Customer service best practice teaches us that the ‘the customer always comes first’, so why should customers on heat networks be treated any differently? We consider how customer services should be at the heart of a heat network and how heat providers can deliver best-in-class customer services that will improve the scheme but also give back added value to the customer and you.
Setting minimum standards
In 2015, CIBSE in association with the ADE released the Heat Networks: Code of Practice CP1. This document highlighted how the disjointed supply chain, often seen on heat networks, has a major impact on the end service a customer is receiving and how setting minimum standards should provide greater confidence and assurance to customers and property purchasers on a heat network scheme.
Fiona McDonald, head of customer services at Switch2 says “To be successful, a community heating scheme needs to focus on customer service – the customer’s preferences and needs must take absolute priority… Schemes should also reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cut city pollution.”
Joined up thinking
After all, residents provide the income for a scheme’s delivery and operation, and they are the ones who live with the system day in day out. From concept to delivery and operation, a well-designed customer-focused system can deliver truly ‘joined up heating’. So what should be considered in order to make this transpire?
Embrace best practice
There is a great deal of discussion about the community heating industry needing to develop and embrace common standards of best practice. Heat providers and scheme owners together should put in place the minimum standards outlined in the CIBSE Code of Practice CP1. By following the CIBSE Code heat providers can design schemes that are right for their customers.
Here’s something to think about, if all schemes incorporated a minimum standard of best practice, could this help change the perceptions of heat networks? What else would we need to consider?
Boost the customer experience
For a start, improving the customer experience would help further advance the perceptions of the industry. By showing flexibility and responsiveness to dealing with customer enquiries, especially around heating queries and payments and billing; heat providers can enhance customer satisfaction. This might be around how customers can contact the heat provider, offering help online, over social media or a call centre with out of hours’ service. Residents’ payment method preferences should also vary; this might include smart PAYG options, payment apps, cash, direct debit, internet, or even payments reaching their account more quickly.
Giving customers control over their heating system and energy spend can also incentivise the customer and heat provider. Being transparent on how much their heating is costing, there and then, will help customers make more conscious decisions on their heating systems. Moreover, have you thought about pay-as-you-go heating? The stigma is lifting surrounding prepayment energy with many 18-35 year olds now preferring this method, for more on smart metering read our previous blog post on smart metering and the resident.
- Always place the customer at the forefront of a community heating scheme, and remember that it is them living on the scheme
- Include best practice and minimum standards on schemes to improve system performance and customer satisfaction
- Enhance the services available for customers, giving different methods of payment and contact
- Use smart metering to improve the transparency on heating schemes