Consumer Standards

Consumer Standards Reform

Kerry Moran - 29/11/2023

Consumer Standards Reform: What tactical changes can suppliers make to improve customer experience in the Energy industry?

‘Energy is the lowest performing sector in the UK for customer satisfaction levels’ as rated by the institute of customer service (July 23). A drop of 5.3 points in the last 12-months saw the industry earn this undesirable crown. This, coupled with less than impressive customer service ratings in the latest publication by Citizens Advice (September 2023) in which overall scores ranged from 1.8-3.7, reinforces the need for a real shake up in consumer standards to deliver better outcomes for customers. Ofgem's decision to introduce requirements for suppliers to publish customer service ratings provided by Citizens Advice has been at the forefront of discussion, and this is unsurprising given the sub-par performance across the board.

Due to be launched mid-December, Ofgem has proposed new rules to elevate service standards. Suppliers must adapt and become truly customer centric to adhere to these new rules, investing in people and processes is key to delivering exceptional service. The Citizen Advice ratings and the service areas they represent are important, functioning both as performance indicators and a catalyst for change, however, to transform customer operations to the levels required to rebuild confidence in the ability of the industry to adequately service customers, suppliers need to look beyond this scope and take practical steps to expedite improvements. Clyde Ventures has identified tactical changes suppliers can deploy while developing the long-term strategy, to not only be compliant with reform but continue the journey to delivering exceptional customer experience.

Delivering service improvements in line with licencing changes

First Contact Resolution

Equipping advisors with the skills and tools to get it right first time for your customers is key to transforming your customer operations. This can be achieved with targeted training and ensuring front line staff are supported with efficient processes to facilitate success. Empowering customer facing staff and reducing the need for hand-offs are critical in improving first contact resolution and same day complaints closure rates. Ofgem's July 2023 market compliance review highlighted concerns in the volume of complaints being upheld by the energy ombudsman and given that 12/20 suppliers rated in the recent citizens advice publication scored 1/5 stars for the complaints metric, this should be a high priority focus area for all suppliers. Development of people and changes in behaviour takes time and investment to embed, suppliers may consider strengthening cross function communication, encouraging live collaboration between different departments to facilitate a smoother flow of information resulting in increased first contact resolution for your customer.

Vulnerable Customer Strategy

Recent changes place focus on ensuring that customers can contact their supplier with relative ease and, while this has been a long-term metric, there has been a shift to specifically prioritising vulnerable customers who require support. It is essential that suppliers adopt an approach that encompasses both the practicalities of fulfilling this obligation and providing quality support and solutions to this customer base. To achieve this, there must be an awareness of ‘who’ these customers are, leveraging data to develop a comprehensive view of customers who may be in, or at risk of, financial vulnerability. This is key to both offering proactive support and communications, and supporting the quality of conversations advisors are equipped to have when servicing these customers. Providing front line advisors with the training, skills and knowledge to manage difficult conversations with care and empathy should be a key focus for suppliers this winter, with the newly released price cap figures demonstrating the majority of customers will be worse off in the first quarter of 2024 in comparison to 2023.

Process Improvement

There is no denying the provision of service is complex in utilities. Often multiple processes must work together to ensure that both the customer and supplier receive a fair outcome. Suppliers must be agile and work at pace to overcome issues quickly to prevent negative customer impact and ensure satisfaction. With disparate processes, industry specific challenges and regulatory constraints this is more of a challenge than it initially sounds. Encouraging advisors to do the right thing for your customers starts with making this as easy as possible, by reviewing your internal processes through the lens of your front-line staff and your customers to facilitate improvements you will strengthen the confidence levels of advisors and support embedding an outcome focused approach. A first tactical step could be to utilise automation; identify repetitive and time-consuming tasks that can be automated to reduce manual effort and improve productivity.

How can we help?

Clyde Ventures are a utilities centric management consultancy and salesforce integrator. We are not career consultants; born from operations, we understand and have faced your challenges.

We can help you:

  • Support operational teams to assess and rethink how the business measures and communicates performance across all layers of accountability, strengthening data driven contact centres that support decision-making and build an understanding of how to effectively manage demand and competing operational pressures to deliver industry leading customer contact performance. We are experts in designing and supporting implementation of these changes in a way that drives change and leads to more engaged and productive organisations.

  • Develop the customer service skills to deliver excellence. We are a consultancy with a difference as we commit to recruiting 90% of our staff from the poorest 10% of postcodes. This places us in a unique position to design training and conversations that resonate with the experience your front-line staff have with customers particularly in the current conditions where genuine empathy is required for customers with financial vulnerability.

  • Tackle your most challenging processes, supporting you in optimising and improving underperforming processes that are frustrating your advisors and customers. We immerse ourselves in your teams, in a non-disruptive manner, to understand your challenges bringing our operational expertise and insight to the table. Our approach is to operate with full transparency in terms of our toolkit and analysis while sharing knowledge and upskilling your internal teams to deliver results long after our engagement is completed.

Read our case study on how we supported a recent client to optimise their revenue without the need for investment in new technology here.

For more information on how we can help you transform your customer operations for excellence contact Kerry Moran or Amber Morton.
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