‘Every call is different. Every customer is different. To achieve great customer service you have to treat every person as an individual.’
CV – at a glance
• York St John University: BA Hons History
• Worked at Asda for over three years as a student where his exposure to the American customer service culture shaped his attitude towards Customer Service.
• January 2012 – CPP: Insurance Claims and Fraud handler.
• October 2012 – npower: Homemovers Customer Advisor responsible for transferring accounts and selling npower services to new home owners.
• September 2013 – Northumbrian Water (ongoing)
Thomas Hamilton is based at NWG’s Customer Contact centre at Pity Me, Durham. After two years on the front line in Billing, he joined the Property team in June 2015 where he ensures that tenants (household and business) are billed correctly using the information received from managing agents, housing associations and private landlords.
What makes great customer service?
‘Every call is different. Every customer is different. Our job is to listen carefully and ask the right questions so you can understand their circumstances and resolve the issue in the best possible way. But it’s not a skill you learn overnight. The training takes a few weeks and there is always a helping hand to guide and develop you. You learn all the skills of listening and asking questions in the test centre before you go on the phones for real. And you never stop learning once you’re talking to real customers with real issues.
What’s different about NWG?
‘I really like the culture here. There’s a genuine desire to do the best for our customers and this is demonstrated by the training and the feedback we get. It’s important to be proactive. It bothers me if a customer is not happy. At NWG, we are able – and expected – to follow up on calls to confirm that the situation has been resolved and the customer is happy. That’s one of the ways in which we are different to other companies.
‘There’s also plenty of scope for development once you understand the business and have built your skills up. Having spent two years taking customer calls, I wanted to see what went on behind the scenes in the back office. I wanted to get more involved in other areas of the business without losing my contact with customers.
‘I take great pride in using my customer service skills within the framework of our business ethics. That’s because I feel valued here and I know that the work I do each day is making a real contribution to both my customers and the business.’
‘I like to feel that I’ve made a difference. I’m proud of what I do. I want customers to stay with Northumbrian Water and if I can play my part in doing a good job now, it will benefit us all in the future.′
CV at a glance
• Durham Sixth Form Centre
• Jet2 – four years as a member of the cabin crew
• Hay’s Travel – two years as a branch manager
• January 2014 – Northumbrian Water (ongoing)
• June 2015 – seconded to Supervisor
Rebecca Lawrence is a Team Supervisor at the Customer Contact centre at Pity Me, Durham, working within the Billing & CET Centre of Excellence. She has three direct reports for whom she provides feedback on performance and coaching.
What do you need to be a good supervisor?
‘I’m patient. I have a lot of time for people. And I’m really customer focused. I like to take ownership and see things through. When I start something I need to see how it turns out.
‘At NWG, we know that everyone’s different. We don’t want to put people in boxes. But we are here to do a job. Getting the right result for our customers requires empathy and support but you also have to balance care with efficiency. Customers ring us because they’ve got a problem. Getting that resolved without taking up too much of their time (and phone bill) is a real skill. It requires good training. Are you’re asking the right questions? Are you getting what you need to help them in the best way?
‘Whatever your role, you need to be aware of who you are and what motivates you to do a good job. Are you flexible? Can you adapt to the world around you? Are you willing to support others? We look for people who show evidence of self-discipline and emotional control, and who are true team players. There are some people who struggle with that.
What makes the difference between good and really great customer service?
‘It’s a mind-set. There’s nothing wrong with simply doing the task that the customers want. But the best customer service comes from people who understand the business they work in and can think on their feet. The best team members are always looking for ways to make life easier for a customer and see value in the work they do.
‘For example, an elderly person rings up to pay a bill. You take the payment. But you also think, what tariff are they on? Is there something else we could do to help? Would it be cheaper if we installed a water meter for them? I feel good when I know I’m adding value to someone on a low income, making their life just a little bit easier. That’s a real buzz.’