Managing complaints in the utilities industry: it's a matter of process

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In whatever sector you operate, your business will inevitably get customers complaining about some aspect of product or service from time to time. And, although the primary goal will always be to keep these to a minimum, equally important will be the way in which you deal with complaints when they arise. Handled well, the customer’s initial negative experience can be turned around to ensure a positive view of the organisation - and in some cases even generate additional sales opportunities.

Yet in such markets as utilities, there are some formidable hurdles to overcome. In a sector which attracts more than its share of customer complaints, companies constantly have to square the potentially conflicting pressures of cost reduction and customer service. All this has to be managed within a tightly-regulated complaints handling regime and under a constant media spotlight.

This is a tough challenge for certain but not an insurmountable one. The key is to recognise that process sits at the heart of managing complaints effectively. Utilising the Vodafone Process Tracker tool, for example, the quality of customer interactions can be transformed by automating and streamlining key processes, removing manual intervention and ensuring tasks are completed faster and more accurately.

This is especially critical in the utilities sector. Here, the investigation and processing of each case often attracts a high overhead, with the need to exchange information between multiple parties, including internal sales channels, customers and other third-party providers. Not only is this costly but the time taken to execute these complex processes typically adds to a customer’s frustration.

By connecting related workflows, communications and performance reports, this enables the business to keep everyone informed in meeting the ever-growing demands of internal and external stakeholders. Customer service quality is enhanced by the greater speed and accuracy in dealing with the issue and a full audit trail ensures compliance with regulatory and corporate governance demands. At the same time, greater operational efficiencies means this can be achieved at reduced cost to the business.

By enabling the organisation to embed real-time connectivity at the heart of its operations, Process Tracker improves customer engagement and responsiveness. It scales with the business and can be implemented quickly and simply, either as a stand-alone process automation solution or integrated with the established infrastructure to ensure maximum return on existing IT investment.

Looking ahead, pressure is unlikely to ease for utilities companies. Customer service expectations will grow as the high cost of generation feeds through to the business and domestic consumer, with above-inflation price rises continuing to make front-page headlines. Companies will look to minimise the scale of increases by squeezing their cost base even further, yet in the full knowledge that the regulator will come down hard on any shortcomings in service quality which may result.

In response, Process Tracker will enable the business to revolutionise its complaints processes and so ensure service delivery excellence and regulatory compliance in an environment of fluctuating supply and demand. It’s all about effective communication.