It’s December again. As we slide towards the end of the year, retailers are enjoying their pre-Christmas rush and events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer consumers an opportunity to reduce their festive spend, but there is a different dynamic in the energy utilities at this time of year.
Winter in the UK is when energy bills start rising and customers often resent the way that their bills soar just when they need extra cash to finance all those seasonal gifts and entertainment.
It can be a difficult time of year for some customers who do struggle to make ends meet, but even for those who can afford to use more energy, there is often a high level of dissatisfaction with their energy supplier at this time of year.
What can be done? Of course, a reduction in the size of energy bills depends largely on internationally traded energy prices and competition (plus regulation) in the local market so it is often impossible to help customers by reducing prices. But it is within the control of every energy company to make their customer service operation work better.
When customers get in touch to ask about their bill at this time of year, they are often upset about the amount they need to pay because it is naturally higher than it will be in summer. Many customers who pay by a fixed direct debit believe their monthly payment matches what they are using but that is rarely the case and it is this difference that leads to customer frustrations.
Recent Consumer’s Association research suggest that poor customer service is one of the key drivers for customers to switch energy supplier – and big bills in the winter are regularly a catalyst for customers to try getting in touch. However if it is extremely difficult to interact with the customer service team then this just aggravates their underlying anger and makes the situation far worse.
If a customer does have an issue with their bill, but the customer service process is friction-free, easy, and reassuring, showing that the energy company really values their custom, then many potential situations where customers are annoyed with the brand can be avoided.
It is easy to plan ahead. Customers are using many more channels today to talk about services such as energy, but all these channels can be knitted together into a comprehensive multichannel support strategy.
For energy companies this winter, it is more important than ever to make sure that the interface with your customers is working smoothly and when given an opportunity to talk with customers about their bills they take the time to explain how billing works to avoid unexpected bills.
Photo by Ruthanne Reid licensed under Creative Commons