Page 4: Improving services
Yorkshire Water’s commitment to improving services and meeting standards does not just relate to the provision of water supply and sewerage services. There is another dimension which goes beyond water as a product and its price, that of customer service. Customer service involves using customer care to differentiate services from those of other organisations. There are many reasons for businesses to develop customer service initiatives. For example:
- to improve their image in the eyes of customers
- to increase customer satisfaction
- to create a reputation for being a caring, customer-oriented business;
- to improve staff morale and bring about continuous improvements in the way the company does business.
To focus upon customers it is necessary to know the customer. For this reason Yorkshire Water involves customers in establishing its customer service strategy through extensive research and customer forums held around the region. Customer advisory panels meet six times a year around the Yorkshire Water region. These panels were set up to provide an opportunity for a group of typical customers to have direct access to Yorkshire Water’s Directors in order for ideas to be exchanged on all aspects of the running of Yorkshire Water and standards of customer services. As an independent group, they provide a unique insight into how customers view Yorkshire Water and, as a result, Yorkshire Water is able to improve the level of service it provides. The research carried out in conjunction with Leeds University stressed the importance of communicating regularly with customers. This is particularly important. When water standards improve and our customer service improves, it is sometimes difficult for customers to appreciate what has been done. For the most part, drinking water will look the same and taste much as it always did. Many forms of communication are used to put these messages across, T.V. advertising, letters, mail shots, Education Centres, leaflets and posters etc.
In the same way that standards were set for water quality, standards were also set for customer services and compensation is paid where these standards are not met. For example, Yorkshire Water:
- responds to customer letters within 10 working days of receipt. If, for any reason this is not done, the customer receives £10
- guarantees to keep appointments agreed for the morning or afternoon and, again, if an appointment is missed, the customer receives £10
- if during washing, an unplanned or unforeseen incident damages a customer’s goods, their annual water supply charge is reduced by 10%.
These and other standards help Yorkshire Water to take into account the needs of its customers, because Yorkshire Water believes it can do more to ensure customers have a voice and are able to influence the services which are developed. After all, the services are for them!