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npower’s toxic customer satisfaction has got worse – no really it has.

It’s that time of year again – the Which? customer satisfaction reviews on utilities are out and it makes for predictable reading.

The full results and reviews can be found here, although I’ll give you the highlights here.

The reviews are based on scoring from 9,400 consumers at the back end of 2014 across UK utility providers and their customer satisfaction performance across a number of categories;   Which best buy

  • Customer Service
  • Value for Money
  • Accuracy and clarity of bills
  • Complaints
  • Helping you to save money

 

Performance in these areas gets combined to give a percentage score overall.

Top 3 performers are;

  1. ecotricity – 84%
  2. goodenergy – 82%
  3. Ebico – 81%

Bottom 3 are (ex Northern Ireland);

  • EDF – 49%
  • Scottish Power – 41%
  • npower – 35%

It probably comes as no surprise that the ‘big 6′ all feature in the bottom half of the table with two of the bottom 3 companies – npower and Scottish Power all current under investigation and sanction from Ofgem.

npower are currently under investigation for potential breaches to their licence on meter installs for larger non domestic clients and potential breeches in standards on final bills and complaint handling standards for consumers. Details are here.

Scottish Power for a regulator imposed financial penalty and investigation into standards around final bills. Again, details are here.

So not great all in all for these companies.

The Utility sector also scores lowest in the UKCSI out this month with an index of 70.9 versus the top performing Retail (non food) sector scoring 81.4. A gap that barely seems to be closing.

Toxic

More interesting is where npower are now compared to exactly two years ago when their new incoming MD, Paul Massara ‘committed to make his company the industry’s number one for customer experience by 2015′ – as reported in Utility week here. More interestingly, their score then was 39%, 4% better than it is now so rather than get better, they’ve actually got worse.

 

I blogged about it last year and whether in practical terms getting to number one in two years could actually be done. If you want to read the original blog post it’s here, but the Which survey says it all really.

As an aside, while I was researching this blog, I came across an online petition, branded by Which? which calls for a ‘Fix the big 6′ campaign in a ‘broken energy market’. It’s currently got just short of 60,000 signatures…

 

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State of the Nation: UKCSI results are out and it’s not pretty!

The most recent results of the UKCSI are out this month and they don’t make for good reading as to the state of the nation for UK Customer Experience.

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The executive summary can be found here if you want to read it but I’ll cover the key highlights and trends for you here.

  • Customer satisfaction in the UK has now dropped for the fourth consecutive period to the lowest point since July 2010.
  • Only 33 out of 196 organisation have recorded an increase in the last 6 month period
  • Only 2 from 13 industry sectors have improved; Utilities and Banks and Building Societies
  • 3 water companies have shown the largest increases in customer satisfaction by any organisation in the measure; Southern Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities
  • John Lewis tops the league table overall, as does the Retail (non food) sector, followed by the Retail Food sector with Ocado scoring highest. John Lewis logo
  • Amazon and First Direct come in joint second
  • Bringing up the rear is the Utilities Sector with Public Services second from bottom
  • The 18-24 age group is least satisfied overall, as are people based in the South East. The over 65s are most satisfied as are people living in Wales
  • Aldi and Lidl continue to dominate the Retail Food sector both on customer satisfaction and annual sales according to the Kantar World panel. All the other majors, apart from Asda and Waitrose saw negative sales growth.
  • At a more granular level, only 2 out of 28 metrics that make up the UKCSI have improved in customer’s eyes; ‘outcome of complaint’ and ‘on time delivery’

Not great news to start the New Year, but not really a surprise as I outlined in my last blog post. So what’s going on?

Well this obviously has significant ramifications for UK businesses on many levels and reflects a number of changing factors which include the economic environment, continued and rapid increases in customer expectation and the inability of organisations to keep pace, in part marked by a lack of investment in infrastructure, digital technology and employee engagement.

Customers want increasingly personalised services and businesses are failing to deliver. Those that are more agile, responsive and innovative are now stealing the lead both in customers’ perception, market share and also on the balance sheet.

Consistency, always has and will continue to play a significant role in delivering a great customer experience. When looking across the 5 service components (professionalism, quality & efficiency, ease of doing business, problem solving and timeliness) John Lewis and First Direct feature in the top 5 organisations in all categories. That’s consistent and systemic customer experience delivery.

