In 2009 Bord Gáis Networks experienced an increase in customer complaints related to meter reads. The economic downturn led to an increased awareness of energy consumption and customers understanding the value of actual rather than estimated reads for billing purposes. Bord Gáis Networks conducts 4 actual reads and 2 estimated reads annually. In cases of ‘non-access’ to a property, a card is left by the meter reader for the customer to contact our ‘Dial a Read’ service with an actual read thereby avoiding an estimated bill. However, this service provided limited visibility of volumes of successful reads processed through this channel. In addition, customers expressed that meter reading personnel were not allowing a suitable period of response time to grant access for meter reads (where access was necessary). Such missed opportunities for an actual read caused difficulty for some customers. Bord Gáis Networks sought to encourage all customers to submit actual reads by using an automated service and becoming more aware of their energy consumption.
An upgrade of the ‘Dial a Read’ solution was carried out and the process simplified for customers. In partnership with Sentient, an outsource technology company, a web based solution was developed which was available 24/7. This solution facilitated the customer in providing actual meter reads where one was not recently carried out as a result of non-access. The new solution also supported Bord Gáis Networks in monitoring the volume of ‘non-access’ related calls. All information provided through this channel was routed to our contact centre and integrated with our service technology. In addition, a training programme was initiated with our meter readers to enable them to be more empathetic with our customers. This was extremely worthwhile as it also provided meter readers with an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing development of the ‘Dial a Read’ solution including their valuable suggestion in synchronising the system with an automated service.
Selecting the correct technology solution was a challenge. Since partnering with Sentient we have undertaken three reviews of the solution to ensure it is meeting customer needs.
Small, incremental changes can have a big impact over time if managed correctly. Don’t be afraid to make a change!
The number of meter reading complaints reduced by 52% in 2010 from 2009. Overall customer satisfaction improved from 73% in 2008 to 87% by April 2010.
The new solution allows the customer to submit their meter reading in a timely manner so gas bills are based on actual meter reads. Customers are encouraged to monitor their energy usage and the “power of one” theory is enforced in relation to sustainability and energy conservation.