At Severn Trent our vision is to be the most trusted water company by 2020 and we know that to do that we must be available to our customers when and how they choose. No matter what time of day it is we know that it’s absolutely essential that our customers know we are here to help when they need us.
As technology has evolved in recent years, alongside changing behaviours, we recognised the need to enable customers to get in touch with us through digital platforms such as our website, webchat and social media.
Although the traditional call centre offering remains vital to our success, and will do for many years to come, we know that these developing channels play a pivotal role in our strategy to build trust with customers and put them at the heart of everything we do.
Providing additional ways for customers to get in touch with us also means they can choose a channel that suits their lifestyle and one that they’re most comfortable using. It’s all about being here for our customers across multiple platforms 24 hours a day, every day.
Webchat provides a simple, easy, fast and personal channel of communication which allows customers to interact with us online effortlessly. The platform achieves high customer satisfaction and resolution rates and has grown significantly in recent months.
The first three months of using webchat resulted in around 8,000 webchats a month. That has since increased to an average of 18,500 every month. While that’s still some way below the roughly 30,000 calls we take every week, it is an increasing percentage of our customer contacts.
The success and current position of webchat has been driven by continuous innovation within our digital team. The initial approach to gauging the quality of customer service was based on random quality-checks without identifying or exploring the actual agent skill gaps. We needed to focus on advisor development at an individual level; investing more time and energy into improving interpersonal communication skills within their role, providing more coaching and support to advisors that would help achieve an outstanding customer experience.
This has had some fantastic results. Our webchat provider has highlighted us as one of their highest industry achievers and as an organisation we manage the highest online chat volumes in the industry.
One of the biggest advantages of using webchat is the opportunity for our advisors to immediately reflect on improvements that can be made. A post-chat survey analysis means they can instantly raise concerns with team leaders who can provide advice and coaching as and when required.
Social media is now a huge part of our digital customer service offering and is another channel which has seen significant growth with customer engagement increasing by almost 40% on Twitter and 219% on Facebook in the last 12 months.
In the past social media was seen as a way to educate and engage with customers but it’s now an essential tool as a customer contact channel with one-to-one interactions happening every hour of every day.
It’s fair to say that most customers expect a response from any brand on social media within an hour of asking the question and our target is to respond to social media queries within 15 minutes
Investing in a third party social media management tool has been essential to our strategy in this area and means we can keep a real-time track of conversations and customer sentiments.
We also understand that visual content is important as a proactive tool and we’re working to continually improve how we speak to our followers to engage with them and educate them. We’re also working to target our operational and educational content and make it stand out in a sea of information online.
We also understood that our customers are using social media at all times of the day and night and that’s why our social media accounts are monitored at all times.
One of the real benefits of expanding our presence on digital platforms is the impact it can have for customers who struggle to contact us on the phone or are dealing with circumstances that make it difficult to talk.
For example, feedback from customers dealing with bereavement has been positive in that their billing queries and changes can be dealt with purely through webchat or social media without the need for a phone call.
Hearing impaired customers have also found webchat to be an invaluable tool as it’s far easier than a using a third party to make a phone call and much quicker than carrying out an email conversation, which can sometimes result in speaking to several different people over a number of days.
We won’t be resting on our laurels and we know that digital platforms are fast-paced and constantly changing. As the social media and webchat platforms continue to grow we’ll be working hard to make sure we have the right resources in place to make sure we can provide the best service possible for all our customers whenever they need us.
We understand the need to offer customers choice and we understand that different circumstances mean customers may be more likely to use a particular channel. We are using customer insight to assess our customer journey performance and make changes so we deliver the best customer experience possible