UK energy provider Npower has had the most complaints every quarter since the end of 2012 out of all the “big six”, the issue being brought to light following consumer watchdog Which?’s report recently identifying that the “Big Six” energy companies are receiving complaints at a record high.
The report said Npower got 83 complaints per 1,000 customers in the first quarter of 2014, nearly double the amount as the next worst performer. The regulator, Ofgem, has given npower 2 months to turn around its “major” billing errors affecting 400,000 customers and if not they will enforce a ban on outbound telesales for new customers.
"We have been increasingly concerned about the slow progress to tackle failings," said Sarah Harrison, Ofgem's senior partner in charge of enforcement.
Monitor what Customers are Complaining about… and Fix it
Billing Errors are reported to be topping the complaints list; they need monitor complaint calls to understand the major pain points in the billing complaints and tackle these immediately. Npower have a huge amount to catch up on so treating problems one by one isn’t sufficient. They must analyse the complaint trends and carry out root cause analysis to identify where the biggest problems lie and solve these ASAP. They need to work their way down through all the most common complaints. Then they must continue to focus their attention on the next big problems and work through them. They need to use the information they are gathering from their customer service monitoring proactively.
Culture of Improving Quality
Npower have been a bottom of the energy table for complaints for a prolonged period, it didn’t happen overnight. Npower needs to have a culture facelift that doesn’t accept quality failures and rewards quality improvement initiatives for customer experience. Ofgem has said Npower needs to turn around their performance, this won’t happen simply because of fixed technology.
Carolyn Blunt, Real Results and Voted Most Respected Person in the Contact Centre Industry identified at a CCMA seminar recently that when it comes to contact centres there are three key areas that need to be focused on; technology, people and leadership.
Technology Affects Performance
Npower technology problems are the root and stem of their poor performance it appears. They can’t expect to improve their satisfaction rates if this isn’t fixed. This foundational problem is affecting all other areas of the business; customers are frustrated that their details are incorrect, agents are agitated because changes they make in the system aren’t being logged properly, managers are exasperated because they don’t know what is going on fully because they don’t know if they information they have is correct or not.
So let’s consider if tomorrow morning all Npower’s employees walked into a workplace where the technology is working… what would they do? It’s been a headache for so long, would they be able to capitalise on the new empowerment? Npower needs its leaders to step up and guide the company to continuous high performance. Morale may be low yet ongoing damage control is still required so their leaders need to keep teams motivated and informed. They can't take their foot off the pedal just because they have fixed their technology, the leaders need to them on further.
The Telegraph reported recently reported that “Customers are being forced to wait on hold for long periods –more than an hour in some cases – before being connected to customer service staff, who customers said are unhelpful, rude and unwilling to investigate obvious errors.”
Npower cannot hope to have a good customer experience if customer service representatives are annoyed by customers complaining. Their outlook should be different if the technology improves however often groupthink can become so embedded in the culture of the company that drastic overhaul is required.
"We are committed to getting things right for our customers but recognise that despite the progress we have made, our current billing standards have fallen short of where everyone wants them to be," said Paul Massara, Npower's chief executive.