New research release: The Power of Customer Service

9th Jul 2014

The Utilities sector can rebuild its reputation and regain customers’ trust - but only if it demonstrates a clear leadership commitment to customer service, engages employees across the value chain in improving and simplifying service processes and makes better use of customer insight.

In its latest report, ‘The Power of Service: How Utilities Can Improve Customer Focus and Business Performance’, the Institute of Customer Service investigates customer satisfaction in the utilities sector by asking 2,000 customers about their perceptions of service experience and what influencing them to switch suppliers, alongside interviews with senior people working within utilities organisations and an analysis of satisfaction with the whole customer experience drawn from the UKCSI (UK Customer Satisfaction Index). Interviewees also identify three fundamental issues which need to be addressed – reducing problems for customers, being straightforward to deal with and clear and comprehensible billing.

The research further suggests that it is important that regulatory frameworks adapt to changing technologies and market conditions and strike a balance between protecting consumers’ interests, encouraging competition, measuring at least base levels of customer service whilst incentivising investment and innovation.

Jo Causon, CEO of the institute of Customer Service, said:

“Customer satisfaction with Utilities companies are, on average, the lowest of all 13 sector surveyed in the UKCSI. As a result levels of trust are also lower than any other sector.“There are significant business benefits for Utilities organisations which focus on improving their customer service. In an increasingly competitive market, organisations with better customer service are much better placed to retain and win customers. By simplifying processes and reducing problems there is an opportunity for greater efficiencies which improve bottom line performance. There are also significant new opportunities to harness technology to offer new and differentiated services, but customers will only be receptive to these from organisations they trust and who deliver straightforward customer experiences.”

At a time when OFGEM has also called on the big six energy companies to explain pricing or “risk undermining public confidence”, the Institute of Customer Service’s insights into the Utilities sector confirms that price is an issue of key importance for many customers, but also demonstrates that customers who are very satisfied with the service they receive are less likely to switch to another provider. ‘Cheaper pricing’ is the main motivator for switching, followed by ‘better customer service’ and ‘predictable pricing’. But the majority of customers who rate their overall experience with their current provider as 9 or 10 (out of 10) claimed they are unlikely to switch in the coming six months, whereas three quarters of very dissatisfied customers said they were likely to switch. The report concludes with a set of recommendations with key actions which organisations should take to improve their customer service.

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