UK Power Networks maintain electricity infrastructure across London and the South East of England. They’re not an energy supplier – they look after things like pylons, underground cables and maintenance work. Because of that, they most often talk to customers when something’s not quite right on the network; a power cut for instance. Recent customer feedback had put them towards the bottom of the industry league table for customer satisfaction. Their poor position meant that the regulator was penalising them financially – the way they were talking to their customers was literally costing them money. They wanted customers to feel good about them, even if they had to deliver bad news. They asked us to help.
We helped UKPN add a healthy dose of clarity and empathy to everything they wrote. And we put their customers back in the driving seat, developing off-the-peg comms driven by what they were asking for first, and by what UKPN needed to say second.
Since working with us, UKPN’s average customer satisfaction score has risen from 7.9 to 8.4 out of 10. Their website and social media team won the Customer Service award and Team of the Year award at the Utility Week Stars Awards 2014. They were also shortlisted for the CorpComms Digi award for Best Customer Service. Other electricity distributors and industry body Energy Networks Association got in touch for advice. And they shared their Twitter practice at the ‘Social Media in the Utilities’ conference.
How we did itOpen
First, we looked at UKPN’s text messages. We discovered that their messaging team were great at communicating facts, but not so good at doing it in a way that was easy to understand and sympathetic to their customers’ needs. They sometimes missed opportunities to pass on useful information that could add value to the interaction. And sometimes, they communicated things that weren’t immediately important to the customer. So we rewrote and restructured their text message script. We treated the texts like building blocks – standalone chunks of information that could fit together coherently in any scenario. And we developed ‘holding texts’ – texts that could be sent at any time to reassure a customer.
Then we did the same thing with UKPN’s tweets – writing a sample of ten tweet templates. To make sure the team knew how to use the new templates, we put together an Online Writing Guide. It showed them how to offer empathy, show action and give reasons to their online customers. It explained the defining principles of the new templates and gave guidance on how to use them. It also gave the team some practical tools for writing better copy.
Next, we ran a language audit on 70 of UKPN’s letters. Like the text messages, the letters could improve on empathy and clarity. Many had technical explanations that were hard for the average customer to understand. And because the team weren’t working from standard templates, there were some inconsistencies in tone and quality. At the same time, we looked at a cross section of customer complaint letters. We realised that whilst the reasons for complaints differed, customers were always asking for the same things – an apology, an explanation or compensation. We realised that the letters UKPN sent in reply should by driven by what the customer was asking for, not what they were complaining about.
So, we completely restructured UKPN’s written replies; delivering 28 letter templates that covered every eventuality – from noisy workmen to food that had defrosted in a power cut. Every template could be quickly personalised, allowing the writer to ‘parrot back’ the customer’s emotions and version of events. This was a efficient way for UKPN’s writers to show that they’d really listened to their customers. We also thought about things from the team’s point of view, and kept the number of keystrokes to a minimum. The result was a watertight, user-friendly solution that could be personalised, cut writing time, minimised margin for error, standardised length and tone, and took out jargon. To help the team use their new letter templates, we put together a Letter Writing Guide. Like the Online Writing Guide, it showed the team how to put empathy, action and reason into their writing. It also included a step-by-step guide to personalising the templates.