Why don’t you have a formal customer service policy?

The last Utility Information Pipeline included a poll asking if reader’s utilities have a formal customer service policy. Here are the results of that poll (clicking on the chart will open a larger graphic in a new window):

Poll results

Surprisingly, half of the utilities who responded do not have a formal customer service policy. Of those that do, two thirds haven’t updated it in a long time, leaving just 17% who have a formal customer service policy and update it regularly.

Importance of a customer service policy

I’ve written previously about customer service policies, but have never written about why I believe it is important to have one.

Everyone knows the rules

A formal customer service policy sets forth your utility’s policies and procedures and lets customers know what is expected of them. It also provides guidelines for your employees to use when evaluating a customer’s situation.

Customers don’t like it (nor should they) when they perceive to be treated differently from other customers. Having a customer service policy insures all customers are treated fairly, including everything from how much of a security deposit they must pay to who is cut off for non-payment.

Staff empowerment

Having a customer service policy, and enforcing it for all customers, empowers your customer service staff to make routine policy decisions. No one likes to have their decisions overturned by their boss, especially if it appears to be an arbitrary or if favoritism is involved.

Employee morale improves when your staff knows they will be supported in enforcing your policies. Customer service representatives are empowered when they know management stands behind them and will treat all customers fairly.

Next issue

Now that you have a better understanding about why having a customer service policy is important, the next issue will go into more detail about what should be included in your policy.

Do you need assistance developing a customer service policy?

If your office needs assistance developing a customer service policy, please give me a call at 919-232-2320, or email me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com for more information about how a business review could help.

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© 2016 Gary Sanders

Poll results and formal policies

The last Utility Information Pipeline addressed deceased customers and included a poll asking if reader’s utilities have a policy regarding deceased customers. Here are the results of that poll (clicking on the chart will open a larger graphic in a new window):

deceased-customers-poll-results

Poll results

I’m surprised to see only one utility has a formal policy regarding deceased customers.

This is the second informal poll I’ve conducted recently with the response of a formal policy being a distinct minority. The other was a poll regarding a policy for accepting loose coins.

Limited sample size

The deceased customers poll had 16 responses and the loose coins poll had 22. Statistically speaking, neither of these are very large samples, but, across my readership, I would like to think they are a representative sample of small and mid-sized utilities.

The current subscriber count for the Utility Information Pipeline stands at 322 and, in a good week, about 40% percent of subscribers open any particular issue. So that means, for any given issue, I can expect my newsletter to reach about 125 subscribers. Add to that a few views of my blog from followers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and the number of readers responding to either poll is still significantly below 20% of those it reaches.

Importance of a formal policy

I’ve written previously about the importance of having a formal customer service policy. With so few responses to the two polls indicating these topics are addressed in a formal policy, this leads to one of two conclusions: (a) these utilities don’t have formal policies or (b) these topics aren’t covered in their existing formal policies.

If your utility has never been confronted with a customer dumping a huge pile of change on the counter to pay a bill, I can understand if accepting loose coins isn’t dealt with in your policy. However, with the requirement for each utility to have a Red Flags Rule policy, not having a policy regarding deceased customers is more surprising.

Do you have a formal customer service policy?

Does your office have a formal customer service policy? Please take this quick poll.

Once you’ve taken the poll, you can see the results to see how other utilities responded. I’ll publish the final results in the next issue.

Do you need assistance developing or updating your policy?

If your office needs assistance developing or updating your customer service policy, please give me a call at 919-232-2320, or email me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com for more information about how a business review could help.

Click here to subscribe to my free, bi-weekly email newsletter...

© 2016 Gary Sanders

Are you prepared for an aging workforce…?

The last Utility Information Pipeline addressed petty cash fund policies and included a poll asking how utilities handle petty cash purchases. Here are the results of that poll (clicking on the chart will open a larger graphic in a new window):

petty-cash-fund-poll-results

As you can see, most utilities still maintain a petty cash fund and, as I advised against, only one respondent reimburses petty cash from the daily cash drawer.

Aging workforce

A major issue facing management of all utilities, large and small, is an aging workforce. As more key employees approach retirement age, utilities across the country are having to face the issue of replacing the loss of institutional and operational knowledge these long-time workers hold.

Does your utility have a plan in place to deal with the aging workforce?

Upcoming seminar

The Utility Management Committee of the NC AWWA-WEA, of which I am a member, is sponsoring an Aging Workforce Issues – Best Practices Panel & Luncheon seminar on Wednesday, November 30 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

If you are located within driving distance of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I encourage you to join us. If not, you can still participate in a live webcast of the seminar.

The seminar moderator is J.D. Solomon, PE, CRE, CMRP; Vice President of CH2M. The panelists are:

  • Rod Dones, Organizational Development & Learning Specialist, Charlotte Water
  • Tamara Byers, Human Resources Manager, Charlotte Water
  • Ed Kerwin, PE, Executive Director, Orange Water & Sewer Authority
  • Kenny Waldroup, PE, Assistant Public Utilities Director, City of Raleigh
  • Matt Bernhardt, Director of Public Works and Utilities, City of Gastonia

For more information, or to register for the seminar, please click here.

Is your office prepared for staff turnover?

If your office is dealing with retirements, or other staff turnover, please give me a call at 919-232-2320, or email me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com for more information about how a business review could help you prepare for the transition.

Click here to subscribe to my free, bi-weekly email newsletter...

© 2016 Gary Sanders