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National Customer Service Week 2017

Posted on: 02/10/2017

Welcome to National Customer Service Week 2017 #NCSW17!

For the Institute of Customer Service – who this year reaccredited us at ‘Distinction’ level for our customer service – it’s an opportunity to raise the profile of the importance of customer service and the vital role it plays in successful businesses.

And at Wales & West Utilities we are no strangers to how important customer service is. Over the last few years we've sharpened our focus on customer service – supported by our business priorities and values. Customer service appears as both a priority and a value, a testament to the importance we place on meeting the needs of the 7.5m people who live in our area.

Every day in #NCSW17 is themed, and today’s is ‘voice of the customer’. I thought I’d blog today about how we listen to what our customer’s say and take action on what they tell us – so we can always improve the service we provide them.

We recently held a focus group on our gas pipe upgrade programme. We wanted to find out how customers preferred us to approach the mains replacement work we do in communities.

Other networks suggest that customers prefer the use of a technique called ‘dead insertion’ – where the gas to an entire section of main supplies to a series of houses is turned off while they are worked on. This can result in longer interruptions to customer’s gas supplies and multiple interruptions while the work is being done. 

Instead, we use a technology called ‘live insertion’ – where we keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses while we’re working and only interrupt their gas supplies once, when we replace their individual gas service. We think that live insertion delivers a superior customer experience. Our recent focus group reaffirmed this view. Customers value the shorter (often less than 4 hours) interruption and the reduction in disruption that live insertion brings.

So, acting on this feedback, our gas pipe upgrade programme willl continue to focus on maximising the use of live insertion to deliver a better customer experience – supported by our innovation strategy too. Our series of pipe cutters, delivered alongside Steve Vick International, means it’s safer, quicker and more efficient to cut through different types of metal, so more pipes can be upgraded using live insertion.

We are listening to customers in other ways.

They tell us that they want to communicate with us in a variety of ways, from online chat to social media to a traditional phone call. So they can! We’re launching a live chat tool for connections in the coming weeks while we’ve recently reorganised our Customer Service Team to make them more efficient and effective in responding to enquiries, complaints and queries by phone, email and social media.

Equally we’ve acted on feedback in more formal ways. Customer Satisfaction Scores made it clear that door knocking ahead of work being done results in a better customer experience – so we’ve rolled it out in East Wales and in the south west by recruiting Customer Support Officers and we’re considering more of these colleagues elsewhere as well.

So I think our track record shows that we really do live by our value of putting our customers first – listening and taking action on what they tell us – so we can continue to drive outstanding service for the communities we serve.

But of course we shouldn’t be complacent! We are always looking for opportunities to improve the quality of service we deliver. If you have any new ideas that you think may help us improve the customer service experience, drop us a line. Of course I can’t promise they’ll be adopted, but I can promise we’ll consider it – because it’s only through acting on feedback that we can continually improve our customer’s experience.

I hope you find this blog interesting – if you have any comments or questions leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Enjoy #ncsw17!

Mark Oliver

Wales & West Utilities Director of Business Services