Guaranteed despatch and timely delivery are paramount to every utility company, but there is also the need to manage environmental issues and data security.
Recognising the need to improve customer communications, in 2008 Southern Water sought a new partner to supply a printing and mailing solution for bills and other critical customer communications.
“We needed a printing supplier that is able to fulfil all our printing needs in terms of bills, letters and plastic payment cards totalling about six million items a year,” said Liz Barnard, Printing and Mailing Manager at Southern Water. “Because of the variety and size of our customer base, we issue invoices daily and need a system that’s extremely reliable.”
Southern Water appointed Stralfors UK to provide a complete solution encompassing design, stationery, printing, mailing and archiving. The two companies worked together to completely redesign the bills, making them more informative and customer friendly. Each one is far more targeted to the individual, containing a number of personalised key messages relating to the customer’s charges, payment plans and meter details.
Southern Water also took advantage of Stralfors’ ability to provide multi-channel communications. Stralfors Account Director Phil Luckett explains: “Every day we receive data from Southern Water which is then processed, printed and mailed. We have highly intelligent data processing applications that enable us to take various different print files and consolidate them into a single production stream. So instead of receiving a bill and another letter relating to the bill in separate envelopes within a few days of one another, the customer now receives it in a single mailing.
“The data can be used for multiple media types, so at the same time as creating each paper bill we send a digital copy to Southern Water’s Customer Contact Centre. These are stored in an electronic archive, enabling Southern Water to deal with any bill-related queries from customers over the phone or by email more effectively.”
“Sending digital copies of each bill to the Customer Contact Centre is a major enabler to support our aim of ‘first time customer resolution’,” said Liz. “Our agents can view a copy of all bills and correspondences that have been sent to the customer and if necessary, they can quickly print a copy and send it by post again.”
In order to accurately forecast how many enquiries the Customer Contact Centre can expect and adequately plan the number of staff required, it is essential Southern Water can rely on timely delivery of bills as this is the main trigger for calls. “The systems we have in place to aid this are another example of how the overall experience has improved for our customers since we revamped our billing process,” Liz continues. One of the biggest improvements to customer service is a result of Stralfors’ ability to collate a number of documents into the same envelope, enabling customers to receive all information relating to their account at the same time. As well as improving the whole customer experience, this has cut the number of envelopes Southern Water sends to customers by seven per cent, reducing postage costs dramatically and improving environmental credentials.
“Stralfors has been able to demonstrate an excellent understanding of our expectations connected with quality, innovation, control and consistency. We have gone from using bills simply as an invoice to using it as a way of engaging with our customers in a meaningful way,” said Liz.
In the future Southern Water plan on using transpromo to promote sensible water usage.