ScottishPower (SP) Energy Retail processes 550,000 customer email and letter correspondence items annually using a computer-based scan and workflow system. Of this total, 2.3 percent are categorized as complaints, and a small percentage of these are subsequently escalated by customers to the independent energy consumer watchdog, Energywatch (EW). Other types of correspondence are governed by SP’s guaranteed standard (GS) of replying to the customer within five days of receipt of inquiry; otherwise, a penalty is paid to the customer.
The aim of this project was to improve the efficiency with which customer correspondence is processed. The backlogs within the correspondence department were such that it was a daily struggle to avoid GS failures. This was exacerbated by short-term forecasting and resource planning. Because of a combination of agent inexperience and not routing correspondence to agents with the appropriate skills, a significant amount of correspondence was reallocated (sent to another agent for resolution) and rejected (e.g., illegible), leading to considerable non-valueadded activity. There was a 20 percent incidence in repeat correspondence due to poor resolution of the initial inquiry – in some cases, a second letter from a customer was received before the first one had been read.
Although it was understood that the correspondence process was badly broken, insufficient performance management data made it difficult to understand where to focus improvement efforts. Voice of the Customer had to be initiated.
The impact for customers of this completed project has been significant. The backlogs have been all but eradicated, and in some cases, agents are responding within minutes of receipt of the initial inquiry. The benefit from a financial perspective is also very positive with a significant reduction in the volume of GS failures. From a morale perspective, agents are taking pride in their ability to manage workloads and are satisfied that they are able to provide a better standard of service.
In the six months immediately following implementation of the project solutions, there was a 90 percent reduction in the incidence of GS failures. In addition, Energywatch complaints fell during the first three months after implementation to a level that is consistent with industry expectations. Finally, SP has been able to maintain a “day 2” clearance position, which means that a customer’s correspondence never stays in the backlog queue for more than two days.