The findings from the 2020 survey indicate that clients are generally “delighted” with the services they receive from Hera. Even in a difficult year, marked by the pandemic, Hera has found ways to interpret and anticipate the expectations of its customers. The digitalization has continuously enriched the customer experience, while new offers have paid increasing attention to the environment and the specific individual needs.
The good image that Hera has built over time – through the development of customer-centric offers – leads to high levels of satisfaction, favouring a virtuous circle. This promotes cross-selling, word of mouth and loyalty.
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind such high levels of Customer Satisfaction and their repercussions, through some questions we put to Mr. Cristian Fabbri, Market Group Manager of Hera Group and CEO of Hera Comm and EstEnergy.
Despite hard times during pandemic, the latest Customer Satisfaction survey provided very positive feedback. How do you explain this outcome?
At Hera, we continuously carry out satisfaction surveys; this latest survey shows findings that do not surprise us. Over the years, we have become accustomed to recording very high levels of customer satisfaction in response to the activities we conduct and the services we offer. In 2020, despite the sudden changes needed, due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic, we managed to maintain our customer satisfaction index at 73 points. This is a very good outcome. According to the scale applied by the company that carries out these surveys for us, scores above 70 indicate that customers are delighted. If we then look at the difference between customers who have given us scores between 9 and 10, therefore being our admirers, and the few customers who have given us scores below 6, being our detractors, we have achieved a very high Net Promoter Score of 30 points, further increasing compared to 2019.
“The evaluations received prove Hera’s ability to adapt to the new context. Even with tough lockdown restrictions, we ensured continuity and quality unchanged both in providing services and in customer relationship.”
For sure, the activities to support people in greater difficulty have shaped the perception that Hera is very close to its clients and “socially” attentive to their needs.
How do you explain the consistency in the results, considering that you have achieved very high scores across all services provided, for all contact channels, and even in different geographies?
Having obtained very positive feedback on a consistent basis means that we have been able to interpret and meet the different needs of customers and territories with the same level of adequacy.
“Starting with the customer, regardless of the service provided or the contact channel, generates a convergent perspective on the customer’s needs; needs that then become the guide to providing the most suitable service.”
How have customer needs changed over the years?
Over time, an increasing share of customers have developed an expectation to receive an ominchannel service, with ever more personalised features. Since we succeeded in anticipating these needs, evolving both our management platform and processes, we could maintain high levels of satisfaction. In the meantime, we have also continued to serve the more traditional clients – those who predominantly use physical service desks – and we have found a similar level of satisfaction among the different types. Over time, the environmental awareness of our clients has also grown significantly. Some of the new offers we have included in our portfolio have provided a convincing answer to the question: how can I decarbonise my energy use? Today, our customers can better know their own consumption to understand how to contain it; if they want, they can use sources that have no impact on the environment or even become self-producers. Therefore, many customers have found from us the stimuli to do better, but also the answers to these same stimuli.
The perception of Hera’s image was among the issues you wanted to investigate. Why is it important?
“Hera’s image is an intangible asset, which is nourished year after year by two main factors – the perception of the quality of the services provided and the value that our customers attribute to our determination on sustainability issues, both on the environmental and social side. A good image positively influences customer satisfaction and, in a virtuous circle, supports cross-selling, word-of-mouth and loyalty.”
Today, what are the tangible benefits for a utility of counting on a high level of customer satisfaction?
“Customer satisfaction is a primary objective for us, originating from the Mission of our Group. Moreover, it is an important driver of value creation for the company.”
On the one hand, this translates into a high level of customer loyalty, with a churn rate historically 20-30% lower than the national average; on the other hand, this translates into greater success of cross-selling and word-of-mouth. In areas where we only had gas customers, we achieved market shares in electricity supplies of over 40%. The sale of products and services linked to a more correct management of energy – such as boilers, air conditioners, LED lamps, insurance against faults in domestic systems or photovoltaic systems – is also attracting great interest. Surely, Hera’s ability to increase the number of customers by about 50 thousand units per year is also favoured by the high level of satisfaction.
Are those who receive more than one service from Hera, on average, more or less satisfied than those who have only one user contract with you?
On average, customers who have chosen the free market have a higher level of satisfaction. We also have evidence that customers who receive more services from us, including value-added services, prove to be more satisfied and more loyal.
Are there any specific initiatives implemented in 2020 that you feel have helped raise the level of satisfaction?
As we were saying before, every year we put into play new projects that respond to the changing needs of customers and possibly even go beyond their expectations. In 2020, given the distancing rules imposed, we enhanced investments in digital contact channels, such as apps, online services and chats, stimulating their increasing use through various initiatives. One project active since 2017 and continued successfully was “Digi e lode”. We donated almost 400 thousand euros to 150 schools in our territories intended for the purchase of digital tools for teaching activities. In 2020, we then encouraged the transition to electronic bills, linking the option of adhering to the donation of over 40 thousand meals provided by Caritas to citizens in need. Moreover, the instalment of bills for customers in temporary liquidity crisis was an opening of trust that has subsequently rewarded us, not only in terms of customer satisfaction, but also in terms of reducing Hera’s working capital. Finally, we took the opportunity of falling prices to promote new offers that would pass these benefits on to our customers.
Do you have any new initiatives underway?
Certainly, the one with the greatest impact is related to the adoption of the Salesforce platform for CRM, which will allow us to be even more attentive to customer needs, maximising the customer experience through new processes and tools. The integration of contact channels with the marketing and sales platforms will also allow us to increasingly personalize services and offers.
We are in a scenario where inflation expectations are taking shape. Do you think you need to reassure your customers in any way about future bill costs to cement their loyalty?
For sure, after the slowdown in wholesale markets in 2020, we are seeing a significant recovery in energy prices in 2021. During the most acute phase of the pandemic, we promoted fixed-price offers; customers who chose this option in the last 12 months could consolidate very low price levels for up to 30 months.
“The awareness actions that Hera is carrying out, with the aim of promoting energy saving and, recently, also the use of renewable sources, help customers reduce their energy costs, in addition to providing a contribution to decarbonisation”.