Power surge

When
Paul Archer became managing director of ScottishPower’s customer services
division in 2000, he set in place a huge programme of change. This is how he
kick-started it

Getting
it right, getting it done

Designed
by: Academee, Bollin House, Bollin Walk, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK91DP
Phone: 01625 543600 Fax 01625 540541
www.Academee.com
e-mail: marketing@academee.com

One
in five households in the UK is a ScottishPower customer. Formed in 1989 to
prepare for competition in a deregulated utilities market, it went public in
1991 and became the first UK power firm to buy a rival when it acquired Manweb
and the first to buy a water company with the acquisition of Southern Water.
With its purchase of PacifiCorp in 1999, ScottishPower became the first non-US
entity to acquire a utility in the States. 

More
recently, ScottishPower has also launched a telecoms company called Thus. It
has also expanded its retail network and is becoming the UK’s largest wind farm
operator.  

Challenges

In
recent years, ScottishPower customer services has been striving to meet the
challenges of privatisation, deregulation and an increasingly competitive
market. 

Various
initiatives had been introduced to address these issues, but when Paul Archer
took up his role, he realised that what customer services really needed was a
long-term strategy for change that would attract and retain more satisfied
customers.  

Leadership
Style

Archer
prefers to be called “chief dispenser of enthusiasm” rather than managing
director, and his energy is boundless. His vision is for ScottishPower’s
customer service to become a byword for excellence. 

He
says, “Organisations should be designed around the needs of their customers.
People should aim high, be innovative and take risks in order to achieve their
goals. Our aim is for everyone in customer services to become part of one
winning team, without geographical or hierarchical division.”

Working
with experts

To
facilitate and drive this process, ScottishPower began working with Academee.
As experts in change management and learning, Academee helped them understand
where change was required. It then expanded this to advise on how to ensure it
happened. 

Jonathan
Wilson, one of the Academee consultants working on the project, says, “Part of
our work with ScottishPower is about improving systems and processes, and that
is central to the change programme.

“The
main reason for doing this is so they become enablers for people to provide
excellent customer service. You can have the best systems in the world, but if
your people aren’t motivated and trained, and your communication is poor, your
customers won’t benefit.”

Archer
agrees. “Academee brings a wealth of experience gained through the work it has
done in developing customer-focused organisations. Its consultants challenge
existing methods and provide an independent, objective view for the way
forward.”  

Communication

The
first step that ScottishPower and Academee took was to launch a programme of
consultation for everyone working in customer services. 

Early
conversations with hundreds of people at open forums established some key
themes:


Overall customer service needed to be improved


Training and development were an important part of making it happen


People wanted simpler systems and procedures to enable improved service and
better planning


Communication and teamworking had to be enhanced and a culture of trust
established


Quality had to be put above quantity 

Wilson
says, “It was important that we started by listening. Over 700 opportunities
and ideas for improvement came out of these forums. There was clearly a lot of
energy in the organisation, but some of it was misdirected, leading to
frustration. 

“It’s
important to focus this energy from the outset so we can respond quickly and
build momentum.” 

In
June 2000, the “Wall of Pledges” was launched. It had 19 bricks, each one
representing a pledge from senior management to address key issues raised through
the open forums. Each brick became the responsibility of a “business champion”,
and by September, the wheels of change were rolling. 

Archer
says, “We saw the results from this quite quickly. For instance, the billing
backlog, which had become a barrier to great customer service, was reduced by
80 per cent. The number of outbound calls across ScottishPower’s four call
centres was also lowered. Staffing issues were being addressed. And, perhaps
most importantly, communication was improving.

“Our
organisation was becoming less hierarchical, and teams were working together
more effectively.”

Change
through people

At
a second round of forums, Archer talked about the roles of everyone in the
organisation in creating change.  

Key
themes were prioritised and 150 people signed up to make a contribution to
creating a new organisation. Cross-functional teams were then set up with other
divisions to encourage joined-up thinking. 

Archer
says, “In this competitive environment, we need to harness all the intellectual
and emotional energy we can. This has been supported by leadership and
teambuilding events, mainly for senior managers, which are beginning to have a
positive impact on the culture and behaviours within customer services.”

Some
new managers have been appointed who have helped to invigorate the
organisation. 

Archer
says, “We’re moving away from what was a management-led approach.
Decision-making needs to take place as near as possible to the customer, so
managers should be supporting the people on the frontline.”

Future
focus

Having
facilitated workshops and development events mainly for senior managers,
Academee is working in partnership with ScottishPower to develop a training and
development strategy for the whole department.

Wilson
says, “Training and development is a key strategic tool.  Everyone needs to understand the drivers for
change and how the change will impact on them. They need to understand what
great customer service is, and how to achieve it. We need to develop the right
knowledge, skills and behaviours to make it happen. We also need to create a
culture which supports this.”

ScottishPower’s
customer services revolution will not happen overnight. The current transition
programme spans a two-year period.

ScottishPower’s
customer services revolution can be seen in four stages: review, reform, renew,
reinvent. The stages overlap. The review is complete and the reformation is
well under way. Renewal has also begun, ignited by some of the key appointments
from outside. But the reinvention is really just beginning.

Archer
concludes, “These initiatives, and the entire change programme, are taking
place amid fierce business pressures which won’t go away. 

“We
overcome this by continually setting ourselves tough challenges and high
ideals. In this way we ensure that we continue to drive through the changes
necessary to compete at the highest level.”

Verdict
Keeping customers satisfied

The
programme focused on several key performance indicators. In customer services,
across call centres, billing and credit management, there are hundreds of
daily, weekly and monthly KPIs which are tracked, all of which are important.
As a result of the programme, and in addition to an initiative called One and
Done, which is about first call resolution – satisfying the customer’s needs
with one phone call – there has been an improvement in KPIs.


More customers satisfied in the space of one call
– The number of bills with estimated meter readings has been decreased
– Aged debt has been brought down demonstrably
– Regulated complaints down by 25 per cent

Overall
rating ****
Key: * disappointing excellent *****

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