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Put Yourself in Your Utility’s Customers’ Shoes

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Jun 15, 2022
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Utilities spend lots of time thinking about how they’re perceived by both the public in general and customers to be more specific.

That’s all well and good, but have you ever considered turning the tables and, instead of looking outward, approaching the situation from a customer’s perspective?

In other words, what customer service aspects are most likely to annoy your clientele? There are likely many ways – things that are common to any organization that deals with the public.

Who hasn’t had a frustrating experience with a phone tree? Yes, the idea of routing people to the proper department is good in principle, but it doesn’t work so well in real life. Endlessly pushing buttons to never get to the right department (or even a live operator) is enough to annoy the most patient person.

Having an option to reach a live operator should be available on each “branch” of the phone tree. In addition, those trees should be pruned to limit the number of options. The more choices you have, the more likely there’s going to be confusion.

At the same time, your utility should always have communications options other than phone calls. Thankfully, many organizations now offer live chat as well as that old standby – email.

The other major nightmare is often the customer service reps themselves.

While the trend to outsource customer service work overseas seems to have slowed and even reversed, there are plenty of reps who are just difficult to understand.

Those reps often speak heavily accented English, and even those who speak clearly don’t always understand American expressions and slang, which makes communicating difficult.

What makes matters worse is the conversations themselves, especially when the service reps are forced to use rigid scripts. Customers recognize their scripts immediately; since they’re the antithesis of personalized service, they’re sure to anger many.

While you don’t want your customer service reps going down a dangerous path, there has to be a better way.

Rewritten scripts would help, but a better solution might be in providing reps with general guidelines to follow – especially the trusted, experienced ones. Maybe new reps can use a script and, after they’ve proven their worth, be shifted to the more general approach.

In addition, reduce the amount of information customers must provide before speaking to a rep. Providing the same information over and over is frustrating.

Finally, your reps should always ask for a telephone number in case the call gets disconnected. More companies are doing that and, considering how often calls seem to drop, it’s a sound practice.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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