“Individuals that are free to express themselves within flexible boundaries make the best decisions for customers.”

Most people take for granted the place of water services in their lives. Much like our health, we don’t notice them until things go wrong.

This makes customer service an even bigger challenge, because most of our interactions are triggered by a lack of service. Also, resolution can be complex, and require investigation before a solution can be developed and implemented and the service (and normal life) is restored.

Other industries are further along in their journey to manage and deliver their desired customer experience. Early adopters have begun to roll out programmes that teach and develop behaviours that enable customer-facing employees to deliver what utilities’ customers want: dependability, an effortless experience, proactive and transparent communications, and to be treated as a person and not a number.

Clear evidence of success in behavioural training has been limited in the past to clinical professionals. However, the teaming of innovative and personalised training with coaching and mentoring can yield results.

Market-leading programmes have combined humour with creative use of communication channels, such as social media, to deliver clever messages about “how NOT to do it”, along with video vignettes of “how to do it”. Including leadership in the videos helps establish purpose and commitment from the top. This is key to changing behaviours and driving organisational culture.

It’s most critical that leaders create a permission culture. The fastest way to earn a team member’s trust is to give it to them. Employees who are empowered to do the right thing for the customers will grow in confidence. This results in a positive cycle of ownership, innovation and problem solving. Individuals and teams that are free to express themselves within flexible boundaries make the best decisions for customers.

Providing front-line managers with the skills and toolsets to coach and mentor their team’s behaviours is crucial. The ability to recognise and reward positive behaviours creates a positive motivational environment – especially effective with today’s millennial workforce.

Coaching to “do it right” encourages behaviour modelling among peers. A spirit of helpfulness and positivity is contagious, and, quite frankly, much more fun than one of negativity and criticism.

This level of culture shift won’t happen overnight. It will take the purposeful daily effort of leaders, managers and team members to build and deliver a great experience for every customer, every time, in the water industry.