Water companies aren't judged only on what comes out of the tap.
Regulator Ofwat also monitors their quality of customer service. Aware that its eight IT systems for keeping contact with customers often let it down, Severn Trent Water (STW) asked PA Consulting Group to supply a platform for improving this service.
As things stood, call-centre agents typically had to switch between screens about 20 times per call, often taking paper notes. They were frequently unable to resolve customer queries and were forced to call them back.
And training an agent could take up to six months.
PA eschewed a traditional customer relationship management package, recommending instead an Improving the Customer Experience (ICE) solution based on Graham Technology's process framework. The first time such a solution had been implemented on such a scale in the UK water industry, this gave STW the chance to make some immediate customer service gains, but also promised to serve longer-term goals.
PA set up small, highly focused development teams that could create quick wins. Each team, made up of PA and STW personnel, was tasked with delivering rapid prototypes. PA also worked closely with management teams in the contact centres, developing a phased migration approach to reduce risks and protect operational stability. Ten call centre staff were seconded full-time to the project team.
Some call-centre staff feared the new system would de-skill their jobs, but PA's communication programme, with roadshow demonstrations, helped reassure staff that they'd be freer to concentrate on customers' real needs.
Rollout of the new system was a challenge, as the call centre couldn't afford any downtime. To ensure a smooth transition, migration took place a few teams at a time over six weeks. Both systems ran in parallel until everyone had migrated.
Since the ICE system was installed, customer complaints have fallen by 30% and the number of problems resolved on the spot have increased by 36%. STW now intends to embark on a more extensive process of improving the customer experience at all points of contact.
PA's ICE solution gave STW agility in customer response, cutting complaints by 30%.
- Apply in-depth industry knowledge to understand the problems.
- Use highly focused teams for quick wins.
- Create a 'no surprises' culture through honesty, openness and a commitment to tackling problems early.
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