Spotlight: Wales and West Utilities

17th Jun 2016

In a recent interview with Customer Focus magazine, Wales and West Utilities CEO Graham Edwards revealed the ethos that has led to a set of high customer satisfaction scores in a recent Institute of Customer Service survey of its customers. 

How do you engage with your customers?

We are as transparent as we possibly can be. There are two elements, for me. One is to be upfront with customers and to tell them what we are doing and why we are doing it. And if you can’t do something then explain why. The other is to be accessible to all customers. I respond personally to some of their emails.

What has engaging directly with customers taught you?

They want to be able to engage with those at the top of an organisation if they can’t get their issues resolved and they want to know their problems and issues are properly understood.

There’s a balance to find here. You can’t have all your customers constantly having direct access to the CEO. It’s unrealistic and it would undermine the rest of the organisation. There has to be a sensible escalation process – one that customers can trust to work.

How do you deal with criticism?

By addressing the issue as soon as possible and then seeing if there’s anything to learn from that. Today it’s all about the softer skills of how you treat customers, how you communicate with them. Invariably it’s not just about how well we do the actual job itself.

To be frank, the age of purely corporate responses is dying. You can’t get away with it any more. On social media there is absolutely no hiding place. People won’t stand for it anymore and have a ready-made outlet for their frustration.

How does being a monopoly affect your customer service? 

Enshrined in our license requirements are the activities that we have to perform and the standards of service that we have to meet as a minimum. Those are absolute requirements. However, when we established this business in 2005 we also decided that a key priority for us was delivering excellent customer service. We look outside our sector to see who’s doing it really well, such as Virgin and John Lewis. Companies have to adjust and adapt.

What do you focus on inside the company?

Processes, culture and people. If the processes are clunky, they will get in the way of people delivering great service; but the real outstanding requisites are the culture of the organisation and people who are committed and motivated to delivering great service. We know our customers can’t choose their gas network, but our aim has always been to ensure that if they could they would choose us.

Click here to read the full interview.

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