If the past 18 months have showcased one thing, it’s the fact that the pandemic has struck millions of households with financial and emotional challenges. Thankfully, some companies have gone above and beyond to help these households through the crisis, notably through reliable customer service and additional support measures. One great example of a company that has gone the extra mile is Utility Warehouse (UW), the UK’s only genuine multiservice provider. Having already launched a series of initiatives to support customers during the pandemic, the multi-award-winning company has now introduced another six customer service features to make life even easier.
Key staff from UW’s headquarters announced these new customer service features at the company’s annual summit, Power Up, which UW hosted virtually in April. Authorised UW Partners (independent distributors) from all corners of the country tuned in to catch up on the company’s latest news. These features will help UW continue to offer best-in-class customer service.
1. Live chat function
UW is now adding a live chat function to its website. As some customers can’t make phone calls – and others simply don’t like contacting Customer Services over the phone – the live chat feature offers a great solution for many people. UW’s live chat team will soon be on hand to resolve account issues so customers who prefer to get in touch online can.
While most customer service teams can’t respond to all emails immediately, live chat enables instant responses – perfect for customers who don’t want to wait for a response when they have a query or problem. UW’s live chat function is ideal for customers who:
- Need to discuss meter readings, cashback cards, and insurance
- Need to troubleshoot slow broadband connections
- Have forgotten their Wi-Fi passwords
- Would like to upgrade to UW’s market-leading Unlimited mobile tariff.
2. SignVideo sign language interpretation
Next up, UW has brainstormed a new way to help customers who struggle with hearing loss. As of June 1, 2021, these customers can make the most of SignVideo’s sign language interpretation service. This service is available free of charge for all UW customers who are deaf.
Customers who want to use the SignVideo service will need a PC, Mac, laptop, smartphone, or tablet to hand when they contact UW. They can click the SignVideo link on UW’s contact page, which will automatically connect them with a SignVideo sign language interpreter. The interpreter will call UW and translate all information in sign language.
These calls are no different from standard customer service calls, though they may take a little longer as the SignVideo interpreter will need to translate all responses back to the customer.
SignVideo promises not to record any of its calls. Plus, staff sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) before they help customers, which means the service is secure and confidential. Interpreters must also meet strict confidentiality rules set out by two registered interpreting bodies, NRCPD and ASLI.
Each SignVideo interpreter:
- Is fully qualified
- Is registered with the NRCPD or equivalent governing body
- Has at least three years of community practitioner experience
- Holds an enhanced DBS check.
SignVideo provides a great alternative to live chat and email support – perfect for customers who prefer to speak to an advisor verbally but struggle with hearing loss.
3. Extended call centre hours
Accessing Customer Services can be challenging for those who work during regular office hours (which is when most call centres are open). In particular, accessing some energy companies has been difficult during the pandemic as some providers have cut their call centre hours.
Meanwhile, UW is showing commitment to its customers by extending its call centre hours so there’s a good time for everyone to get in touch. Now, customers can call advisors between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and between 9am and 4.30pm on Saturdays. This way, those who work regular office hours can get in touch before or after work or at the weekend. Customers can also access UW’s Technical Support team during these hours. UW aims to be accessible whenever needed.
4. Customer promise
In light of the pandemic, UW has promised not to cut off households’ home services when customers struggle to pay their bills. This means customers who’ve faced loss of income because of the pandemic haven’t faced added pressure from UW. No UW customers have had to lose their lighting or heating, no matter how difficult things have gotten over the past year.
UW is committed to supporting vulnerable customers. Not only does the company offer several support measures, but UW also trains its teams to identify vulnerable customers and offer personalised support solutions.
5. New UW customer accounts
UW is now relaunching its online accounts with new features to help customers submit meter readings, understand their bills, and get quick answers to common questions. Until now, customers have known UW’s online account area as the ‘Clubhouse’. Now, users who log in (online or via the app) will simply see ‘your UW account’. Here, customers can dive into their accounts without having to contact Customer Services. The plan is to provide a smooth, seamless, simple experience for UW customers.
6. Aligned sales and service teams – and new remote staff
Over recent months, UW has seen a much higher volume of customer calls and emails, often about pandemic-related concerns. As a result, UW has combined its customer service and sales departments to create a uniform team that can handle this level of demand.
UW has also hired dozens of permanent, remote staff to ensure customers can always access an advisor. This development has offered several people new jobs during the COVID-19 crisis. And the remote staff can work flexible shifts, which means they can fit their hours around their schedules. With this system in place, UW has been able to hire a flexible team that can scale up and down during busy times. This way, UW can move staff around to deal with spikes in customer contact.
