years ago, satisfaction using its own real-time Customer Experience Survey tool was at 60 per cent. Now, the company is consistently hitting 90 per cent or more.

Measured approach

Another factor in the company’s success has been the ‘Customer Experience Measure’, which was introduced nine years ago and surveys customers on their experience of Scottish Water. In the last few years, the company has significantly expanded the survey and now receives up to 1,500 pieces of detailed customer feedback every month.

Since becoming a board director in 2009, Farrer has also deepened the level of information captured so that a customer’s satisfaction can be taken right down to individual operator level in the contact centre or the field. “This has driven a real culture change,” he says. “This is one of the things we’re doing that not many other utilities are.”

The information is used not just for coaching purposes around areas of improvement, but also to recognise when a customer has praised an individual or team for great service.

Underpinning all these initiatives has been Scottish Water’s involvement with The Institute. Farrer concludes: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that working with The Institute has had a fundamental impact on our progress.”

Click here to read the full case study.

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