Last month we attended one of the premier Utilities events in the UK - Future of Utilities Smart Energy. What became clear from the conversations we had with attendees, and the presentations we attended, was that as we head into winter, high energy prices coupled with higher costs of living are going to make the next few months critical for energy suppliers and their customers.
Whilst many of the speakers, quite rightly, focused on the energy transition and the challenges to come in terms of meeting the requirements of Net Zero, and bringing customers with us on the journey, others looked at how we handle vulnerability in the coldest months of the year.
With increased scrutiny of the way energy suppliers look after their most vulnerable customers, delivering the right customer service, at the right time, has quite rightly never been more important. But as many have pointed out over the years, vulnerable customers are often the most complex cases to deal with, and are more likely to need offline support, rather than relying on online channels. Add in the additional complexity of challenges with the smart meter pre-payment top up system - when customer top-up online but the payment never reaches the meter, and it’s clear that focussing on delivering the right customer service to vulnerable customers should be top of supplier’s to-do lists.
However, at the same time as these increased customer support requirements, suppliers are also facing challenges to their bottom lines. Employment costs are spiralling, alongside the other costs of running a business. We heard many speakers at the event talk of driving efficiencies through automation and making the right software choices - which in turn places more pressure on the way they drive that critical contact with vulnerable customers.
We had many conversations around the value of considering outsourcing and offshoring for suppliers - in order to build cost efficient flexibility into their customer service functionality. We also discussed how an outsourcing partner can help build additional capacity into teams at periods of peak demand - particularly over those critical winter months.
If you are looking at your customer servicing capacity as you start to forecast your winter peaks - do get in touch.