Utility Company Call Centres – Getting it Right

Utility companies have some of the highest demands placed on their contact centres by customers and regulators alike. We've taken a deep dive into how you can best serve these needs.

The good news?  

For tier 1 Utility companies, complaints have been steadily dropping since 2014, going from around 4,000 per year to just over 2,000.

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/consumers/energy-supplier-comparison-data/compare-supplier-performance-complaints

The bad news?

In the mid-sized utility companies however the pattern looks different, having peaked and troughed at various levels in the same time frame. In 2020 the level of complaints is roughly the same as in 2014, showing no real progress in six years.

It’s easy to get lost in the statistics, but each of those numbers represents a frustrated customer that tells a few people, every opportunity they have, to avoid that brand like the plague.

A tale of tragedy

We spoke to a recent customer of a mid-market player who had experienced no small amount of frustration in a process that the Government keeps telling us should be getting easier – moving accounts.

The crux of the matter was the provision of meter readings, provided faithfully every month via an uploaded photograph to the app, as requested. Each month a confirmation was received, thanking the customer for their submission.

Rolling round to the time of the cancellation, it was then discovered that the company had decided to ignore the uploaded images, and had been using estimated readings (despite saying otherwise on the bill). Upon the cancellation, the company then took the time to look back at the account, realised their error and issued an invoice for £600 (to cover outstanding charges and fees) in order to process the cancellation.

This final amount was in itself incorrect, as the calculated difference in charges should have been closer to £300.

It proved impossible to reach someone on the phone, and on the one occasion where they succeeded the person didn’t understand the problem, and ultimately the company lost all record of that call.

Next, things moved to email, to keep things in writing, and replies were not forthcoming. At all.

The case was eventually escalated to the Ombudsman who conducted a thorough investigation where they also struggled to get replies from the customer service centre. Finally, the Ombudsman ruled in the consumer’s favour, having experienced many of the same frustrations of conflicting information and a general lack of communication. What was interesting is that they not only supported the upholding of the reduced bill, but insisted that the company refund the entire amount due to their incompetency.

Cost to the business:

Original cost to company if initial inquiry had been resolved: £0

Resulting cost to company £300

If this was replicated across approximately 1,300 complaints for a mid-market company as seen in the Ofgem report detailed above, the total cost could be £390,000.

  Even 10% of that cost should be unacceptable.

What’s the alternative?

If you boil this problem down to its core elements, it ultimately came down to poor communication and a lack of a connection between systems. This can seem like a complex challenge to overcome, but technology has evolved to solve problems such as these much more easily.

Connecting different systems using open APIs from a platform designed to overlay communication channels and to connect these channels to order information, regardless of where it sits, eliminates confusion.

In the above scenario, this could have led to first time resolution on the call, matching the image submission information to the customer record and communication outreach puts the power back in the hands of the customer service agent.

Not only would that have kept the customer happy and avoided the costs, but replicating this efficiency across multiple first time calls creates significant cost savings in the call centre.

See for yourself how Gnatta can facilitate first time resolution and avoid escalation to the ombudsman and the resulting costs.

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