First off Karen tell us a bit about your background and how you came to the role of head of customer services at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water
My background is in sales & marketing which expanded into contact centre operations at the RAC in 1988. This combination of experience led me directly into the forefront of the CX revolution where companies moved from an internal and sales focus to a customer driven and sales through service environment.
Having spent the last 17 years as a Customer Experience interim across a range of industries from Dyson and Virgin Media to Screwfix and NHS111 I came to Dwr Cymru as an interim in 2104. The water industry is going through massive change with the introduction of the retail/wholesale landscape and the further development of the Ofwat Service Incentive Mechanism which tasks the industry to deliver service excellence combined with efficiency and delivering increased value for money.
How could I resist the offer to be a permanent part of that journey?
We understand you have been working on several initiatives aimed at improving your customer experience and engagement offerings – would you be able to outline some of those please and their impact
Starting at the beginning, we are mapping each and every customer journey throughout the business, from reporting a leak to having a water meter installed. This is a huge programme encompassing every area of the business.
This will form part of a continuous improvement initiative which will be at the heart of every activity we undertake.
We are implementing a Voice of the Customer programme to deliver instant feedback on every customer contact. This will give us the ability to measure the individual impact every one of our colleagues has on the customer experience. It will also give us NPS scoring so that we can benchmark ourselves against the best in service provision. More of that later.
The other major initiative (there are many more) is around proactive communication and tone of voice.
We need to be accessible, easy to do business with, engaging and understanding. As well as the more obvious – expert in all things water related.
What’s your view on the relationship between employee engagement, customer engagement, performance and profitability – do you see this as a virtuous circle?
This leads nicely on to culture change, the essential building block to deliver world class CX. We want every colleague to have the skills, tools and empowerment to do the right thing for our customers. We are engaging everyone in DCCW and all of our partners in our vision – To earn the trust of our customers every day. Everyone will understand the part they play in the business and how their contribution matters.
So yes, it is a virtuous circle.
The utility sector gets a huge amount of bad press around its customer relationships and utilities always seem to come low down when it comes to customer satisfaction indexes – how is Dwr Cymru Welsh Water different from other utilities?
Well, Dwr Cymru is different in a lot of ways. We don’t have shareholders, so all ‘profit’ is it utilised for the benefit of our customers.
As to UKCSI, in July 2014 Dwr Cymru were top of the Institute of Customer service most improved table.
The January result shows us as ranking 4th in the overall utilities table.
A great result, but some way to go as we are aiming to compete with the best – the retailers.
We are benchmarking ourselves against utility industry disrupters too, such as Ovo Energy and learning from others like British Gas who are further along the transformation journey.
Finally Karen what are your plans for 2015 and beyond to keep your customers – internal as well as external – at the centre of your engagement strategies?
The customer will be represented at every level of our business and will be the focus of all improvement initiatives.
Our people will a major part of defining our future, capitalising on their ideas and experience and working together to deliver on our vision..