As a recently formed entity, Distributor Y faced a number of challenges as it aimed to balance the need to maintain a safe, reliable network with customer expectations in regard to service, electricity prices and shareholder expectations.
As the cornerstone of the customer service strategy, ‘The Voice of the Customer’ (VoC) Program was established to ensure the perspective and ‘voice’ of customers were considered in the business’s activities and decisions. Its aim was to establish a platform from which the customer engagement framework, service improvement, customer culture and satisfaction measurement would evolve.
Goal of Engagement
The VoC Program aligned with Distributor Y’s business excellence program and focus on continuous improvement of processes, tools and systems. This element of the strategy is aimed at delivering consistent, repeatable and exceptional customer service and first contact resolution. A key initiative to deliver on this strategy was an in depth review of the customer connections process to identify service gaps and make improvements to Distributor Y’s services where necessary.
What Processes Were Used
In December 2014, in conjunction with an external consulting firm, Distributor Y undertook internal workshops with key stakeholders involved in the end-to-end customer connection process.
The objective of these workshops was to take a customer’s view of the connection process, assess whether their needs were being met and agree as a business on the actions needed to meet these needs. Some of the key messages to come from this exercise were:
- ‘Information is confusing’
- ‘I was not advised of all of the information up front’
- ‘I get incorrect verbal advice’
- ‘I don’t trust the information provided’
- ‘the process is too complex and takes too long’
- ‘I want proactive issue resolution’
- ‘I want to speak with someone who knows my history and understands my problem’
To better understand the customers’ requirements, Distributor Y mapped the customer’s journey through the connection process, using feedback from stakeholders. This included shareholder ministers, key industry bodies, major property developers and service providers. Through this activity the customers’ needs and pain points were identified. The business then assessed its current performance in meeting each of these needs.
Outcomes of engagement
A product from the review of the customer connections process was the development of two Customer Journey Maps; one for basic connections and one for complex connections. Both maps were further dissected to identify key customer pain points, and ultimately resulted in over 120 process improvements and initiatives being recognised.
How were outcomes implemented in the wider business?
The initial register of improvements was further rationalised and grouped into five key themes or streams of work as follows:
- Simplifying connection information: correspondence, website and brochures.
- Early collaboration with customers and their agents to clarify expectations upfront: A formal forum focused on early engagement was implemented in July 2015. This forum allows our complex connection customers to discuss their approach to their developments at an early stage so that there are no surprises in relation to costs of services and the exploration of options that are available. Developers have advised that the process was enlightening and better than they had expected. This forum can also be used by builders and electricians for basic connections.
- Providing a single point of contact within Distributor Y for each connection: the name and contact details of the connection’s case manager are now provided on the letter of offer and other correspondence.
- End-to-end internal process improvement and simplification: Improvements identified through the customer journey mapping process included providing greater transparency of the connection process and associated fees, as well as providing the ability to choose who undertakes the design and construction of new electrical infrastructure.
- Provide visibility of the connection processes: this is being provided through the development of an online connection application portal.
These key initiatives were implemented with the endorsement of and strong support from senior management, using cross-business unit working groups.
The benefits from the customer connections process review have been:
- Early engagement with customers
- Communication improvement and development across internal teams in the connection process with customers throughout the process lifecycle
- Increased collaboration with customers to understand expectations and responsibilities of all parties with staff to clarify what each team does in the process, their needs, expectations and responsibilities
- Better visibility for customers and operational teams as required across the process journey, and
- Introduction of the connection choice model – a mechanism to allow the choice of designer and constructor for defined scopes of work.
In February 2016, a customer connection roadshow was undertaken with key internal process owners and subject matter experts who hosted internal and external sessions in key locations around the state. These forums explained to key stakeholders the initiatives that were undertaken in response to customer concerns and pain points.
Feedback from these stakeholders, as well as the business’s shareholders, has been positive. They are appreciative of the work being undertaken to improve connection processes including the introduction of the early engagement process and connection choice model.