Why good customer service is essential.
My heart sank as I walked into the Post Office and noticed the length of the queue in front of me. Do I stay or do I go? I made a quick calculation that the queues were unlikely to get smaller during December and, with reluctance, joined at the back, shuffling forward every few minutes like a hungry child in a Charles Dickens novel, eagerly hoping for more.
I made my purchase quickly and moved to one side to gather my stuff and let the older lady behind me get served. I soon became aware of her conversation with the counter assistant. Turns out she wanted to post a document but needed an envelope to do so. The assistant offered up an envelope and explained that these items were cash only and needed 30p. The customer only had a debit card. “No” said the assistant, “it’s cash only for the envelope” As she waved it in front of her, “You need to pay cash for this first”. The old lady looked again in her handbag for some loose change. Nothing there. I raked through my pockets for cash, the least I could do, nothing there. The assistant waved the envelope again. The old lady, who had patiently made her way to the front of the queue, silently turned around and left the shop. “Next” called the assistant, unmoved.
This got me thinking about customer service and how good customer service can and does, make a positive difference to people’s lives.
Here at MGISS, we have invested heavily in how we deliver and measure our customer service. As an SME, it is critical for us that we deliver a customer experience as good as it can be and be trusted to do what we say. This starts with employee engagement. every team member at MGISS is motivated to help our customers as best we can, make their contact with us an enjoyable one, and encourage a positive relationship so that they return again and again.
We don’t get it right every time of course, and we know we have to learn, but our staff feel empowered to make decisions and this empowerment is a key building block in customer service. It’s a pity the assistant in the Post Office did not feel empowered to help her customer, even if it meant bending the rules slightly. It’s our people who make our customers’ experience a positive one, they are people too, after all.
We’re not the only ones either. The Institute of Customer Service recognise the impact customer satisfaction has on business performance and advocates that commitment comes from the top but involves everyone. They highlight concerns over staffing levels and the length of time taken for resolution are often cited as reasons for customer dissatisfaction. Having the right people happily helping other people is clearly important.
Ofcom published a critical report last month highlighting poor CSAT (customer satisfaction) scores with Evri and Yodel called out, the latter achieving only 26% satisfaction. By comparison, Royal Mail came in better but still only scoring 44%. I cannot help but feel this is an example of where poor customer service has a negative impact on people’s lives.
When we look at our utility companies, the headlines might look bleak.
Ofwat’s latest Water company report, published in September, was pretty damning. Underperformance by most of the Water and Wastewater companies means they will have to return £114m to their customers next year. Ofwat reported an overall decline in customer satisfaction over a set of measures including leakage, pollution incidents and customer service.
David Black, Ofwat CEO said:
“It’s not going to be easy for companies to regain public trust, but they have to start with better service for customers and the environment”.
Yet I wonder if a major contributory factor to the lower-than-expected CMEX scores is the continued financial difficulty for customers, due to the cost of living. This is making affordability more important than ever. Add to this the near hysterical media campaign slamming our water companies, consistently using terms such as ‘pumping’ and ‘dumping’ raw sewage. It’s nonsense of course but doesn’t take away the fact that fewer than half of companies achieved their performance target in reducing pollution incidents and leakage. Pollution, high bills and leakage are the top three customer priorities according to the Consumer Council for Water Insight report published in October.
Source: Brandwatch: Past 12 months by date – July 2022 – August 2023 – across news, blogs, forums, twitter and other platforms such as review sites. England and Wales only. Total volume of conversations 186,874
So, what are companies doing?
Some, like Northumbrian Water, have invested in Innovation and heightened employee and customer engagement to drive better performance. With 73% of staff saying it’s a great place to work and 116 members of staff engaged as innovation ambassadors, maybe it’s no surprise that Northumbrian Water were ranked number one in the Ofwat CMEX table with a score of 83.74. Even better, the CCW (Consumer Council for Water) revealed scores of 98% customer satisfaction with their service and 85% satisfaction with affordability.
The good news continues in the Energy sector where one company continues to demonstrate the value of good customer service. UK Power Networks, our Utility of the year 2023, are the only utility placed in the top fifty by the Institute of Customer Service, claiming 11th place in the latest UKCSI (UK Customer Satisfaction Index) and only 2.6 points from top place.
It’s no coincidence that UKPN has also won the Investors in people platinum award, coming 2nd overall in the top 25 big companies to work for. As Ian Cameron, Director of customer service and innovation said: “Our customers have recognized the tremendous effort our employees have put in to step up our game and show what focus and hard work can achieve.” He goes on to explain “how their approach is to listen and find out customers’ pain points, so we can resolve them.”
Evidence then, where putting people at the heart of your business, makes good business sense. The right people, happy and valued people, who can find empathy with their customers, have the will to help and are empowered by their employer to do so. That is the secret to good customer service.
If you would like to know more about MGISS and how we put people at the heart of our business, please get in touch.
With more than 22 years' experience in the Geospatial world, Martin is proud to be considered a trusted advisor working for many long-standing utility clients. Martin is a passionate advocate for digital transformation and helping customers drive value and insight from location data, to solve some of their most urgent challenges. Martin understands how innovation, technology and collaboration can help clients improve their network management, for regulation, resilience, the environment and their customers.