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Customer Service

Which? customer service poll reveals 2017 best and worst brands

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Consumer watchdog Which? has revealed its best and worst brands for customer service, with First Direct, Lakeland and Lush all topping the polls for 2017.

The survey, carried out with more than 3,000 Which? customers, found that First Direct ticked all the right boxes when it came to customer service, finishing ahead of cosmetics retailer Lush, with kitchenware store Lakeland in third position.

The poll asked members of public to rate up to three brands on their customer service experience.

First Direct took the top position after 63% of those polled said that the customer service staff’s attitude was “excellent”.

Retailers, including Debenhams, HMV, Ikea and Mothercare, were also among those polled, with an average customer service score of 77%. Lush and Lakeland were the highest scoring retailers, with Sports Direct the lowest-scoring, with those polled citing poor staff attitudes at the sports retailer.

Telecoms firms didn’t fare well, with most of the big brands finishing in the lower section of the table. Virgin Media, TalkTalk and energy firm Npower shared 94th position, although Vodafone finished in 9th place. BT missed the poll this year due to a discrepancy in the data collected.

The best brands stood out due to having friendly, helpful staff, with 53% of those polled saying it was one of the things valued most during the customer service experience.

The full list can be viewed here


Kura’s new report ‘The People Factor’ explores the nature of customer service

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Kura recently teamed up with Ember Services to produce a new report The People Factor report, which explores the future nature of work in customer service.

With an ever-growing proportion of transactions now being conducted using automation, digital channels and customer self-service, it’s no surprise that most businesses and analysts expect the shift to automation in customer service to increase over the next few years.

This report explores what this shift will mean for the customer service advisors and what role they will play in the future.

Following on from this report, Arceeb Moughal, the Director of Commercial at Kura shares his views on the findings.

Download this opinion piece here and you’ll learn why we believe the role of the future advisor will switch to that of a controller: taking charge of customers issue’s and owning it through to resolution. Why we welcome the increase in automation and A.I. and why we’re building a very different business in our industry.

If you’d like to learn more, get in touch at marketing@wearekura.com.


Here are the best and worst UK energy providers for customer service

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The Citizens Advice Bureau has revealed the energy companies with the best and worst customer service records in the UK.

Extra Energy received the lowest score of Citizens Advice’s star rating system for energy suppliers for the second time – with a lower overall score.

The company received 2.05 stars, lower than the 2.5 stars it received for the period between October and December 2016. The firm has previously received record low scores for its handling of customer complaints.

The star rating system is designed help people find the right energy supplier for their needs. Suppliers are awarded a score out of 5 stars based on a combination of 5 factors, including how complaints are dealt with, and how highly customers rate the supplier’s customer service.

The star rating for each supplier is shown alongside the price of available deals in Citizens Advice’s price comparison tool. This enables people to work out the best deal for them based on cost and how the company treats its customers.

On the complaints handling measure, Extra Energy delivered the worst score recorded by Citizens Advice (1,916 per 100,000 customers) for the period between January and March.

The supplier also received low scores when it came to billing and ease of contact – scoring 2 out of 5 for each). The company did, however, receive a score of 5 out of 5 for switching, by successfully carrying out 99% of energy switches within 21 days.

Examples of the problems with Extra Energy reported to Citizens Advice include people being unable to get through to the company to give meter readings, and people being charged twice for the same bill.

Some people have also reported problems with back-billing, with one Extra Energy customer receiving an unexpected bill for £4,500, after the company failed to collect payments for 18 months.

Scottish Power has made the biggest improvement in the star rating, from 2.75 stars in March to 3.15. The company has continued to improve in its complaints handling since its customers experienced a number of problems following the introduction of a new billing system in 2013.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Customers should know what they’re paying for when choosing an energy supplier. How easy it is to contact your supplier, how clear your bill is and how easy it is to switch are all important factors when choosing an energy supplier.

“We have found that some energy suppliers have made improvements in the service they provide, but it is disappointing that others appear to be getting worse.

“It’s important that all energy companies are constantly trying to improve, to make sure they deliver the best service they can to consumers. This must include sending out accurate timely bills, having the right number of staff to answer phone calls quickly, and having the right processes to deal with complaints quickly and effectively.”

The energy supplier star rating awards energy suppliers a number of stars out of five for the following factors:

  • How well energy suppliers handle customer complaints
  • The number of switches the supplier successfully carries out
  • How highly people rate their supplier’s customer service
  • How easy people find it to understand their bills
  • Whether the supplier is signed up to the switch guarantee that commits them to switching a customer within 21 days

The ratings for January to March 2017 were:

SupplierStar rating January to March 2017

Ecotricity – 4.4

E (Gas and Electricity) – 4.1

Flow Energy – 3.9

Economy Energy – 3.85

EDF Energy – 3.75

SSE – 3.75

British Gas – 3.7

Utilita – 3.4

Utility Warehouse- 3.4

E.ON – 3.15

Scottish Power – 3.15

Ovo Energy – 3.1

npower – 3

First Utility – 2.9

Green Star Energy – 2.85

Co-operative Energy – 2.6

Spark Energy – 2.3

Extra Energy – 2.05

EE brings 1,000 jobs to UK & Ireland

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100% of EE customer service calls will now be answered within the UK and Ireland as the company has created over 1,000 jobs in the last year.

