Water companies respond to Ofwat initiative but technology is the tool to improve customer service further

Posted: Thursday 30th May 2013

Ofwat’s customer service push begins to show results but investment in technology is the key to taking customer satisfaction to the next level, says Aspect.

Recent Data published by Ofwat shows water companies are achieving an average score of 4.44 out of 5 for customer satisfaction from contacts throughout 2012-2013. Les Cooper, Head of Utilities at Aspect Software, a provider of customer engagement software for the utilities industry, suggested that this can be attributed to the fantastic work conducted by Ofwat through its service incentive mechanism (SIM) programme. However, water companies need greater investment in technology if they are to continue to meet and even exceed the exacting standards of the modern consumer.

Cooper discussed the ways in which water companies can continue to improve their customer service figures and so reap the rewards of Ofwat’s fiscal incentives: “By employing the continuing developments in contact centre and collaboration technology, water companies continue to develop and improve their customer service and keep pace with consumer expectations.

“Although there were impressive results throughout much of the sector, particularly for the likes of Anglian Water and South Staffordshire Water, major players like Thames Water still recorded a drop in customer satisfaction, and are clearly yet to respond to the regulatory measures, appreciating the importance of customer satisfaction. Nevertheless, this survey demonstrates that the majority of the sector has addressed the issue and is moving in the right direction.”

Cooper continued: “Technology can play a huge role in improving the customer experience by focusing on first contact resolution, workforce optimisation, efficiency and the knowledge contact centre agents have at their disposal. With over two thirds (68 per cent*) of utilities suppliers adopting full or partial unified communications strategy by 2014, this is the way forward. By tightly integrating operations in the back office with the contact centre agent’s desktop, the agent has a more detailed picture of the status of a customer application or process and is thus able to more effectively manage expectations.

“Another way of achieving speedy resolutions is to use the data the company holds about its customers for pre-emptive contact, or ‘next call resolution’. In this way, customers extend as little effort as possible, because an agent would automatically know that, for example, the customer received their bill the day before the call, and the likelihood is that that’s what they’re calling about. Problems are resolved immediately, and the customer is much less likely to complain.

“Ofwat’s service incentive management programme is clearly beginning to have the desired effect across most to the water industry, with companies responding and positively improving their customer service. However, if they are to keep pace with growing consumer expectations, further investment in the contact centre and collaboration technology is required,” concluded Cooper.

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