Can costs be cut while improving customer service?

A long history of poor complaints handling meant that a leading water company had the highest escalation rate in the market. Complaints weren’t resolved by the first response team, and customers frequently came back saying they were unhappy with the resolution. The time needed to resolve issues was not only upsetting customers, but also driving up costs. 

 In 2020, the company brought in Baringa to overhaul the way it engages with customers and deals with complaints as part of its vision to boost customer satisfaction and cost-efficiency. 

Leading the turnaround

The company chose us because we could combine digital, customer and water retail expertise with a readiness to challenge the status quo and devise alternative solutions.  

Over the two-year project, we redesigned and rebuilt the customer service platform and complaints system. To help embed the new capabilities, we led training and recruitment, while filling key roles such as head of digital in the interim.  

We also established a project analytics team to tackle deep-rooted problems such as slow and costly debt management. The solutions included earlier identification and segmentation of customers falling behind on payments to help resolve issues before they escalated and provide more tailored support for each customer. 

Improved experience at lower cost 

Two years on, the result is the win-win of improved customer outcomes and a £15 million (19%) cut in operating expenses. 

 Before, less than 50% of online requests and enquiries were being successfully dealt with. Now, the success rate is 70%.  

 Before, 30% of complaints couldn’t be resolved by the first-response team and had to be escalated to senior or specialist teams. By the end of 2021, this was down to 6%, one of the best rates in the industry.  

Faster and more efficient enquiry and complaint handling means lower costs. As more contacts go through digital channels, for example, phone enquiries have been cut from nearly half to less than a third. This alone has saved nearly £4 million a year. In turn, improved understanding and solutions for customers falling behind with payments have cut recovery fees by around £7 million a year. 

"The Baringa team brought the urgency, expertise and fresh ideas needed to turn around service levels and take out costs. I was impressed by their readiness to roll up their sleeves and take the lead in driving change. They’ve also worked closely with our contact teams to make sure that the improvements take root and we can continue to improve."

Head of Customer Service, water company

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