November 24, 2011

Empowering the consumer with information

Filed under: Consumer Trends,Customer Service — by xrematon @ 3:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

I am in that smug minority – amongst the one in five  – who have bothered to switch energy supplier. The process seemed to be painless enough – a bit time on some price comparison sites, before a hop onto the site for the ‘chosen’ supplier (Ovo) to fill in an online form – and then it could have been silence for a long while things went on in the background.

However, Ovo is one of those ‘enlightened’ companies which has been started by someone who was fed up with the way the big existing providers did such a poor job. (If you are really interested, go to their site  to read more of their founding myth, now seemingly de rigeur after innocent led the way with their story).

Ovo think about what is going on from the customer’s perspective and their signing-on letter was representative of this. One of the pieces of information it included was a timeline – as shown below – which tells me why it is that nothing appears to happen for several weeks after I have taken the plunge.

It doesn’t seem like much but it’s one of those simple actions which can make all the difference as to how customers feel. It’s like when you are on a train which suddenly stops, and the driver can tell why you’ve stopped, rather than let you stew in agonising and increasingly frustrated silence.

Another company that does keeping you informed well is Amazon. I’m thinking of their ‘Track your Delivery’ feature, which can contain surprising amounts of information. On one occasion, I was surprised to find a gift had not arrived at a friend’s house, so logged into my account. It turned out the gift had passed through Kingston Park Peterborough where the item was handed over to the carrier for delivery, from whence onto the National Distribution Centre, then to the Northern Countries DC, and then got stuck in the Hemel Hempstead mail centre, following an unsuccessful attempt at delivery.

But there are times which you don’t get this kind of insight into what’s going on behind the scenes and could really do with it. I had an insurance claim to deal with, which turned out to be surprisingly painful. It involved daily calls to the insurance company because I didn’t know what was going on and whether any progress was being made or not. In the end, the call centre staff took pity on me and just processed my claim straight away, without making me wait for all the relevant bits of paperwork. Ironically, I need them now – give me the tools and I will leave the company in peace!


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