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Commercial Policy and Customer Care

Commercial Policy and Customer Care

In line with the objectives of the business plan, 2011 confirms the commercial strategy pursued in previous years, which is based on two main lines:

  • Commercial Development
  • Optimisation of Customer Management

 

Commercial Development 

The energy business continued to grow strongly and satisfactorily in 2011, thanks both to commercial activities and to the effects of acquisitions. The awarding of the Service Protection contract for the regions of Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia and Lombardy brought in an additional 21,000 electricity supply points. This, together with the success of the sales activities, produced a 26% increase in electricity supply points, compared with the 14% increase seen at the end of 2010. Given the highly competitive context of the liberalised energy market, this result is doubly significant and highly satisfying. The Gas service, too, grew by almost 4%, compared with growth of 0.18% in 2010. The objective was achieved thanks to the incorporation of Sadori Gas into Hera Comm and substantial sales activities on the free market. The regulated Water and Environmental Health markets grew as a result of inertial growth, despite the period of crisis, and due to the switch from TARSU to TIA by a number of municipalities in Hera’s traditional territory and in the Marchesian territory of Marche Multiservizi. Growth therefore continues in all services, as shown by the table below (figures expressed in thousands):

Contracts31-Dec-1131-Dec-10Share of turnover Delta no.Share of turnover Delta %
Gas           1,114.5           1,072.5                42.03.92%
Electricity              482.1              382.5                99.626.04%
Water           1,184.2           1,173.3                10.90.93%
TIA              994.1              970.7                20.52.11%

This increase for the free market services was obtained by continuing to pursue the policy of commercial development, which is based on the following major pillars for Hera:

  • multi-service offer: simplifying customer management by offering a single contact and a single bill for energy services (Gas and Electricity), and also for those licensed (Water and TIA) in the districts Hera manages.
  • proximity to the customer: being “physically” close to the customers through the network of some 100 branches and the widespread sales structure; being quickly accessible through call centres and the web; being socially responsible and contributing to the growth of the territory and local communities through Hera’s activities.
  • simplification of management: autonomous management through the HER@ ON-LINE portal, and the ability to request electronic billing and domiciliation of utility bills.
  • economic advantage and openness: proposing offers that are always competitive and clear, suited to the needs of all customers (over thirty offers are available, many of which can be further personalised).

 

The commercial strategy varies according to the different types of customers:

  • families,
  • small- and medium-sized companies,
  • large companies,
  • apartment blocks,
  • public authorities.

 

In 2011, for the Families segment and for Companies, Hera Comm launched the new “MomentoGiustoCasa” and “MomentoGiustoLavoro” light and gas offer, with discounted rates on the energy component provided for by the Electricity and Gas Authority. This innovative and original offer is adapted to the customers’ lifestyles and leisure/working times, thus taking account of their domestic and/or business arrangements. Each of the profiles developed, both for gas and for electricity, provides the greatest discount (and thus the most favourable for the customer), applied during the hours of the day with the highest consumption.

With regard to the sale of electricity to companies, the Green Energy option is reconfirmed with the Verde Energia brand, as offered on an ad hoc basis to larger customers.

Optimisation of Customer Management  

From the day it was established, the Hera Group decided to maximise integration between services and group systems by setting up a single platform consisting of two main structures:

  • Group Invoicing and Collection System
  • Management channels

 

Group Invoicing and Collection System  

Through its unified systems, Hera issued more than 17.5 million bills in 2011, pursuing the multi-service strategy that allows our customers to simplify their administration and reduce payment costs. Electronic billing, activated in the second half of 2008, saw a 65% increase in the number of customers requesting activation of the service in 2011, rising from around 24,000 at the end of 2010 to some 39,000 in December 2011. This increase corresponds to over 53,000 bills sent by email on the billing date, allowing a reduced environmental impact and a saving of 9.5 tonnes in atmospheric emissions of CO2, equivalent to the CO2 absorption capacity of 1,353 trees, i.e. 600 more trees per year. 

The wide choice of payment methods available to Hera customers for paying their bills (direct debit, banks, post offices, Sisal and Lottomatica lottery outlets, online via credit card, Coop Adriatica, Reno and Estense points of sale) continues to be greatly appreciated by customers, who in 2011 again expressed high levels of satisfaction in the Customer Satisfaction survey.

The self-reading service, available via web, SMS and telephone, which allows billing for actual consumption at each billing date, including for gas and water, continues to see growing use and appreciation by customers. The greatest growth is seen in the use of the SMS channel, which is up by 55% compared with 2010.

Management Channels

The Hera Group, convinced of the strategic importance of the availability of a “portfolio” of contact channels, continued with its project to strengthen and streamline its structures in order to offer contact that is not only increasingly simple and rapid, but above all increasingly more in keeping with the requirements expressed by all customer segments. The Group has five separate contact channels:

1. family call centres
2. company call centres
3. branches
4. web
5. correspondence

Several quality parameters that highlight the accessibility of these channels are shown below.

