Why are energy and water companies opting for real-time feedback?
As a utility provider, there are many good reasons to gather customer feedback.
In the water sector, companies are financially incentivised to demonstrate a satisfactory customer experience score (C-MeX). In the energy market, customer satisfaction has a direct impact on loyalty and retention.
Traditional systems such as NPS (Net Promoter Score) are valuable, as they allow you to track overall satisfaction over time. But taken in isolation, these annual statistics don’t paint a complete picture of customer experience.
This type of feedback is also largely un-actionable because it’s based on experiences that happened weeks or months ago. And comments are seldom linked directly to a job ID or specific colleague.
Consider home appointments such as repairs and smart meter installations. Many providers don’t take advantage of these golden opportunities to collect feedback.
By sending a quick survey on the day of the appointment, utility companies could speed up issue resolution, increase overall satisfaction, and make life easier for staff.
Here, we’ll ask what you can achieve with appointment-based feedback. Then we’ll explore how to collect satisfaction ratings that are representative and actionable – not just an annual statistic.
Benefits of real-time feedback
To get the most value from customers’ feedback, think about what you’re hoping to achieve. This will help you to identify the best time to reach out, the appropriate channels to use, and the most useful questions to ask.
Here are some ways that appointment-based feedback contributes to your overall customer experience goals:
1. Resolve issues fast
When a service appointment goes wrong, customers and staff are left stressed and frustrated.
A small hiccup might generate avoidable calls to your support centre, while more urgent problems could escalate to a formal complaint.
By collecting feedback immediately following an appointment, your team can identify unsatisfied customers and act promptly to put things right.
2. Make every interaction count
Consumers don’t often interact with their utility provider face to face. This means that service appointments can have a disproportionate impact on a customer’s overall impression.
By proactively collecting feedback soon after a visit, you can contribute to satisfaction on the day of service, and work towards providing a better experience in future.
In the immediate term, your team can deal with pressing issues before they deteriorate. It may be as simple as contacting the customer to provide more information.
In the longer term, consistently collecting feedback will help you to learn from recurring challenges - for instance, a lack of appropriate materials, or issues with a specific contractor. This will make it easier to optimise services and demonstrate improvement over time.
Positive feedback is equally useful, as it allows you to replicate services that are working well. And by gathering feedback at the job level, you’ll be able to identify high-performing teams and contractors.
That leads us to another benefit...
3. Improve mobile worker satisfaction
Your field service technicians do great work every day. But they generally aren’t aware of the positive impact they’ve had on customers.
By collecting feedback following each appointment, your team can identify stand-out jobs that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Supervisors can then share feedback with operatives on the same day – a simple way to boost employee satisfaction and engagement.
4. Reduce strain on technicians and office staff
Despite best efforts, it’s unlikely that every visit will result in a perfect job. With feedback collected immediately after the appointment, your team can quickly deal with setbacks that would otherwise have escalated.
Ultimately, this results in increased efficiency. Staff can resolve issues on the same day, reducing the need for repeated calls and visits. And armed with information about what went wrong, mobile workers will be better equipped to complete the job.
In cases where the job has gone to plan, a well-timed digital feedback request removes the need for a follow-up phone call. This frees up your team to focus resources where they are really needed - especially during times of limited capacity.
5. Build trust and demonstrate openness
Today’s consumer expects a personal relationship based on openness, transparency and accountability.
To this end, regulators encourage utility providers to proactively seek and learn from customers’ voices.
It should be easy for customers to complain when things go wrong, and praise when things go well. Most importantly, customers should feel that you are acting on their individual concerns.
Appointment-based feedback allows you to apply this approach at a job-by-job level, demonstrating that customer experience is a priority across the whole organisation.
6. Monitor changes to service
Whenever your service delivery model undergoes a significant change, it’s important to monitor customers' experience. Under normal circumstances, changes might include a new scheduling system or engaging a new contractor.
In light of the global pandemic, services have had to adapt rapidly. Customers may be dealing with longer waits, increased anxiety, and new social distancing measures.
In these uncertain times, regular feedback acts as a barometer of how performance has been affected. What’s more, reaching out to customers demonstrates a genuine concern for their needs.
How to collect useful feedback
Once you know what you want to achieve, you can think about the logistics of asking for feedback. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but these considerations will help you to get started:
1. Think carefully about timing
Trigger a feedback request immediately after the repair or smart meter installation, but not while the technician is still at the property.
Prompt feedback requests get more responses, better reflect the moment, and let you take action quickly in the case of problems.
2. Keep it simple and convenient
We recommend keeping customer feedback surveys down to three questions:
- Ask for a rating out of 5.
- What went well?
- What needs to be improved?
The more questions you ask, the fewer responses you'll get.
Make the process easy and use a convenient channel for the customer, such as an SMS with a link to a survey.
3. Make it actionable
Perhaps the most important aspect of all. If customers think you aren't listening, they will feel that their time has been wasted.
Consider using automated back-office alerts for poor feedback. This will help your team to act promptly – and therefore at a lower cost – when issues arise.
4. Make it specific
Ensure that feedback is linked to individual jobs and colleagues so that you can identify training needs, recognise good work, and spot trends in performance.
5. Assess frequently
Make it easy to view feedback ratings frequently - whether that’s by function, team, or individual. An annual ‘ta-dah’ moment for the past year’s stats will not support dynamic change.
6. Ask everyone, always
By asking for feedback after each appointment, you will get the most representative and actionable results.
7. Use technology to make it scalable
You can’t phone all customers all the time; it’s costly, invasive and ineffective.
Instead, make feedback an automated part of a digital communications process linked to every appointment.
Our clients have been able to streamline operations by redistributing staff who were previously calling customers after an appointment.
Appointment-based feedback boosts customers’ overall satisfaction, as well as reducing operational costs.
By asking the right questions at the right time, utility field service teams can collect actionable feedback that contributes to long- and short-term goals.
Download the customer communication checklist to find out how real-time feedback fits into your day-of-service customer journey.