Why it’s so important to Northern Gas Networks and the steps we’ve made to ensure we deliver for our customers every time.

Eileen Brown, Head of Customer Experience at Northern Gas Networks (NGN) explains why living your core business values and keeping your customer promises is the first important step in the creation of a strong customer brand.

It’s our responsibility to keep the gas flowing to the 2.7 million homes and businesses that we serve in the North East, northern Cumbria and most of Yorkshire. Our 37,000 kilometre pipe network spans an area of 25,000km² but although customers can’t choose who distributes their gas, we still believe in delivering an extremely high quality service.

In fact, for us our monopoly position and the fact that our customers may only ever experience us once in a lifetime, has been a key driver in our mission to raise the game, not just of NGN, but the utility industry as a whole, leading by example and driving best practice, with the aim of setting new and exacting standards for customer service.

Four years ago we began a process to transform our approach to customer experience, transitioning from a company that didn’t consider itself to have customers in the traditional sense, to one that puts the customer at right at the heart of its operation.

We knew that to succeed in this, the whole businesses needed to be engaged and on board, committed to going the extra mile, whether that was minimising disruption when we have to dig up the road; playing an active role in local communities in which we work, or putting things right quickly when we make mistakes.

The approach needed to be sustainable, natural and genuinely empower and involve all colleagues, from Customer Care Advisors, to engineers on the front line. Our colleagues are involved in devising the solutions to the issues we face and as a result many of the improvements have been, and continue to be, instigated by them.
On the streets our nine patch model and customer operations area management structure underlines this by placing ownership and accountability firmly in the region. Our regionally based Customer Care Officers provide the first point of contact for our customers and stakeholders on the ground, and take personal responsibility for keeping them happy and informed and ensuring that we don’t just meet, but exceed customers’ expectations every time. The approach also means that we’re now embedded in the communities we work in and well positioned to deliver ‘knock-on’ social and economic benefits to the region, especially in communities where household incomes are low, homes are poorly heated and employment and training opportunities scarce.

We’ve set ourselves challenging targets across the business to drive and maintain high performance in customer service. In early 2014 we committed to agreeing a resolution to 90% of complaints within 60 minutes and we achieved an average of 87.66% last year. This measure really helps to drive full resolution of complaints for our customers, and we are now able to close over 78% of all complaints within 2 days. These standards present an opportunity to learn and improve by sharing learnings with the business and analysing the root cause to understand what went wrong and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Today we’re recognised as number one in the industry for customer satisfaction and our success at the UK Customer Experience Awards and National Business Awards last year shows that we’re setting new standards, not just in the industry, but UK wide.

But for us, it’s not just about the gongs. Our relentless focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience is helping our customers to trust that NGN will meet and exceed their expectations. This means that not only are they more likely to feel positive when they come into contact with us, but they’re also more likely to become vocal brand advocates. In other words, keeping your brand promise leads to brand loyalty, which even in a monopoly environment, can only be a good thing.

For more information about Northern Gas Networks visit www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk

Eileen BrownEileen Brown
Head of Customer Experience, Northern Gas Networks

Eileen Brown took up the role of Head of Customer Experience for Northern Gas Networks in January 2011. She has 15 years’ experience within the energy sector, having undertaken a variety of diverse roles. Eileen is passionate about transforming the reputation of Northern Gas Networks from a company that thinks pipes and talks assets, to a company that thinks customer and talk’s customer. Drawing on the experience that Eileen has gathered from working across all facets of the gas distribution business, Eileen has been able to lead NGN to become a business that delivers an exception experience for its customers. Eileen has a BA in Archaeology and Ancient History and an MA in Archaeological Heritage Management.

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