Average waiting time  -
call centre (secs.)
2005200620072008200920102011
residential customers 70.2 34.5 46.2 66.1 33.2 33.8 33.4
business customers   43.9 26.8 42.4 25.2 22.1 27.5
        
Number of contacts -
call centre (no.)
2005200620072008200920102011
residential customers 1,394,458 1,991,264 2,375,823 2,489,180 2,428,392 2,495,000 2,488,000
business customers   59,686 105,447 115,997 152,046 282,000 430,000
        
Percentage of successful
call centre calls (%)
2005200620072008200920102011
residential customers 87.10% 94.10% 94.20% 93.20% 94.20% 93.80% 93.50%
business customers   89.00% 97.60% 95.50% 92.60% 94.90% 93.90%
        
        
Average waiting time -
branches (mins.) 
2005200620072008200920102011
Average 26.89 23.85 21.88 18.5 14.7 14.5 10.3

2011 shows a further 10% increase in contacts, with substantial growth in the web channel, and particularly in electronic billing. The percentage distribution again reveals the call centres to be the most frequently used channel, followed by the branches, which in absolute terms show an increase of around 32,000 contacts. The consistently high number of requests made through the branches testifies, on the one hand, to the requirements of an important segment of the Hera Group’s customers and, on the other, to the success of the Group’s investments in this channel.

The Hera Group confirms its decision to maintain strong contact with its territory (84 branches in Hera’s territory plus 16 in that of HeraComm Marche) by investing in and developing its Branch Network. In particular, 2011 saw the inauguration of a new branch in the Municipality of Cesenatico, as well as the refurbishment of three existing branches (Casalecchio di Reno, San Giovanni in Persiceto and Vignola). A new point of presence was also opened in the town of San Pietro in Vincoli, in the Municipality of Ravenna.

The trend in the coming years will be for substantial maintenance of the wide coverage of presence, accompanied by an increase in the total number of opening hours. This marks the evolution of the camper service towards a Mobile Branch formula. For the whole of 2012, the camper will, in fact, be present every week on the market days of a number of large towns in the territory.

The quality targets set for the branches were well exceeded: the average waiting time fell to 10.3 minutes, and the percentage of customers waiting more than 40 minutes fell to 4.6%. This was achieved by:

  • substantial reorganisation of a number of branches (Modena and Ferrara) with "lean" methodology;
  • deployment of the SPRINT system at top branches and a number of other high-priority branches, with preparation of inflow forecasts, optimisation of resources according to short- and medium-term targets, and day-by-day analysis of key results deviating from forecasts.

 

Work was also continued on standardising structures and strengthening systems for the training/refreshment of operators. Finally, it is also worth noting the implementation of a computerised system (Ge.Co.S. - Gestione Comunicazioni a Sportello [Branch Communications Management]) for the management of branch communications (posters/mailings).

Perceived customer satisfaction in 2011 with regard to service at branches and call centres, as expressed in the Customer Satisfaction survey, is also in line with the technical indicators. In particular, both satisfaction indicators are in the range of "very good" or "excellent", representing an improvement on the previous year.

The total number of calls answered by the Hera Comm Call Centre in 2011 was 1,653,000 (53,000 more than in 2010), of which 85% related to the families market structure, for which the 2012 opening hours were extended to 20:00 on Monday to Friday. In addition, 64,000 calls relating to the Protection Service were also handled.

Even with this inflow slightly higher than 2010, the technical indicators were essentially in line with the declared targets, while perceived customer satisfaction increased. With regard to the declared targets, the percentage of calls answered was in line with forecasts, while the average answering times were 37.4 seconds for families, compared with a target of 40, and 27.5 seconds for companies, compared with a target of 25. These results are therefore close to the targets, and are certainly positive when we consider that the weighted average result (families + companies) was 35.4 seconds, below the target of 37.4.

With regard to the quality perceived by customers, both the internal satisfaction survey (monthly frequency) and that conducted by the AEEG (half-yearly frequency) confirmed the improvement of all indicators (waiting times, ease of access to the service and handling of calls), and particularly those relating to the solving of problems and enquiries and the consistency of the responses given in the case of multiple calls.

The call centre satisfaction survey conducted by the AEEG in the first half of 2011, on a sample of 30 electricity and gas sales companies with more than 50,000 customers, showed an increase in the customer satisfaction score for Hera Comm, rising from 89.1 in H2 2010 to 90.8 in H1 2011.

2011 saw the completion of the phase of migration of VAT numbers on the Companies Call Centre, as well as the launch of the billing "smoothing" project which aims to reduce the fluctuations in the number of bills issued each week. This project, as already seen in the closing months of 2011, should make an important contribution to reducing (including for families) the percentage of waiting times exceeding two minutes. 2011 also saw the start of the Mash Up project, the purpose of which is to implement new functionalities relating to the information systems in order to facilitate the understanding of customers' requests and improve conversation times between customer and operator.

In particular, the Companies Call Centre was involved in far-reaching process innovations which contributed to the development of problem-solving abilities. Operator training focused on assertiveness techniques in the management of critical situations, with good results both in terms of relationships and problem-solving times.

 
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