Jo Causon, chief executive, Institute of Customer Service Customers, Domestic water retail, Finance and investment, Skills, Opinion

Utility companies are failing to reduce customer effort, according to the Institute of Customer Service’s chief executive Jo Causon.

Customer satisfaction across the utilities sector has reached its highest point for almost a decade. It is also the most improved sector in the UK with water companies in Yorkshire, Wessex and Severn Trent amongst the best performers.

Encouraging findings, they may be, but this good news from the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index should be tempered with the reality that one of the essential components of service – namely, reducing customer effort – is not improving.

Why? To begin with evidence has emerged that the proportion of customers having to follow up queries when things go wrong has increased. Many cite staff competence or slow service as reasons.

That’s why I am convinced that there has never been a more important time for organisations to recognise the return on investment driven from a sustained focus on the customer experience. In a world that is increasingly short-term and uncertain, there is a real opportunity for organisations to think hard about how they demonstrate and measure their customer focus.

Additionally, a significant opportunity exists for organisations to deliver experiences that meet changing customer needs. From a boardroom perspective, this raises questions about enhancing productivity and efficiency. Collectively it means that organisations need to raise their game, offering customers a straightforward experience that is seamless across a multitude of channels.

Wider research by The Institute of Customer Service suggests that 84 per cent of customers believe those in customer-facing roles need more training. Perhaps an obvious point, but there is clear evidence to suggest that the more you invest in training people to deal with challenging customer situations, the more engaged your staff will be with their role and the higher the likelihood of driving greater customer satisfaction.

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