As we know, next year’s reforms will significantly change the way the water industry operates, opening up the non-household sector to competition. With business customers free to choose their supplier, companies will have to work harder than ever to retain customers and attract new custom, recognising also that the number of retailers within the market could well increase.
To remain attractive, it’s a given that companies must offer a safe and reliable water supply that is good value for money. However, a key area for differentiation will be around added value that comes from good service, recognising of course that the perception of value will vary by customer. Companies should put customers at the heart of their retail business; be straight forward and easy to do business with, offer customers choice in how they interact, and resolve issues quickly and efficiently. Customer engagement must be personalised depending on individual preferences and what each customer values.
With unrivalled customer service certain to differentiate, companies must ensure they are consistently excellent – from early contact and proactive communication, right through to billing and collections.
Putting customers at the heart of the operation
Impeccable customer service isn’t just about skilled and helpful advisors answering enquiries effectively and resolving issues. It’s also about the choice customers are given to communicate with the business. Technology, such as self-serve platforms, can offer both speed and convenience as long as it’s deployed in the right way and at the right time. Contact channel preferences vary by customer and what’s imperative is that customers are given choice and that service is seamless and consistent, no matter which channel the customer chooses.
Prioritising relationship management and robust billing
To facilitate great customer service, the ability to generate an accurate picture of each customer and their needs is crucial, as is delivering accurate and reliable billing. A robust billing and customer relationship management solution, such as RapidXtra – deployed by over a third of the industry, must be in place to support service excellence.
Built specifically for the water industry, RapidXtra is a market leading solution that contains all the features needed by water retailers, including consolidated and multi-site billing and a central market operator interface. By providing a single customer view, RapidXtra makes responding to the complete customer journey quick and easy, and results in a proactive approach to serving customers.
Early intervention and proactive collections
Debt must be viewed as part of the customer journey, and companies need to find ways to deal with customers in arrears effectively and sensitively. Proactive, multi-channel communications should be used to reduce bill shock and maximise opportunities to resolve issues such as bill queries and protest debt related to bad service before the bill date – early resolution is key, and often the most effective way to reduce customer arrears.
Ultimately, companies that put customers at the heart of operations will be well placed to succeed in the new market. Great customer experiences will be crucial for retention and loyalty, which companies will have to work increasingly harder to gain.
And, with household market opening possible as early as 2020, partnering with a specialist water sector retailer, such as Echo Managed Services, that not only has deep experience within the sector but can also add value through learnings and expertise gathered in competitive sectors, could be a key differentiator.