Utility Week

UTILITY Week 20th February 2015

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Page 8 of 31

"Trust has always been an important factor, over the past few years – the banking crisis, the pressures of recession – we have seen trust assaulted on a number of fronts. It is therefore particularly relevant in the minds of customers today." Jo Causon, chief executive, Insti- tute of Customer Service p14 "The benefits of high trust organisations are clear. They have increased stakeholder engagement, business success and easier access to capital." Lesley Uren, talent management expert, PA Consulting Group p16 "Organisations should be wary of playing a numbers game when it comes to how they handle complaints. It misses the point that complaints are an inte- gral part of the process of building trust." Lewis Shand Smith, chief Ombudsman, Ombudsman Ser- vices p17 Trust /Change/Resilience Trust is hard to win but easy to lose Against a backdrop of increasing public cynicism towards big business, utilities have to convince customers that they can be trusted. UtilityWeek S P E C I A L R E P O RT: PA RT 2 / F e b ru a ry 2 0 1 5 Points of view T rust dies but mistrust blos- soms." So said Sophocles almost two and half thou- sand years ago, yet it's a lesson utili- ties are still struggling to come to terms with today. Late last year, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) revealed that public trust in UK utili- ties had clawed a few percentage points upwards since the summer, reaching the heady heights of 68 per cent. It's an achievement that tallies with the results of the Institute of Customer Service's UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), which saw utilities overall return improving trust and satisfaction results for the second time running. These titbits of positive news will be a welcome salve to the industry, still smart- ing as it is from flayings in the national press for profiteering, misleading customers and taking advantage of the vulnerable. Energy suppliers have borne the brunt of such accu- sations but water company dividends and the effectiveness of network responses to emergencies have also fed the flames. The truth or otherwise of these accusa- tions is largely irrelevant – they still cause damage. Ofgem referred the electricity market to the Competition and Markets Authority last year and the gas market, having got off relatively lightly compared with electric- ity, will need to go far to improve visibil- ity on bills over the coming year, given the recent plummet in wholesale prices. It's a topic consumer bodies like Citizens Advice say will come under scrutiny later in 2015. In water, PR14 was a hard price review and Ofwat chairman Jonson Cox sent a message to the water sector at Utility Week's Water 25 reception last year, clearly stating that the regulator will be watching dividend dealings with a beady eye. All of these are indicators of a hard grind towards rebuild- ing and improving public trust in utilities, and against a big- ger picture of declining cus- tomer satisfaction and trust in business in general. The aforementioned UKCSI has reported declining overall cross-sector customer sat- isfaction since January 2013 – a fact intrin- sically linked to levels of trust, as ICS chief executive Jo Causon explains overleaf. Mean- while, the CBI felt moved to launch a cam- paign to build public confidence in business in September 2014 aer research showed that just 53 per cent of Britons believe busi- nesses make valuable contributions to society. A crackdown can be expected if gov- ernment responds to the call from two-thirds of those polled by the Financial Times to be tougher on big business. It's this broader insight that Utility Week will welcome to its "Outside-In" keynote conference at Utility Week Live, Birmingham (21-23 April). The second day of the event will look at trust, exploring rising expectations for ethical, transparent business as well as the financial and competitive rewards await- ing those who can convince their custom- ers, suppliers and regulators that they can be relied on to consistently act with integ- rity. Find out more about the agenda at: www.utilityweek-keynote.com How Can bUSineSSeS tHrive in adverSity? jANE GRAY, INSIGhtS EdItOR In association with: " UtILItY WEEK | 20th - 26th FEbRUARY 2015 | 9

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