The onset of Covid-19 was a turning point for many businesses, and we were no exception. Our management team quickly recognised the need to move to a work from home strategy, and by the time lockdown 1.0 was announced at the end of March, we had 95% of our people working from home.
Customers were quick to react too and we saw a huge increase in calls and emails. We dedicated our teams to helping customers move to a remote working model. We used our own experience as a template for best practice and supported our customers with cost-effective solutions. To help customers access information quickly, we introduced clear communication through a weekly service email and tips article.
The huge demand on our service team took its toll and by the end of April our Time to Answer had increased to over 10 minutes and Net Promoter Score had taken a tumble, from 15.8 to -5.0. This clearly told us that customers were unhappy and we knew we had to change. Recognising that customers needed support at their fingertips, we move to a self-service model - an approach taken by many large companies and we used their best practice to set out our strategy.
On 1st June we re-launched our Customer Portal with more features and a fresh look, which meant that customers could access their online account to quickly find the information they needed on bills, queries, and orders. We reorganised the Service Team to prioritise calls for urgent faults, payment, and sales, so that we could resolve queries quickly. Our time to answer saw a dramatic improvement from the long waits at the beginning of the year.
Self-service doesn’t suit everyone and to succeed it requires a change in behaviour from all sides. It is true to say that some customers were and remain unhappy that they can no longer speak to us for non-urgent queries. However, many more are positive about the changes we have made and simply want us to continue to improve their ability to get things done quickly with the minimum of effort. There were also teething problems with our portal, but we were determined to resolve them.
Over the summer, we used the quieter time to work on issues. We changed our service level agreements to reflect a wider range of priority levels to support some of the frustrations that customers were telling us about. We set out clear response times, communicating these through updated autoreplies on the emails and Customer Portal.
We responded to requests for help with the Customer Portal by opening a dedicated help line for customers. Our NPS score was stabilising at -54 but we continued to monitor for areas that were not meeting our expectations or industry standard as a minimum.
Over the last 3 months, we have worked on delivering service improvements. Lockdown 2.0 brought a further setback for the economy, but we were pleased to see strong resilience from our customers. We’re continually looking to improve based on what you tell us and just recently we’ve added administrator tools to the Customer Portal to allow customers to have more control over their own account. Direct Debit set up has just gone live and we’re excited to announce more features in the new year.
As we approach the end of the year, we’re proud of all that we have achieved, our Time to Answer is just 15 seconds and overall NPS is -11.3, it’s a huge improvement but we know there is much work ahead.
It’s great to have you as a customer and we're always keen to hear your opinion, and with 2021 in our sights we’d like to ask you to participate in our ‘We’re Listening’ survey which we’ll send to you in January. Please keep telling us how we’re doing and our promise to you is that we’ll keep listening and strive to improve.
Best wishes for a prosperous new year.
Customer Service Director