The announcement follows parent company BT’s announcement of introducing 500 more positions to tackle increased customer demand.

Unlike its parent company, EE is among the least complained about mobile companies in the UK according to OFCOM, having received just five complaints in every 100,000 last quarter compared to BT’s 36.

The mobile giant has made a lot of progress since 2014, when the operator was receiving 12 complaints per 100,000, although its second quarter 2016 was the lowest record according to OFCOM, with just four.

EE was beaten to the top spot by O2, Three and Tesco Mobile, with Tesco receiving on average just a single complaint in every 100,000.

“2016 was a landmark year in the service that we provided to our customers,” said EE CEO Marc Allera, “We’re passionate about making our service the best in the industry, so you can expect more to come soon.”

On the horizon for EE is expanding its 4G coverage. By 2020 the company is hoping to have covered 95% of the UK’s landmass.


Top tips for workplace recovery

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Business continuity is critical for building resilience within your company by allowing you to work through a disruption and giving you time to recover.

Most understand the need for business continuity, but it’s often seen as too expensive or time consuming to address, but this doesn’t need to be the case.

IT and recovery specialist DSM has compiled its top tips to avoid disaster:


1. Carry out regular risk assessments

Taking steps to eliminate or minimise potential threats is a vital step in the operation of your business.

2. Consider possible scenarios

Planning and analysing threats to determine the impact on your business is a simple and straightforward way to protect yourself.

3. Compile an action plan

Maintaining business as usual makes a huge difference during a crisis, and putting formal contracts in place will enable fast recovery of essential operations

4. Document key business processes

In case of emergencies involving staff either being absence or busy, having basic processes on paper helps maintain the situation. Making sure no critical activities are operated by a single individual will also help.

5. Review supplier resillience

Are your suppliers capable of meeting your Service Level Agreements? A quick review and multiple sources help reduce reliance on any one single supplier.

6. Protect company information

Ensuring it can be accessed and rapidly restored will help during a disaster, but not at the risk of security, which should be a top priority.

7. Regular tests

Proving you can function should you lose a vital service, or even your entire business environment, will help prepare you for a future need for adapting.

8. Get employees involved

Encouraging all employee involvement with preparation and testing helps for staff to buy in to the importance of keeping your business ticking over, as well as providing lifelines if a senior employee is absent.

Positivity Pays in 2017

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Almost three quarters of Brits anticipate a more positive 2017 than 2016, which could see an increase in public spending.

A study by the Institute of Customer Service showed customers are 69% more likely to spend if they are surrounded by positivity, which could lead to good news for businesses as 73% expect this year to deliver more good news than 2016.

The last year’s controversial headlines polarising public opinion has left many feeling negative, and the Institute of Customer Service poll revealed companies could increase profits by 30% if customers were engaged in ‘friendly conversation’.

Other factors likely to encourage more consumer interaction and spending were by employees remembering a customer’s name, personalised offers and employees taking longer to understand their needs.

“Consumers are willing to pay a premium for a genuine and authentic experience,” explained Jo Causon, chief executive of Institute of Customer Service, emphasising that while the business world is currently filled with uncertainty, helping understand employees “could pay dividends.”

BT to add 500 jobs to meet customer service targets…

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British Telecom (BT) has declared it will add a further 500 frontline customer service positions to its
bases across the UK and Ireland.

Due to the continuing growth of the company’s BT Consumer division, contact centres in Doncaster,
Accrington, Swansea and Warrington are expected to benefit the most, and the new roles are in addition to the previously-announced target of 1,000 UK and Ireland customer service jobs by the end of March 2017.

Expanding the customer service teams will also help with BT’s commitment to answer 90 per cent of its customers’ calls in the UK and Ireland by the same date.

Libby Barr, managing director of customer care at BT Consumer, said: “We are proud to be creating these new jobs in the UK and Ireland. BT is completely changing the way we serve our customers in order to boost our service levels.

“We are going to answer 90 per cent of our customers’ calls in the UK and Ireland by the end of March, and we have been taking on great people to fill full time jobs working for BT. In fact, we will be recruiting for an extra 500 positons, which will be a dramatic increase in what we said we’d do.”

BT’s existing employees can earn a £500 bonus under a ‘Refer a Friend’ scheme if their friend’s application is successful and they complete the first six months of the role.

Manpower agency staff will also have the chance to convert their role into a permanent position with BT.

Noble’s RTSA endorsed by permanent tsb to improve contact centre performance…

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Noble Systems’ Real-Time Speech Analytics (RTSA) has been adopted by the Irish banking chain, permanent tsb, in a bid to enhance all contact centre controls and further improve its customer service offering.

