Article – Profiling the Energy (Electricity Supply) Sector
In the summer of 2008 South Africans and Namibians added a new phrase to the lexicon of useless euphemisms – load shedding! When we first heard the term, we all wondered what could it mean, then the lights went out; then we understood. Since then, National electricity companies have been battling to keep the lights on and the power flowing, while they race against time to build new, or revive moth-balled power stations and educate the public on how to save electricity. This is against a background of urban population sprawl, increasing demand for power and relentless rising prices. It is in this historical context that electricity companies have tried to justify their existence by focusing attention on customer service. According to this first ever multi-industry nationwide customer service survey they are doing a good job. This survey collected over 7000 responses on customer service in Namibia, covering 12 industry sectors from Energy to Home Affairs, making it the most comprehensive survey on customer service in Namibia and probably Africa.
The survey undertaken by the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business in the Polytechnic of Namibia collected 461 responses on Energy companies grouping them by retailers. These retailers are the finalists that will be represented at the Awards ceremony on the 5th November at the Polytechnic’s new Health & Applied Sciences Building in Windhoek. Competing for the Energy Industry Customer Service Excellence Award will be Cenored, Erongo Red, Municipalities (as a ;general category), NamPower and NORED.
Overall, the industry received a good rating from customers which tended to be solid and uniform suggesting an imbedded service culture for most of the organisations. Main service drivers for the industry are in first place responsiveness of the service to the needs to the customer, reliability of the service that is the extent to which the service is delivered consistently without fail, the ability of the service to recover from failures, competence of staff to deliver the service expertly and efficiently and finally, credibility of the service meaning the energy company is trustworthy and honest. Identifying these service drivers provides energy companies with insight into what customers are looking for from their service encounter. It guides them where to spend time and resources in training to obtain the maximum return on their investment. A customer’s perception of service quality may vary for many reasons, but the factors that shape those perceptions will remain remarkably constant.
Drilling-down on key service drivers responsiveness tops the list, here NamPower heads the group with a performance rating of 87% with customers noting their precision in telling customers exactly when services are to be performed. Erongo Red headed the group for reliability with a score of 84% and customers noting that the company keeps its promises and insists on error-free records. Recovery is the next most important service driver a fact which stands to reason given that when the service fails the customer is in most cases without power. Here all the suppliers performed reasonably except NORED which rated a poor 47% with customers noting the service is not proactive in picking up problems before customers complain. For competence of staff the municipalities group achieved a strong showing rating 72% with customers noting the competence of managers. Finally, for the credibility attribute Cenored rated strongly obtaining a rating of 70% with customers noting the good reputation of the company.
What are we to conclude from these results? Of the five energy companies one is clearly out of alignment with the others and needs support or mentoring by one of the other companies to bring its service in line with industry averages. Who this company is and which company will walk away with the award for best customer service in this industry? To find out you will have to attend the awards ceremony on the 5th November. Tickets can be bought by contacting Conference Link on (061 251 014) or through the website www.csmafrica.org.
To book seats for the first Namibian Customer Service Conference, Awards or Master Class or to purchase a Customer Service Industry Report call or email Conference Link on (061 251 014) or email@example.com or register through our website at www.csmafrica.org.
Professor Grafton Whyte
Director – Harold Pupkewitz GSB