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« Bedtime reading | Main | 2nd place in the (carrier) bag? »

April 03, 2006

Comments

Carl Haigney, General Manager, Utilities, Xansa

Nigel,
I am writing this from a BlackBerry, so apologies if the formatting is odd.

The situation in retail, where the considered view of the 'great and good' is that the differential for success is about getting the basics right, is replicated in Utilities. Here companies have a largely captive customer base and, for many people, the only impetus to switch supplier comes after a dose of poor customer service. Once a customer is lost to a utility, the chance of getting them back is remote and, more importantly, expensive.

When looking at the Cost to Serve in a power utility, the cost of acquisition is a major component. Hence many utilities are investing significant sums in improving the customer experience - getting the basics right - in the belief that this will improve retention and hence lower cost to serve. Xansa is working with water and power utilities to deliver technology, outsourcing and thought leadership on reducing cost to serve and future postings will detail how these come together.

Like yourself, I too favour companies with excellence in customer service and have a great example of a company rescuing a poor customer experience. Some years ago, I went to Carphone Warehouse for a mobile phone. I knew which phone and tariff I wanted. Unfortunately the queues in the shop, and a less than helpful salesman (who was not listening to my exact request) led to me walking out of the shop in disgust about an hour later, with no phone. I was planning never to go back.

Co-incidentally, around that time Carphone Warehouse had put a 'Comments' section on their website. Not one for holding back in these situations, I detailed my complaint and hit the send button, expecting little in return. Amazingly, Charles Dunstone, founder of Carphone Warehouse emailed back within a few hours, offering the phone I wanted on the right tariff, free. All I had to do was let him know which of his shops it was convenient to pop into the next day, and he would have it sorted. The speed of response, and the gravity with which my note was received, reversed my view of the company.

Just for clarity - I don't have any shares in Carphone Warehouse (...unless Charles is reading this and would like to donate some ;-) )

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