War in Iraq. Terrorist attacks overseas. Terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Soft economies worldwide. Deregulation of the utility industry. Expanding telecom products and services. Those are a lot of roadblocks to running a successful company!
That’s why it’s more important than ever that utilities have a clear road map of where they’re headed and how they’re going to get there. Without that road map, the fast track to success can turn into a slow, bumpy ride. There are many things to consider when drawing that map. Here are 11 points to keep in mind.
Develop a system to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. While business was booming and customers were plentiful, companies didn’t pay much attention if a few clients made the decision to buy elsewhere. Times have changed. Now every consumer matters. Ask your customers to rate their level of satisfaction with hold time, response time and how they were handled as a customer. Ask your customers what they like and dislike about doing business with you. There aren’t many companies that do that.
How effective is your customer management software? Giga Information Group says half the companies that implement CRM have no way to measure the results. Which system are you using to measure the effectiveness of your CRM? Just because it’s the latest and greatest software doesn’t mean it will help you develop long-term relationships with your customers.
Another important element of your road map is the employees who work to keep your customers buying from you. It will be up to your employees to exceed the customer’s expectations and enhance customer loyalty through more personalized service.
Do your employees know your utility’s customer service and sales goals for the next month and the next year? If the people on your team do not have a clear picture of the company’s objectives, goals and anticipated outcomes, how can you expect to have everyone united in a common goal?
Practice open-book management. Get every employee involved in running the business. Show your people how to read a profit-and-loss statement. Most people have no idea what it costs to run a utility. Help them understand the numbers. Ask them for suggestions on ways to decrease costs, improve profits and increase sales. Post your weekly and monthly numbers for all to see. Employees are motivated and enthusiastic about reaching goals when they know what the target is.
Ask employees to help create the direction and vision of the company. People want to feel they are part of something and that their contribution has a positive impact on the future of the company. Give them the opportunity to create a mission statement they will support. Ask them to develop their own personal mission statement to support the overall company mission. We all feel more committed when we take ownership in creating our future.
Are you measuring customer-service performance? If you aren’t measuring and monitoring customer service, how do you know if you’re doing a good job? Share the results of that information with your employees. Set up a recognition program to reward them for a job well done. If the results aren’t meeting expectations, provide them with additional training and coaching.
Benchmark the company. Measure those key components that are vital to longevity and growth. Compare yourself to others in your industry. How do your standards measure up against your competition? What improvements can you make to customer service complaints, abandonment rate, hold time and call transfers?
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. How satisfied are your employees about working for your utility? Establish a tracking system to record and classify complaints. That will allow you to analyze complaint data.
Keep your talent. Are you continuing to provide your employees with the advanced skills they need to exceed customer satisfaction? Most people want more opportunity to learn new skills. They want to grow and learn in their job environment. Offer them the tools to become better at what they do.
Hire the right people. With layoffs and the downturn in the economy, there is a bigger pool of people to choose from. The question now becomes how do you know which person to hire?
With a clearly defined road map, it’s easier to see where you’re going and how good a job you’re doing at reaching your destination.
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skill training for utility companies.