Make it easy for your People to serve the Customer…and then get out of the way!

We just had some great news from the UK Customer Services Institute.

We introduced our Effortless Strategy a few years ago and since then we have seen our position in the UKCSI survey improve every six months. In fact since 2009 we are the most improved company in the Services sector, against some pretty stiff competition. How have we achieved this? We believe through our dedication to this very simple concept around removing Customer Effort from our business, starting by putting our People first.

And while we know we don’t always get it right – which, when you are doing thousands of different, complex domestic engineering and repair jobs every day, there’s every chance we might not – our strategy is shaping the path we take and there’s no doubt we have come a long way on our journey.

The UKCSI survey is an independent and nationally recognised measure of Customer satisfaction, based on an online survey of thousands of consumers, covering 13 sectors and hundreds of companies, from Amazon to HomeServe. The latest report shows that Customer satisfaction is at its highest point since January 2014, which means getting it right for our Customers is more important than ever. We have continued to grow our satisfaction score and in the January survey we achieved 78.3 (out of 100) which is higher than the Services sector average of 77.5 and the overall survey average of 77.0. We have increased our score in every six month survey from 70.4 in January 2013 to today’s 78.3.

The Institute has introduced new metrics for 2016, one of which is whether everything was right first time for Customers. HomeServe tops the Services sector with a massive 88.5%! This score stands out even more when you consider that Customers in this sector say 75% of interactions are right first time, and the UK all-sector average is 74.4%. We are also highest when it comes to our helpfulness of staff over the phone with a massive 8.7 out of 10, a category where the RAC trails us with a score of 8.4. We are also second when rated for ‘Cares about their Customers’ with a score of 8.0, only RAC narrowly beat us by 8.1.

We have been hosting quite a few onsite visits from other FTSE 250 companies lately wanting to know one thing; How much of the change in Customer satisfaction is down to product and service improvements and how much is actually down to a change in Culture? Well, in our experience, it’s just not that binary, and if you are going to succeed you can’t do one without the other.

I’ve talked before about the big structural changes we’ve made to our products, like doubling the claims rate by removing exclusions and also about how we’ve empowered our People to approve jobs even if the Customer is not covered. These two things do something special in Financial Services in that they dramatically increase the value of the product to the Customer without actually changing the base product itself. They just make it work and feel better for the Customer and our People. We see these things as being related in that they make using the product for the Customer easier and that if it is easy they will ultimately be satisfied and loyal.

‘Easy’ is an ethos for us now. People think that driving ease of use requires big systems projects, digital investment, and potentially the complete“uberisation” of your business. The reality is that it starts with a few much simpler ideas that set the tone.

Here are a few tone setters for us that keep us focused on effortless:

We don’t have 99p pricing. If it is a pound we say it is a pound. People can easily add up the costs in their head and agents can clearly communicate costs. We have a lot of monthly payers so all our prices easily divide by twelve. I’m asked to change this stance multiple times a year.

We have introductory pricing in our first year like most insurers but we tell People what the next year’s price will be right in the main text of the advertising. That is because we want that first year renewal to be easy and an unexpected price shock is not easy for anyone.

If you want to pay monthly we don’t get a few extra quid out of you by charging a bit of interest or fees. The price is the price and if you want to manage your expenses by paying monthly you can do it without a credit agreement.

If you want to leave us for whatever reason we don’t suddenly make it hard to go. There are no cancellation fees. If you go halfway through the year and have not used the product then we will just simply stop charging you. If you don’t notice your renewal for a few months but meant to cancel then you can cancel and get a full refund. The law is 14 days but we don’t think that is easy enough. We hate to see you go but we want you back so we make it easy.

That being said, we don’t have any charges other than the cost of the policy (with an excess if that is your choice). I’m always fielding ideas from well meaning People about charging for paper statements or maybe some type of premium service. If we want Customers to use a channel then we make it the best choice for the Customer by making it easy. We don’t make something else you like to use crappier.

We don’t mislead you to get you in the door. We have a major competitor who promises to get to you on the first day 95% of the time. If you read the fine print they don’t promise to fix anything. They just promise to get there. You don’t have to look any further than their Customer reviews to know that they are setting an expectation and then letting Customers down.

Ultimately, we have decided that we will succeed or fail based on the quality of our products and how easy it is to use them. We don’t have gimmicks. We don’t need them because our People are so focused on looking after the Customer at all times. They make it work.

And while we can’t operate in this way and be the cheapest, we know we can be the best. And that is what our Customers want.