Noble’s Composer RTSA claims to ‘listen’ to all agent interactions and assigns an individual virtual coaching partner to provide agent feedback when needed.

Using a library of ‘user-defined phrases’, the system monitors all calls and triggers an alert when a phrase is detected or not detected on both sides of the conversation, based on the conditions defined for the campaign.

Alerts can be sent to managers via the Noble Harmony web manager interface, as well as agents using the Noble Composer agent desktop.

Alan Murphy, head of Collections at permanent tsb said: “At permanent tsb, we take customer service very seriously and we have invested heavily in technology that will support our agents to provide exceptional service and support to our clients.

“One of the key reasons we purchased Composer RTSA from Noble Systems was to complement our existing Noble technology, allowing us to identify areas of the scripted conversation not going to plan for our agents  and to proactively notify them during the call. With Composer RTSA, we can listen out for key phrases to ensure that 100 per cent of calls are in compliance and that any customer or agent issues are flagged in real time, rather than after the event”.

Colin Chave, general manager at Noble Systems EMEA added: “We are delighted that permanent tsb have invested in Composer RTSA, and we are looking forward to seeing them quickly realise their return on investment and at the same time improve their customer journey and increase agent satisfaction.

Learn more about Composer RTSA here

Guest Blog, Heather Richards: The ‘crystal ball’ of customer service…

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If the US election result tells us anything, it’s that the ability to predict results is neither easy nor guaranteed. Any pollster or political commentator can now tell you that there’s a world of difference between what someone says and what they actually mean. It’s something that centre agents instinctively know to be true; customers can ask the same question in thousands of ways, sometimes skirting around the subject or simply not having the technical terms they need to address it.

Deciphering what the customer wants and resolving the query efficiently and effectively is compounded by the pressures of accessing the right information against a backdrop of having to handle an increasingly diverse range of issues, which could potentially affect almost every aspect of a customer’s experience with a business. As larger businesses use consolidated contact centres that support multiple products and services, heavier burdens fall on a fewer number of agents who, in most cases, have difficulty finding the information appropriate for each enquiry. 

Despite the best efforts – and investments – in CRM over the years, it can still make a centre agent or customer service rep feel like what they really need is a crystal ball if they’re ever going to reach customer satisfaction.

Sadly, no crystal ball exists. So to be successful in consistently delivering outstanding customer experience, contact centres need provide instant access to information by supporting the complete customer journey. In essence, giving agents the tools. 

In any customer interaction, the agent is essentially being asked to follow a three-step process:  

  1. Understand the intent and context of the inquiry to eliminate time consuming research and get to the answer quicker.
  2. Anticipate the answers needed and predict what the customer might ask next.
  3. Learn from the conversation to improve future interactions, giving better customer service and less admin. 

The certainty and consistency in customer service interactions, reducing , and satisfaction on both sides. Gartner’s ‘Knowledge Management Will Transform CRM Customer Service‘ report supports this, noting that “the use of tools such as semantic search engines tied to well-curated knowledge repositories can accelerate time to answer queries by 80 per cent” and increase customer satisfaction by 12 per cent. 

Transversal has worked with some of the largest and most customer-service focused and busiest organisations in the UK, from John Lewis to Mothercare, to the BBC, RAC and more. Transversal’s Prescience platform works in much the same way as the human mind works, to understand, then predict, and finally improve customer interactions by continually learning and improving knowledge as it goes.

Armed with CRM data and case detail, Prescience work by anticipating what agents need from the moment they begin entering text into a service request form, or by contextually understanding information in a chat or email response. Bringing in elements of artificial intelligence and cognitive knowledge management, the platform begins to process what people are asking before they have even finished their sentence. This simple but intuitive function eliminates unnecessary research, increases knowledge usage, and naturally reduces the effort for everyday agent tasks.

Independent  research has found this leads to a 28 per cent increase in customer service rep productivity and reduces call times by 40 per cent. 

But customers usually ask more than one question. It uses ‘smart links’ to mimic a person’s train of thought to identify what they are likely to ask next, enabling the agent to provide a better service and increasing first contact closures by 18 per cent, according to the same research.  


Heather Richards, CEO, joined Transversal in 2001 and has been instrumental in the company’s growth from a Cambridge technology start-up into the successful business it is today. Heather holds BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Westminster College in the US, and an M.Phil. in European Literature from the University of Cambridge.

Industry Spotlight: New original research produced by Kura and the CCA…

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Service executives are challenged on a daily basis with improving their customer service offerings. Through new, original research, Kura and the CCA asked the critical questions to understand where businesses are positioned today and their ambitions for the future.  
Our infographic displays some of the key highlights from this research. Interestingly, one in five respondents believe that their customer service advisors do not receive the correct level of training to sufficiently service customers during complex interactions. Moreover, 75% state multi-channel capabilities are an essential requirement for their organisation to succeed in the future.

Download our infographic and check out these highlights here