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The customer is king If you are a university graduate, you could be forgiven for thinking that 70% is an excellent score, as this is roughly what you need to […]

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By Geoff Curran

The customer is king

If you are a university graduate, you could be forgiven for thinking that 70% is an excellent score, as this is roughly what you need to consistently attain for a first-class degree. Applying the same academic methodology to companies up and down the country, then according to the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, businesses are scoring a good first for satisfaction among their British consumers. But when you’re still not getting it right for a third or more of your customer base, then clearly more needs to be done.

Happy customers are also good news for the bottom line. For example, retail food companies scoring above average for customer satisfaction have experienced around 9% growth, compared to 3% for those scoring below. A similar trend replicates across other sectors, and businesses rated more highly by their customers also achieve higher market share and are more likely to grow by positive word of mouth.

But while most companies will tell you they want to satisfy their customers, the difficultly can be working out what your customers really want from you. As you increase the complexity of your product offering, this clearly becomes more challenging.

This is why we’ve just conducted some independent customer satisfaction research within the Industrial and Commercial division at npower. Our aim is to really understand not just what our customers think of us – but also, what they want or need to feel more positive about the service they receive.

The good news is that we beat the industry average for overall customer satisfaction. We also achieved a better than ‘first-class’ score for being easy to deal with. So thank you if you were one of those customers who gave us the thumbs up.

However, the ultimate goal is to increase these scores and satisfy as close to all our customers as possible. That’s the focus throughout our business and a key mission of CEO Paul Massara – to put customers at the heart of everything we do. Certainly, in the domestic arena, where we haven’t scored so well, he’s instigating a more customer-centric approach with the aim to make npower number one for customer experience by 2015.

To help us understand better what our Industrial and Commercial audience want, a key part of our research focussed on which areas customers rate as most important to them. That way, we can review our approach and processes and look to adapt aspects of the service we offer to better meet the needs of the many businesses we work with. I’m pleased to report we are already making progress.

For example, a number of customers identified contract and bill clarity as important. We have already simplified our terms and conditions, which will be in place later this year. And a working group is now looking at billing, with a view to consulting customers again to ensure we get this right.

Simpler credit assessment was also identified as important, especially among our consultant customer-base. A system for faster credit checking is already in place, with further training and wider delegation of authority among customer-facing staff currently being implemented.

A number of other projects are also in play, and our plan is to review our performance on a more regular basis, and again next year when we conduct a second customer satisfaction survey. Clearly, we’ve got a way to go. After all, we’re ultimately aiming for as close to 100% satisfaction as we possibly can.

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