National Complaints Awards 2020 | Blue Sky

National Complaints Awards 2020

According to the January 2020 UKCSI report, the utilities sector has a UKCSI score of 72.3 (out of 100), a drop of 1.5 points compared to January 2019.

The Utilities sector is 4.6 points lower than the UK all-sector average for customer satisfaction. It is the 12th rated sector out of 13 in the January 2020 UKCSI: only Transport (71.2) has a lower UKCSI score.

When you look at the detailed results attached to this disappointing top line average, you will see that in every dimension of customer satisfaction, utilities score lower than the average for all UK sectors!

In a world where customers now have more choice this simply isn’t good enough and a step change is urgently needed. So, what are the traditional providers, disruptor suppliers, and alternative energy companies doing to put this right?

I’m passionate about customer experience, so when I was given the opportunity to judge the utilities sector at the National Complaints Awards 2020, I jumped at the chance.

I have been lucky enough to collect a few awards on behalf of Blue Sky over the past few years and know the hard work that goes into creating a winning submission so it was interesting to be on the other side of the fence judging other people’s efforts for the first time. I just wish that everybody could walk away a winner.

The reality is that there is only one gold award winner, and it goes to the applicant who has produced fantastic results for their programme, and whose submission and presentation leaves nothing at the door.

This years’ shortlisted applicants looked at the challenge of reducing complaints, and had tackled the problem in three different ways:

  1. Radically change the operating model by moving operations to a new location (centre of excellence)
  2. Restructuring the roles within an existing operation and put ownership with experience and knowledge
  3. Invested in training and engagement of existing workforce and operating model

All of the entrants were fantastic, and it was a genuine pleasure to meet and speak with those that presented on the day.


Let’s look at the results…


The first entrant focused on an operational relocation to their head office from an underperforming site, which meant there were significant costs and disruptions to consider.

Overall, they achieved a 70% reduction in complaints, which gave the business some operating cost savings. There was a decrease in level 1 complaints however, level 2 complaints rose, and customer experience was negatively impacted by multiple handoffs. Whist there was an increase in handling time the move was perceived to drive a better overall customer experience.

The company did see consistent customer satisfaction score levels of above 80% – ‘friendly and approachable’ at 91% and ‘knowledgeable’ at 85%, despite the significant amount of disruption and additional cost to business.

The second entrant reorganised the operation differently so that tier 1 and tier 2 were dealing with complaints based on their skills and knowledge.  As this initiative required changes to people’s roles there needed to be consultation with the staff involved. In addition, changes to the telecom system to implement the right call routing and technical training for the agents were also needed.

This method saw a small reduction in operating costs, however the costs to implement were unknown, and I imagine they would have been significant.

On the upside the results were really good and showed a drastic reduction in the length of time customers waited for resolution, from a median 11.6 days (April-September 2018) to 7.8 days (April-September 2019). However, there was no knowledge of any customer satisfaction scores, so we only had part of the picture.

There was also a benefit to the employee, seeing engagement rise as result of the opportunity to do the right thing for the customer, and for advisors to be in control of the customer outcome. In my mind, it comes back to the customer experience and without the costs and satisfaction scores it’s difficult to get a true evaluation of the results and impact.

These were decent results and the team should be applauded for achieving this!


Lastly, the results for the company that focused on training and engagement of its existing operating model. This was my personal favourite, ticking so many boxes for me in both approach and results.

The company didn’t invest in technical changes and expensive restructuring exercises, instead it focused on its number one asset… it’s people.

The programme put a huge emphasis on the communication of the compelling story for change, as part of the initiative launch so everybody knew what it was about and realised it was a big deal. The next step was development of mindsets and behaviours in their advisors and managers. The resulting employee engagement effect was significant – the approach clearly said ‘we care about our employees as well as our customers’.  Some companies forget that happy employees make for happy customers!

Two other factors stood out for me, the first was the evidence that leaders were role-modelling the change to make people stand up and be counted. The leaders were part of the change, both through symbolic action and in face-to-face engagement and communications. A factor so often forgotten.

Secondly, the team’s passion and ability to tell an emotive story that starts with the compelling need for change and ends with significant, tangible results. Not only this, but videos of the front-line workforce telling stories about how it has changed their lives and how the training brought development to them in a way that was helping them personally outside of work! Wow!

The most impressive factor in this passionate and purpose driven story telling is that the entire workforce and awards team were currently in consultation for a site closure! This speaks volumes about the engagement and effort of people when you involve them in a change and invest in their development and future.

Not only did this programme stand out for me for the reasons already mentioned, but the results were impressive too!


So, my summary is that in business we are constantly faced with cost to services and customer experience challenges, but when thinking through a solution, it’s not always about process. In fact, if you look at the science of NPS, there are suggestions that a negative score for NPS on process, can be turned into a positive score, simply through the way an advisor behaves.


So next time you are thinking about making some changes to your business, consider whether you make change around your people, or involve and develop them to be the change.

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