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Become customer centric in non-customer centric Utilities industry - using advanced Call Center and CRM

For a wide range of businesses, large and small, customer relationship management (CRM) systems are the most critical system when it comes to customer contact. However, in this day and age the biggest importance no longer resides within CRM – it is almost guaranteed that your Call Center will be the first contact you have with the customer, and you should be placing additional focus there.

Make it or break it

Customers are the core of any business.

Each interaction you have with the customer defines your business. Each time a customer contacts your call centre, your relationship with that customer hangs in the balance. It's a moment of truth, for both your business as well your competitors. If you make the experience outstanding towards the customer, they will likely remain a happy, loyal and profitable customer.

However, provide a bad experience and they will almost certainly over time take their business elsewhere. To enable excellent customer experience, your call centre staff need the right tools at their fingertips. For a wide range of businesses large and small, customer relationship management (CRM) systems have been proving to be the answer, however the importance no longer relies within CRM – Call Center is likely to be the first contact you have with the customer, and additional focus must be placed there.

Whether it’s a customer, prospect or a partner on the phone to your call centre, they want one thing: service. The call itself could be a sales enquiry, a complaint, a request for help or perhaps a query about an invoice. But they expect a response that understands their needs. As if that wasn't enough, most customers want service that is quick, they want to be treated appropriately and they want to deal with a competent agent – one who knows how to get things done.

Perhaps most importantly, customers want continuity. That means they want your call centre agents to know who they are, what interactions they have had in the past, and how to help without asking the customer to repeat information that they've already provided.

Although it seems this is all understood, research shows that on average it takes a staggering six different interactions to resolve an issue!

Customers have the power - and you should recognise it

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Looking at the utilities industry which is renown as being one of the least customer centric industries, we can see a strong mentality shift happening. According to Ofgem research, number of customers complaints have been decreasing since 2016 only for the medium-sized suppliers, whereas large and small energy suppliers are increasing the complaint numbers. 

Further, Ofgem’s bi-annual survey revealed that overall customer satisfaction has improved since 2016, with nearly a third (32%) of domestic customers satisfied with how their complaint was dealt with, an increase of five percentage points from 2016 (27%).

However, the survey found that the proportion of customers who are dissatisfied (57%) remains higher than those satisfied with how their complaint had been dealt with.

Supported with the fact that the numbers of customer switching suppliers due to poor customer experience has increased from 10% to roughly 18% for both electricity and gas one thing becomes apparent - customers have the power, they are aware of it, and it is your job to recognise this!

Reaping the hard-earned fruit

Keeping all this in mind becoming customer centric (especially in traditionally non-customer centric industries) is a key differentiator and can deliver competitive advantage over your competition. 

A huge increase of call centre interactions in the recent years through digital channels creates a challenge as well as an excellent opportunity, whereas we see more demanding and informed customer profiles emerging. You thus need to aim to improve your first time right by providing your agents with the right information, since the failure to answer their questions quickly and correctly can mean you will lose them in a blink of an eye. Consumers want solutions first time – they don’t want to wait or receive call back.

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Moreover, you can effectively reduce operational cost by deflecting as much as possible and enable your agents to focus on only escalating complex queries to correct (expert) people using automation capabilities.

Whenever you can track and monitor customer interactions over time, this creates an additional opportunity for you to ensure seamless customer experience, by connecting the right people for the right customer.

How many times have you called the same company 3 or 4 times, only to speak with a different person every time? Too many times if you ask me. Delivering this truly unique (and unfortunately extremely rare) customer experience, almost guarantees you will be appreciated within your customer base, and the likelihood of them establishing true brand advocates goes through the roof!

But what if you are still not delivering within your customer service aspects? Rely on your data to show you the path to success. The combination of effective Call Center supported with a powerhouse CRM system guarantees that you can collect all the needed data for measuring customer service effectiveness.

Identify peak service times, recognize most skilful and prominent agents, motivate the slackers, identify the missing aspects of your self-care content, and certainly you will become a market leader in delivering superb and truly unique customer service – one that people will talk in a positive voice!

Domen Šmuc, Business Consultant

Experienced and certified Microsoft Dynamics 365 consultant in the utilities industry, with focus on the UK B2B market.

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