This post describes an experience that I recently had with my water company, Southern Water. I think it illustrates how many companies organise themselves but what it shows is that they are organised in a way that is for the benefit and ease of themselves and not their customers.

This flies in the face of trying to be or claiming to be more customer centric and providing good customer service.

Anyway, here’s the story:

Southern Water wrote to me about a problem with my account and address details.

I read their letter.

It seemed like a clerical error and easy to sort out so I called them.

I then quoted the reference number in their letter to them.

No joy.

I then quoted my full name, full address with postcode and my date of birth to them.

No joy.

They couldn’t find the right record or details of the letter and asked me for my customer number as that was my unique identifier!

I didn’t have my customer number to hand (it’s not something that I carry around with me) but we couldn’t progress until I gave it to them.

Now, I didn’t have time to start digging into my household files and so what it meant was that I had to log onto my internet banking site and retrieve some information from the direct debit that I set up to pay them every month.

I did that and then we got it all sorted. Finally.

This may sound like it is a bit of a gripe and I understand why it is easier to look up numbers in a database. But, as a customer……I don’t care. I’m up to date with my bills so for me there is no problem.

It was Southern Water’s mistake not mine. I didn’t do anything wrong so I felt slightly aggrieved that I had to do more work to help them sort their problem.

More importantly, as far as I am concerned, my full name is my unique identifier.

If my name is common, which mine isn’t, then I may expect to use my address and my postcode to identify myself to a company that I do business with and then, maybe, my date of birth, perhaps.

Following on from that I may answer some security questions or provide some other information.

My account number or customer number, I would suggest, would come way down the list as something that I would use to describe me as a customer or to uniquely identify myself.

Is it just me?

However, there is a serious point to this. Organising your information and customer data in a way that makes your customer do the work every time they call you, may make sense to you and how you structure yourself but is not going to help your customer service promise or cause.

For me, when it comes to delivering okay or good or great customer service it starts with the customer and I am a person with a name and not a number.

What do you think?

Thanks to OccupyMCR for the image.

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