Uniting complaints teams from across their various departments has led to huge improvements for United Utilities, whose achievement has been celebrated at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The UK’s largest listed water company, United Utilities was unhappy with how complaints were handled and the length of time it took on average to deal with problems highlighted by customers.

In 2016 the firm founded its Service Recovery Team, whose aim was to transform the complaint handling process to ensure problems were dealt with in a much faster timeframe – as well as deal with issues before they caused customers to complain.

Instead of four separate teams dealing with complaints, the Service Recovery Team brought them together as one body before introducing a new set of visible key performance indicators and targets, to be reviewed daily.

Further coaching was offered to help team staff deal with challenging customers, and the firm even set a budget for the purchase of cards, flowers, and chocolates for when apologies to customers is an appropriate response.

Meanwhile, the proactive identifying of problems through recording initial customer calls and calling them back to offer help has reduced overall complaints.

Texting of customers when incidents arise is another new practise that prompted judges to award United Utilities Gold in the Pro-active Complaint Handling – Utilities category. Silver in the category was awarded to South West Water.

Following this achievement, United Utilities was then awarded the title of Team of the Year – Utilities, Housing &Trains.

A United Utilities spokesperson said:

“Recognising where we have done a great job for the customer is important for team morale and motivation. Team managers are encouraged to provide treats, such as a bottle of wine when an individual agent gets a thank you from a customer. Thank you letters have now become part of our daily post and our teams have been sent vouchers and chocolates by happy customers.”

Speaking of the new moniker for the group dedicated to warding off complaints, the spokesperson added:

“The name says it all – we are no longer complaint handlers but are proud to be empowered to do the right thing and recover the service and trust of our customers. The name gives the team a sense of pride and their results speak for themselves.”

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