Doing the right thing for customers and staff in their time of need.

Chris Sheldon, Client Solutions Director in London, UK
20 April 2020

It goes without saying that great customer service and experience is needed at any time during a relationship between a utility provider and a customer. Utilities play such an important role in our lives and are almost always taken for granted by us as we use our water, electricity and gas on a daily basis. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 has seen a massive shift in people’s working and living patterns. There will be those that it puts an almighty strain on. With seven out of 10 UK businesses furloughing staff, including salary reductions and in some cases redundancies, paying bills will become a struggle for many households, with a number of customers needing to defer payments for a few months. 

This likely additional demand for customer service through call centres will also create challenges for utility companies. A mix of social distancing, isolation, lack of childcare and those unfortunately ill from the virus means that call centre staff numbers are far reduced from what they were only a few weeks ago. An added influx of customer calls to an already reduced team will only put added stress on those call centre workers remaining, and risk long waiting times for existing customers, and a poor customer experience in what will also be a stressful time for them.

It’s clear that, in times like this, a digital self-serve model that allows customers to quickly and easily resolve their problems via a website or app makes both the customer and staff experience more seamless, allowing stress levels to reduce. Up until now, utility brands have had a somewhat low customer satisfaction level compared to other industries and this is a key time that they can turn the tide on this and help customers in an easy and seamless way.

A number of industries have taken this approach. Nationwide Building Society’s homepage now states to only call them when urgent. At the same time, they made sure to give their customers the right tools to reduce the likelihood – and the need – for contacting the customer service via the phone. This is done through journeys to get a mortgage or loan payment holiday, among other options.

Sky TV, understanding that live sport is currently a no-go, offered customers money back on their Sky Sports subscription until live sport is back on air. Expecting that this may trigger a large number of customers ringing their call centres, they made sure that via both the app and website in just a few clicks customers could make this choice themselves.

It’s instances like this that are really setting the example in customer service, whilst fully understanding that it’s also having a huge impact on the usage of call centres in a time when they are being inundated more than usual.

As stated above, individual customers are becoming more important to utility companies as their business revenues reduce. It’s key that they receive the best customer service possible, and this is increasingly through digital products and experiences.

Somo is a digital product agency highly experienced in designing and developing market-leading digital strategies, products and experiences delivering digital ambitions at pace and scale. 

Over the past 10 years, we have worked with a host of global brands and start-ups, including the likes of British Gas, Hive and E.ON, helping them create digital solutions for both their customers and employees that drive greater efficiency and revenue.

If you’d like to set up a Zoom call to talk through the best options for your organisation in greater detail and see how Somo can help you, please contact Rebecca Crook, our Chief Growth Officer at