So where now? Well I don’t think, this decline in results is at the bottom just yet unfortunately. Businesses always have a choice as to what to do next. Some focus on Hard workshort terms results and quick fixes. Others take the more strategic, longer view in which the customer is front and centre as a priority. Benchmarking, measurement, insight and leadership should command more attention this year combined with a fierce determination to deliver more consistently for customers. It’s now time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and stop talking.

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Customer experience from the crystal ball – the year ahead

January is typically a time for reflection on the past year and an opportunity to refine business plans, set new goals and focus effort and attention on the year ahead. In addition to this, there’s always predictions as to the likely trends for the year so I’d thought I’d join the soothsayers and ‘futurologists’ and share some thoughts on some areas of customer experience for this coming year.

Crystal ballDigital, big data and mobile

…are all here to stay which is probably no surprise. Businesses effectively getting to grips with these elements though is the challenge which is a theme which will continue. There’s always the temptation to be attracted in a magpie-esque way to shiny new things but that won’t necessarily deliver value to either the business or customers. I recently talked to a construction company who had 16 mobile apps for their site managers, but the apps just replicated the paper work system they had replaced without making the task of collecting site information either quicker or easier. As a result, most of the apps weren’t used at all!

Most businesses already have enough data without it getting any bigger (ahem!) and without using it effectively, but co-ordinated, intelligent use of both customer and business data does feature in making the customer experience much more tailored and personal to the individual and is definitely the way forward.

Big data

More intelligent use of mobile apps in store is a great opportunity. If I’m stood in a store with my smart phone or tablet, but searching online for a product, it would be great if an app could direct me to where that product is, in store.. a much more interactive experience between online and in store experience is definitely in the very near future.

Black Friday in December ’14 certainly showed that consumers have grabbed on line shopping by the horns. However, the resulting drop in football on the high street was painful for many retailers, although a delight if you were actually out shopping like we were. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our local town centre as quiet as it was at Christmas, an observation which was even echoed by the shop assistants.

Measurement & insight

Still an integral part of understanding and improving the customer experience, I think the trends to be seen here are more effective measurement and insight that really drive change and make a difference. Sounds an obvious one, but you can get alot more insight out of the same data by looking at it with fresh eyes. However, measurement systems do mature but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. If they’ve stopped serving the business though then they need to change or at least be refreshed.

There’s still alot of uncertainty as to the ‘best’ measure to use from the people I’ve talked to over the last 12 months so let’s kill this one off right now. There is NO best ecosystemmeasure. Instead businesses should develop a measurement ‘eco system’ where measures sit along side each other and compliment each other to give the business a deeper and richer insight in to the customer experience. Don’t get married to your measures and don’t be afraid to change and adapt them this coming year.

SMEs and B2B

I’d like to think that 2015 is the year that these two groups really ‘get it’. In fairness some are there already and as with many aspects, there’s a huge variation between those that do get it and those that don’t.

However, I’d like to see, especially small and medium enterprises start to embrace designing deliberately and consistently great customer experiences more, rather than leaving them to chance or think that it’s something for large businesses with equally large marketing budgets. It isn’t. SMEs, can and should be reaping all the financial rewards from having an outstanding customer experience.

In the same way, business to business organisations need to stop thinking that customer experience is just for the high street and consumer businesses. People buy from people and then rationalize their decisions afterwards and the B2B industry is no different so there’s still alot to be gained from investing in B2B customer experience. As an aside, there’s still no B2B equivalent of the UKCSI and it’s high time there was!

UK Customer satisfaction

Speaking of which, the UKCSI has seen satisfaction on the high street decline since it’s peak in 2011. As a trend I’d like to seen this reverse this year, but I don’t think it will. It might bottom out of the current death spiral but there’s unlikely to be a sudden positive increase with consumer confidence and product price deflation in a negative space.

As a final note, I’d like to see UK businesses invest in more empathetic customer service training for employees along with granting greater levels of empowerment to do ‘the right thing’ for customers when the need arises. Impromptu and personal makes for a great customer experience. Let’s deliver!