UW’s Head of Sales and Service Andy Springall explains that mixing sales and customer service teams has made it easier to deliver UW’s offerings. Together, these teams are currently focusing on UW’s smart meter rollout, 5G upgrade, Unlimited mobile tariff, and Full Fibre to the Premises (FttP) broadband offer.
“This is down to all the major changes we are delivering – in energy, financial services, and telco – with some of the really exciting products we are going to be offering,” Andy says. “This change also allows us, as an operational team, to benefit from the changes in technology when it comes to call routing and customer intent.”
Aligning sales and customer service
Andy explains that although most companies separate sales and customer service departments, aligning these teams has benefits few companies have uncovered.
“We take over 2.8m calls a year, which is an absolutely phenomenal amount of conversations taking place every single day,” he explains. “And so many of these calls are an opportunity for us to make customer lives easier.”
Andy notes that a combined sales and customer service team can develop a full overview of a customer’s situation. Together, UW staff can see when customers ring in to give meter readings and know to tell them about the benefits of a free smart meter upgrade. Similarly, they can now easily identify families who could save money on their SIM deals by making the most of UW’s Unlimited tariff. This deal allows households to bundle up to four SIMs in one package at a great discount.
“[Combining sales and customer service teams] gives us more information to understand what our customers need and how we can improve their relationship with us,” Andy says.
A blend of remote and in-house customer support
As a result of the pandemic, most UW sales and customer service advisors work from home. Andy reflects on UW’s transition to work-from-home life last spring. When the government announced that staff should work from home where possible, UW provided its teams with Chromebooks and additional infrastructures to make the transition to remote work seamless.
“In that time, we won silver at the European Contact Centre Awards for supporting our customers during the pandemic, so we’re clearly doing something right,” Andy says. “But now, we’re beginning to consider our return to the office. From June 21, we want people to come back two to three days a week. Our teams can work smartly and remotely if they need to, but we want to get people back into the office so they can start those conversations and build those relationships we so badly miss.”
Meanwhile, UW will also keep its remote customer support staff on board. Over the past year, UW has recruited over 100 remote advisors for its general, energy, and technology Customer Services. As UW begins its shift back to the office, in-house staff can now apply to work remotely, too.
“It’s down to the individual if they want to take this step – we know many of our colleagues are desperate to get back into the office, as well, so it’s a choice for the individual,” Andy says.
Frontline customer service operations
UW also plans to roll out its frontline customer service operations for energy across the wider business.
“That means using technology that is becoming more and more prevalent, such as working with Google to capture customer intent,” Andy explains. “If a customer calls and they have an issue with their broadband router, we can immediately triage that call in to someone who’s a router specialist.”
Best-in-class customer service
These new customer service features mark a major step forward in accessibility for some of UW’s most vulnerable customers. In particular, the live chat function and SignVideo service will give customers handy alternatives when it comes to getting in touch with Customer Services.
But these are just the latest in UW’s customer service initiatives. In May, UW also announced it would upgrade all mobile customers to Wi-Fi calling at no extra charge. By the end of June, mobile customers will be able to make and receive calls and texts where there’s little to no network coverage. Both new and existing customers will receive simple instructions on how to turn Wi-Fi calling on and off on their phones. Whether they’re on UW’s Unlimited or Value mobile deals, their family, friends, colleagues, and clients should find it easier to contact them.
UW also announced it’ll be launching 5G connectivity this summer. Those in supported areas will be able to make the most of superfast data speeds on EE’s premium network. UW’s new online coverage checker instantly shows whether a customer lives in a 5G-enabled area and whether their handset is compatible.
Learn more about UW.
About Utility Warehouse
UW helps customers cut costs on their home services by bundling gas, electricity, landline, broadband, mobile, boiler care, and insurance services into great value monthly packages. Rather than having to open accounts with lots of home service providers, customers can organise all utilities in one account and let UW do the hard work for them.
Customers can also take out one of UW’s free cashback cards, which they can preload in their online accounts and use to shop at dozens of in-store and online retailers. This way, customers can earn 3–7% on their everyday shopping, which UW deducts from their monthly utility bill. Just a few of the stores and restaurants customers can shop with or visit include Argos, Waterstones, Sainsbury’s, Primark, B&Q, Pizza Hut, and TGI Fridays.
Over 650,000 people throughout the UK have signed up for UW’s home services through a UW Partner. These independent distributors earn residual income – up to £370 per customer sign up – for recruiting customers and building their own Partner teams. And they come from an array of backgrounds. While some Partners work full or part time in virtually any career, others are students, retirees, or volunteers.
Read more about becoming a UW Partner