United Utilities

By putting customer feedback at the heart of its business, United Utilities has soared up the service rankings of its industry peers. The recognition and rich insights uncovered by The WOW! Awards have been a key turning point in its transformation.
  • Sector
    Sector
    Utilities
  • No. of Employees
    No. of Employees
    >5,000
  • No. of customers
    No. of customers
    7 million

Summary

United Utilities is the large scale operation responsible for keeping water and
wastewater systems across the North West of England flowing smoothly.

From customer service teams through to technicians working in the highway and in people’s homes, employees deliver a variety of customer experiences every day. Customer feedback is critical to understanding performance in these
settings. The WOW! Awards plays a number of roles, including motivation and recognition of employees and uncovering valuable customer insights.

The challenge

United Utilities is passionate about delivering great service to its customers, understands that employee engagement and customer service go hand in hand.

While there are opportunities to learn from customer complaints, United Utilities also wanted to gain insights from positive feedback. Listening to customer nominations and celebrating the success of these also opens the door to improved morale and motivation.

United Utilities wanted to receive rich and detailed feedback from customers about things that had gone right. The WOW! Awards provided a way to bring these stories to life from everyday activities across the organisation’s many teams and roles.

The approach

WOW! launched a nominations website for United Utilities in July 2012. It’s designed to be easy to find and simple to use. Customers are encouraged to nominate employees they feel are deserving of recognition.

Receiving customer compliments directly is key and feedback arrives immediately.

Louise Beardmore leads the customer service function at United Utilities and values the positive reinforcement that comes with these nominations:
“Our people love this recognition. When customers tell us what we’ve done right, it really encourages us to do more.”

Evidence of true customer connection comes through the stories that customers share. Associated trends are spotted that are deemed to be “golden nugget insights” and these are fed back into training programmes. Some of these were
as simple as being friendly and empathetic with customers.

Regular acts of appreciation put a spring in the step of the deserving recipients. Plus, successful colleagues join the prominent ‘100 Club’ upon receiving 100 glowing nominations. Louise expresses: “It unlocks a massive amount of ‘feel-good’ in the organisation.”

The outcome

The business has found The WOW! Awards to be a quick and efficient way of bringing
the customer voice into the heart of the organisation. It is an ongoing source of insight and inspiration across a whole host of areas.

United Utilities now prides itself on its
customer centric approach:
“These nominations have helped us to drive a really strong customer service culture throughout the whole business.”

The impact on customer service levels is certainly visible as customer nomination volumes have shot up, as have industry customer service rankings. The team now celebrates over 1000 wows a month, and have recently hit a grand total of 50,000 nominations. Glamorous black-tie award ceremonies are held annually and are a real treat. Equally a simple thank you from a customer is “genuinely uplifting”.

“Everything is positive.” Louise continues. “Everything about WOW! is positive – from the impact it has in the business, through to the day-to-day interactions with the team.”

"Great customer service is delivered by engaged employees. Celebrating our people doing things right for our customers, recognising and reinforcing these behaviors has been part of our strategy to improve our overall performance. WOW! plays its part in that."
Louise Beardmore, Customer Service Director, United Utilities.

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