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May 19, 2014

Water company pours resources into customer service

South West Water can now resolve issues more effectively, improving customer satisfaction.

By Duncan Macrae

Since the privatisation of the UK water industry in 1989, South West Water (SWW) has provided high quality drinking water and waste water services to customers throughout Cornwall, Devon and parts of Dorset and Somerset.

With about 1,300 employees, it strives to ensure the region’s drinking water, sewerage systems and bathing waters meet stringent UK and European Union standards.

Previously, SWW’s customer service management system was based around its accounting and billing software. Peter Hart, service improvement delivery programme lead at SWW, said: "This solution was very much geared towards recording individual transactions, rather than providing a complete view of each customer. This made efficient handling of ongoing enquiries and complaints more problematic than it needed to be."

Understanding the need to ensure customers receive high quality customer service (as measured through OFWAT – the UK water industry regulator), SWW recognised it required a new solution.

In addition, SWW required a flexible solution to cost effectively leverage modern technologies, enabling it to further improve the customer experience by embracing digital communications via the web, e-mail and text messages, in addition to more traditional forms of communication, such as telephone calls and letters.

As a result, SWW carried out a formal procurement process, following EC guidelines before selecting Microsoft Dynamics CRM. During the first quarter of 2013, the business installed an in-house 750 seat solution, which is now used on a daily basis by 600-plus internal staff and contractors. The system records all incoming and outgoing customer communications and features integration with the SWW Work Management system, to allocate work requests and receive feedback in real-time.

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For SWW, improving the quality of case management was a key driver for implementing Microsoft CRM.
OFWAT targets and measures water companies to deliver high quality services. Therefore, ensuring agents keep the promises they make is a high priority. Hart said: "Case managers must respond to customer contacts within a specified period. If the case manager has not responded in a timely manner, Dynamics will automatically alert relevant staff to ensure SWW does not fail on promises made to customers."

Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables real-time visibility of all customer contacts and outstanding work, at both summary and detailed levels. Helen Gibbs, CRM design lead, said: "Dynamics Views enable operational manager’s to proactively manage contact volumes and incoming work. Senior managers are also embracing views and dashboards by actively monitoring performance on a daily basis, where previously they relied on historical reports."

Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s integration with the SWW Work Management system means that jobs can be allocated and feedback received from the field throughout the day. Gibbs said: "In the past, jobs were allocated in the morning and progress updates received at the end of the day. Now updates happen live, allowing us to tell customers when engineers are on their way, when they are on-site and when the job has been completed."

SWW is committed to deliver a multi-channel, digital communications strategy, allowing customers to interact at a convenient time and in a manner of their choosing. Hart summarises by saying: "Currently 90% of customers either call or write to us. We envisage a future whereby more customers contact us digitally at their convenience. Dynamics puts us in a good place to achieve this and we have a solid platform to build upon."

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