Guest Blog: npower’s Wayne Mitchell on Customers

Should you let customers determine your strategy? I was having dinner with some friends the other day, and one asked about how we decide what products and services we’re going […]

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By Geoff Curran

Should you let customers determine your strategy?

I was having dinner with some friends the other day, and one asked about how we decide what products and services we’re going to offer customers at npower.

There really isn’t a straightforward answer to this question, as there are such a mixture of drivers.

Responding to market opportunities

Looking at the market and predicting how things will develop is key. For example by offering greater purchasing flexibility as companies look to balance volume requirements with demand-side response opportunities, due to new Electricity Market Reform (EMR) mechanisms.

EMR is driving many changes in the market – significantly, adding further costs to an ever-increasing number of non-commodity charges on energy bills. These growing costs are hitting consumers hard, so finding ways to help businesses manage energy more effectively and cut consumption is another key driver.

Finding out what customers want

But while we have teams of innovators, forecasters and planners working hard behind the scenes on the products and services of tomorrow, we also dedicate a lot of time and attention talking to our customers and finding out what they think and what they want.

This kind of collaboration has helped us create bespoke products that are later rolled out to the wider market. For example, our Volume Load Management product was developed in conjunction with Air Products (this is now replaced by Flexible Power: Innovate).

But customer input doesn’t only drive new product development. It also informs us at every step of the service we offer. For example, the customer satisfaction surveys we conduct each year help us to decide how and where to improve or make changes to the day-to-day customer experience.

You ask, we act

For example, as a result of previous feedback, we’ve made our contracts and some of our terms and conditions clearer and simpler, and are in the process of revamping gas and electricity invoices.

In response to a call for more information on key issues, we’ve run webinars and round table events on a variety of subjects, and have won widespread praise from the industry for our EMR campaign, where we made sure customer views were heard by government policymakers.

We are now working on further improvements, for example to terms and conditions for flexible contracts. And we’ve assembled a dedicated team of experts to conduct a detailed review of our internal processes to streamline our activities and improve customer experience. As a result, we expect to get quicker at responding to customer requests and resolving issues.

Online and face-to-face interaction

As well as surveys, we also invite customer input through our online community Business Voice, which will celebrate its first anniversary in early April. And as I mentioned in my blog earlier this month, we are conducting a series of face-to-face focus groups with customers specifically to hear their views and concerns.

These types of interaction provide us with vital information that help to inform not only the products and services we bring to market, but also how best to focus our attention in all the areas in which we work.

So while I believe we need to use our expertise and encourage innovation, I also think as npower Business Solutions, we need to ensure our customers have a say in determining our strategy.

This is a sponsored article.