Earning customers’ trust - What it takes to be a hero

Despite what you sometimes read in the papers, there’s a lot of dedication in the business energy market.

There are good people who are great at their jobs and continually strive to do right by their customers and their colleagues.

That comes through loud and clear reading about the candidates for the Unsung Hero award at TELCA 2014. Their stories build a catalogue of trust success.

So what is it that makes these people stand out? What inspiration can the rest of us take from their examples? Here are a few thoughts and insights from this year’s entries.

Everyone’s doing it

The first surprise from the entries was that experience and role don’t really matter. Anyone can be a customer hero.

There were nominations for risk analysts, compliance and quality control people, as well as the more likely roles of account/client management and customer service.

The broad range of candidates showed seniority or length of service was not a factor either. Some heroes have been in the energy sector (never mind their company) for only a year or two, but are already seen as ‘go to people’ by their customers and their colleagues.

What are they doing to be heroes

It’s clear customers are their focus. The other two critical qualities for me are that the candidates are highly competent and committed. Effort counts a great deal but competency helps people get the right result for their customers quicker. Showing you understand the customer’s perspective puts you on their side, as these customer quotes from some of the entries show:

“The key to the success of our relationship with X is the real understanding of our business which he has developed.”
“The credibility and industry knowledge he provides underpins business cases taken to our board.”

Does it help their business?

There are 16 electricity suppliers in the business market. To help us compete effectively, we try to stand out by standing for something positive: being the feel better energy company.

There’s even more competition amongst energy consultants. Ofgem estimates that there are around 1000 in the business energy market. In an Ofgem study last year, almost two thirds of 1300 businesses surveyed said they were contacted by consultants on average 12 times in a year. Standing for something positive helps in this part of the market too.

This customer testimonial for an unsung hero candidate shows the difference people can make:
“There are plenty of companies out there that do what you do, but not in the way that you do it.”

As this quote from a candidate’s manager shows, the difference is also felt inside the company:
“We are a relatively small player, however I believe X helps us ‘punch above our weight’. I don’t believe we would be as respected by our peers and as appreciated by our clients if we didn’t have X as the driving force behind our energy team.”

Is there a magic formula?

You already have mine: competence + customer focus + commitment = success.

The In utilities we trust report from management consultants, EY, identifies two vital qualities – ‘intent’ and ‘capability’.

The Institute of Customer Services say fully engaged employees are the answer.

Recognition helps keep employees engaged. And it need not be costly or complicated. In EDF Energy, we have an instant recognition initiative called Wonderwall. It’s a weekly email update backed up with spot rewards for the best customer feedback received by our customer service people. Rewards range from a £1.50 canteen voucher to a ‘goody cupboard’ treat – a pat on the back to show we appreciate a job well done.

Wonderwall is simple and it generates a great buzz for us. Judging by this extract from an entry, it looks like the Unsung Hero award is doing the same for energy consultants:
“I feel so honoured that a customer nominated X, that even if X does not win the award, I feel like we have. Our customers have shown us belief that what both X and we are doing is a great job for our customers and that is the best job satisfaction we could have asked for. For this year anyway.”


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