10 steps to improve your utility’s bottom line

Phoenix, AZ, Mar. 10, 2008 — Every utility wants to improve its financial performance and there are several ways to do that. These steps involve making the most of two assets that are already in place — the utility’s employees and its customers.

“Employees who understand their utility and deliver superior customer service help the company succeed,” says David Saxby, president of Measure-X, a company that specializes in helping utilities improve their customer service and sales. “Customers who understand the benefits of a utility’s products and services and who are happy with the way they are treated also boost the bottom line.”

Saxby offers the following 10 tips on improving a utility’s financial performance.

Tip 1. Develop employees’ sales skills. “Invest time and money to give employees the skills they need to communicate with and listen to customers and sell the value of the products and services you offer,” Saxby says. “Customers come to you for solutions. They want someone to help them make the decision that will benefit them.”

Saxby says employees must know how to develop rapport with customers, make customers feel they are special, ask the right questions to understand customers’ needs and provide customers with a solution and then help them make buying decisions.

Tip 2. Recognize outstanding employee performance. “How certain are you that every person in your utility is committed to meeting the standards you have established for customer service?” Saxby asks. “Set up a system to recognize those employees who meet or exceed your standards.”

Employees should be rewarded as soon as possible and they should clearly understand what they did right and how it helped the company, Saxby says.

Tip 3. Measure employee satisfaction. “A simple employee survey can provide you with invaluable information,” Saxby says. “Structure the survey to be anonymous and as objective as possible. Ask about available benefits, training programs, professional standards, likes and dislikes, the quality of internal communication and how they like to be recognized for a job well done.”

Tip 4. Show where the company is headed. “Do your employees know the mission of your utility and the role they play in making it a reality?” Saxby asks. “It’s easier for them to go the extra mile for customers when they understand the company’s vision.”

Tip 5. Get employees involved. “Don’t be afraid to share sales and expense numbers and teach everyone how to read a profit-and-loss statement,” Saxby suggests. “Invite everyone to offer strategies on how to increase sales and decrease costs. Convert their ideas into goals and get them involved in meeting those goals.”

Tip 6. Empower your staff. “Knowledge is power,” Saxby says. “The more your employees understand your company, its philosophy and its marketing strategies, the better they can do their jobs. Do employees understand what a customer is worth to the company? Do they know the financial loss to the company if their behaviors drive customers away?”

Tip 7. Listen to customers. “Ask your customers to rate your business and do this on a regular basis,” Saxby says. “How do they rate your customer service and friendliness of employees? What additional products do they want you to offer? Use the results of these surveys to set benchmarks to measure your future progress.”

Tip 8. Set the standard. “Train every employee on how each customer should be greeted and why that is important,” Saxby recommends. “Role-play with employees to be sure they have first-hand experience on what the standard means.”

Tip 9. Increase product knowledge. “Customers rely on your staff to give them factual information to help them with their buying decision,” Saxby says. “If your staff has the ability to accurately answer their questions and provide additional information, your customers’ confidence will skyrocket, as will the likelihood of a sale.”

Tip 10. Practice, practice, practice. “Management should be the coach for your team,” Saxby says. “Role-play various customer-buying situations with your staff. Role-play the new customer, the demanding customer and the unfriendly customer. Your employees will be more confident when they feel they have the skills to handle any type of customer they may encounter.”

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