How can boiler and heating engineers increase their business while boosting customer satisfaction levels at the same time? thumbnail image Published on 13th February 2017 by Gemma Harding

Things can go wrong at any time of the day or year, and when things do we often have to rely on the help of others to fix them. This requires speed, efficiency, expert knowledge and strong communication between the two parties working together. But things don’t always go to plan, and this can create huge problems.

What is the problem at hand?

Data from call answering service provider CALLCARE has revealed that the majority of calls (30%) made to utilities providers and boiler engineers in winter are to do with chasing for an update or making repeat calls to report the same incident.

This is a two-fold problem that could be seriously affecting the customer satisfaction of these businesses. Firstly, existing customers will be becoming more and more annoyed that they have to continuously chase up engineers about the same problem leading to some dissatisfied customers telling friends and family about the issues. And secondly, engineers are potentially missing out on new business because they are dealing with so many repeat calls.

This problem is much more pronounced in winter than in summer, as these calls increase by up to 50%. If people are without heating or hot water, or sometimes both, then they are obviously going to want to get the problem fixed as soon as possible so it’s vital you have a plan for this sudden influx of phone enquiries.

Dealing with repeat calls could be cost you new business

If 30% of your advisers’ time is being spent dealing with repeat calls, they are prevented from dealing with new enquiries. These new enquiries are often complicated and in-depth calls demanding a lot of time and attention.

Data from CALLCARE has broken down a typical call that a facilities management firm receives. In this breakdown, we see exactly what goes into this phone call, and for how long…

  • On average, a customer service call relating to heating and boiler services takes three minutes
  • During this time, an adviser will validate, triage and troubleshoot the call
  • Their next step will be to dial out an engineer; this takes an average of three and a half minutes
  • Sometimes operators will have to contact two engineers, which adds another minute onto the time
  • Overall, the process can take around 7 and a half minutes to complete, however it can be longer in some cases

This breakdown of what exactly goes into the initial phone call shows that there is a great deal going on ‘behind the scenes’ once the customer has ended the conversation. It takes time to locate the right person and hand over the call, and to ensure that all information is relayed properly.

Even for a well-prepared company seven minutes isn’t too much to contend with, but when those calls must compete for time with the 30% of calls that are a repeat enquiry, the chance of missing a new business opportunity
significantly increases.

How do people really feel?

To gain an idea of how people really feel about the level of service that their utilities companies provided, CALLCARE used data from Trustpilot, the UK’s top independent review gatherer, and took an in-depth look at the ‘Big Six’ providers.

Of course, not all of the reviews and scores gathered by Trustpilot will specifically refer to engineers being called out for repairs, but it nevertheless gives an impression of what people really think.

For the ‘Big Six’ providers, their average score out of 10 came to just 2.35, which included a highest score of 5.4 and a lowest of just 0.3. As stated above, not all of the comments will be related to customer service, but browsing through the feedback, this was shown to be the case for many of the people taking to the internet to express their frustration. Many even vowed to leave and sign up with a competitor instead; which goes to show that customer satisfaction is something businesses should be taking seriously.

How is the industry responding?

A research piece into the state of customer satisfaction, published by The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) in July 2016, revealed the industry is already responding to this negative customer feedback. According to the report, the UK’s utilities sector ranks second behind Germany, and in the twelve months between July 2015 and July 2016, the sector has experienced a 1.9 point increase in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index.

There has also been a significant increase in the number of customers seeking a premium level of service and being willing to pay more money, and a corresponding decrease in those who would prefer to pay less but have a basic level of service. According to the ICS, this suggests that a rise in regulation, competition from other businesses and a greater focus on the customer experience is influencing the way that people choose and interact with utilities companies.

With competitors already moving in a more customer-centric direction, it’s even more important that you do the same or risk being overtaken then left behind.

How can you get around this problem?

Ultimately not all of the repeat calls being made will be necessary. But while it is unlikely that people will ever stop calling, it’s about how you handle those phone calls that make your customer service better, and give your reputation a boost.

Prioritise the right jobs

The most urgent jobs should be given top priority; these are serious situations where the problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible. In winter it is likely that everyone will think that their call should be a top priority, but as long as you have a system in place internally, this will help to improve efficiency across the board.

Perhaps prioritising by location would also help to ease the workflow. Calls that are further away from your ‘command centre’ should be bumped to the top of the list, as it will take your engineers longer to reach them. ETAs can be communicated on an individual basis, which is something that we will come onto in a little while…

Implement more efficient call handling processes

People will call a company about the same job because they are looking for an update. They want to know how long they can expect the problem to go on for, so it is clearly a frustration when people can’t get these updates easily. But if many people are doing the same thing, then a backlog can start to develop as there aren’t enough advisers to meet the demand.

In a recent CALLCARE survey, more than half of people (51%) stated that their biggest frustration with call centres was being placed on hold for long periods of time. This frustration is only going to intensify if it happens every time they call.

Overflow call handling services allow businesses to maintain high levels of customer service in the moments when they need it most. Retaining your current customers is just as important as bringing on new ones, so make sure you’re giving everyone the same high level of service and an undivided level of attention 100% of the time.

Improve communication

Companies who would prefer to try and field customers away from the telephone need to come up with a method of giving them the information they need online. One way this could be achieved is by implementing a tracker system on the website. Once a customer has raised an issue, a specific page on their account could be updated with a new message, or even a text message or email service that tells them when an engineer has been dispatched and the estimated time that they will arrive.

This kind of process might take a little time and money to get right, but it will be worth it in the long run. Not only does it show your customers that you are committed to making their journey as smooth and painless as possible, but it is also a great selling point for potential new customers. Prioritising customer service, satisfaction and happiness is never going to be bad for business.

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Get in touch with us today for your complimentary consultation, and we can help you overcome any customer service bugbears you may be facing, to really help you maximise your business output.