Customer Service Breakpoints

Economic contraction, manpower displacement and fear grips the world’s economies. Utilities are trying to counteract flat revenues as credit and collections and write-offs increase. Airlines, retailers and others are cutting services customers expect—what utilities term -reducing customer service metrics.

Customer service is not an all-or-nothing business component. Most executives in a recent survey believe that marked reductions in service levels is a mistake when companies have acknowledged the strategic importance of improving the customer experience.

Cutting wasteful spending is obvious as budgets contract. Some of the best-attuned executives would advise to invest in the drivers of customer satisfaction. Test the customer service beliefs that have shaped budgets, staffing and your image with consumers. Many consumer companies are discovering that their perceptions of customer expectations are wrong.

Breakpoints are the levels in customer satisfaction below which customers express strong dissatisfaction and above which customers could not be happier. That higher breakpoint has financial significance given the cost difference between it and the true satisfaction threshold identified in research. Analysts are known to correlate stock values to customer service levels.

Marketing can be a cost center with major savings when programs and campaigns are analyzed for correlation to customer-satisfaction breakpoints. Survey results can identify important disconnects between what customers say and their behavior, optimally redirecting scarce resources.

These customer experience analytics, skillfully applied, can produce substantial savings on staffing levels necessary to maintain what matters most to customers and redirect money for investments that matter.

Credit and collections departments, billing and payments take on critical importance as economic instability continues. Optimal functioning across these departments is vital to a utility’s ability to operate.

CS Week’s planning committee members face the same challenges as other utilities, municipalities, cooperatives and governmental entities. They are committed to delivering the most current learning opportunities on credit and collections through the entire customer experience life cycle. CS Week Executive Summit includes -Has the current financial crisis initiated new credit and collections actions? CS Week College devotes a day and a half to -Credit and Collection—A Primer for Revenue Management. Six of the conference’s 60-plus workshops are focused on credit and collections, including best practice programs, proven techniques and case studies, understanding metrics in the downturn and reducing collection costs.

A recent example of the impact of a solution learned at CS Week comes from Penni McLean-Conner, vice president of customer service at NSTAR and 2009 conference chairwoman.

-NSTAR is implementing changes to billing and payment processes that will save more than $250,000 annually. The genesis of these changes came from ideas Joe Lanzel, NSTAR’s director of billing and meter reading, picked up at CS Week 2008. He returned to his office energized by the knowledge he gained during the session and used that information to implement these new processes, McLean-Conner said.

Information on CS Week 2009 is available online at www.csweek.org.

Jerry Duvall, CEO, CS Week
For more information, please visit www.csweek.org

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