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EFFECTIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE STRATEGY

Source: 
Oman Economic Review (OER)

In response to the never-ending progress in customer service and the growing demand for electricity and related services, Nama Group (NG)

developed a customer service improve- ment strategy in 2013 to improve service quality. To enhance customer satisfac- tion, service quality will be improved by restructuring operations, utilising modern technology and developing the group’s human resources. NG’s customer base passed the 1 million customer mark (1,219,156 in 2018). This includes 73.99 per cent in the residential category, 21.24 per cent in the commercial category, 3.12 per cent in the government category, 0.75 per cent in the agricultural category, 0.04 per cent in the industrial category and 0.87 per cent subject to Cost-Reflec- tive Tariff (CRT).

In line with this strategy, Nama Group electricity distribution companies took a giant step to facilitate and improve the quality of services by enhancing operational efficiency, training human resources and utilising modern technology. As part of NG’s continuous development efforts, an ambitious plan is being implemented to utilise various electronic technologies to develop and improve services offered to customers.

Mahmoud Jallad, senior manager group programme customer service improvement, highlighted the strategy’s remarkable success in development, technical transformation and introduction of new services. He explained that NG’s strategy includes standard programmes for distribution companies to improve services provided to customers including meter reading, billing, collection and call centres. Furthermore, each company develops and implements its own development plans and necessary support is provided to companies in order to promote interaction channels with customers and improve their service offerings. These programmes have actively contributed to improving the quality of services.

Utilising technology

Salem bin Said Al Kimyani, head of customer service development team at Nama Group, said, “NG seeks to increase the utilisation of electronic technologies in developing service quality and speed, while adopting necessary systems and training human resources to develop services and achieve objectives.”

Nama Group, represented by Muscat Electricity Distribution Company (MEDC), Mazoon Electricity Company (MZEC), Majan Electricity Company (MJEC), Dhofar Power Company (DPC) and Tanweer Company (previously known as Rural Areas Electricity Company), has developed a clear strategy and road map to improve the quality and speed of services offered

to enhance operational efficiency and performance. This builds on NG’s positive achievements and complies with Royal directives on eGovernment by developing local systems and linking them with service providers to boost digitisation and provide easy and quick service to customers.

Developing billing systems

Distribution companies are also keen to reach the highest rate of actual readings and so far, Nama Group has achieved 92.7 per cent in 2018. In cases where distribution companies are unable to obtain actual readings, estimated readings are issued based on actual consumption values. If differences in estimated readings occur, they are directly adjusted in the following readings. Moreover, Nama Group has improved the electricity bill by adding consumption details and dates associated with the billing process for further transparency with costumers on their consumption values.

In addition, Nama Group has upgraded its manual meter-reading activities and processes and introduced systems that help validate readings taken directly from the meter with a manual reading device by taking a picture of the meter reading when new readings fail to match previous readings. This caused remarkable improvement in the quality of meter readings. Some NG companies have contacted customers and provided them with their own meter reading channels (self-reading service) in case the reader was unable to take the actual reading for various reasons, such as having the meter inside the premises or the owner’s absence at the time of the reader’s visit. Nama Group is now making greater use of its existing systems to ensure better quality of meter reading. It has also taken additional measures to ensure that invoices are properly delivered to customers where the manual delivery system requires scanning the barcode printed on the invoice at the time of delivery to the customer to track the site coordinates.

Jallad added that customer bills delivery has also been developed. In the past, paper bills were distributed by hand only, and now customers can receive their bills via text messages, e-mails and electronic links ensuring safe, quick and secure bill delivery. Nama Group also offers a payment reminder service activated upon delay. Electronic services have developed significantly, as electronic bills sent by SMS and e-mail in certain NG companies have risen 90 per cent. Developing services has led to an increase in e-payment and customer satisfaction and a decrease in invoice-

distribution cost. The use of these technologies resulted in a sharp decline of billing queries in 2018 compared to 2017. At Group level, Bills distributed by email or mobile text messages increased to 18.4 per cnet in 2018 compared to 13.4 per cent in 2017.

Smart meters

Al Kimyani said that Nama Group launched the remote reading system (via the telecommunication network) to record readings for high-consumption customers, such as factories, major of this project and the increasing number of applications, Mazoon Electricity Company began offering this service, and the rest of NG companies will follow suit in the coming period. So far, more than 50,000 pre-paid meters have been installed. Companies are encouraging customers to choose these meters for their accessibility and special features that help customer control and rationalise electricity consumption. Prepaid meters are also suitable for apartments, residential complexes, small enterprises, customers looking commercial companies and government institutions, including customers subject to CRT. This technology improved read- ing quality and tracking consumption per hour helping costumers understand their consumption patterns and adopt new ways to rationalise consumption. Data also shows significant improve- ment in customer service. In 2018, more than 50 per cent of electricity consump- tion in the Sultanate was read using remote smart meters and more than 9,000 customers were subject to CRT.

In response to customers’ requests, Nama Group, represented by Muscat Electricity Distribution Company, began offering pre-paid meter service. Launched in 2014, this service allowed customers to top up the meter with a pre-paid balance. Following the success

for temporary electricity subscription and tenants in buildings and shops. This ensures that when the tenant terminates the lease, no financial obligations are incurred by the building owner.

Expanding payment channels

Continuing the efforts to improve services and move to electronic payment, Nama Group expanded payment channels by adding more collection centers and payment machines located in some institutions and banks, Al Kimyani said. It also developed mobile applications such

as “Khedmah” and “Sadad”, as well as Nama E-portal. The number of payment transactions through electronic channels increased and the number of customers using these channels grew to more than 28 per cent and is expected to exceed 50 per cent in 2019- 2020. NG companies are intensifying their awareness programmes targeting customers to encourage them to use the easiest ways to pay bills monthly.

Efficient interruption

management system

MEDC deployed a system to manage re- ports related to network interruptions. MEDC can locate the caller’s property via its GIS and send its location using the navigation system to the nearest emergency team. The program sends text messages to the applicant with the report status and expected time of service restoration. It can also track the responding emergency team and deter- mine their proximity to the property. Nama Group is expanding this service to cover all its companies. NG companies urge customers to update their data to assist us in offering better service.

Customer satisfaction

In line with Nama Group’s efforts

to monitor customer satisfaction, a quarterly customer satisfaction survey is conducted using the “Voice of the Cus- tomer”. Some NG companies captured a customer satisfaction rate of more than 90% (Majan Electricity Company). Nama also carries out an annual study to un- derstand customer feedback on service reliability. The results of these surveys and studies are then used to improve services offered by distribution and supply companies. Continuing costumer engagement and increasing satisfac- tion, Nama Group made sure contact centers are available 24/7 at all electric- ity distribution companies to receive all inquiries, requests and complaints. Recent figures show that 96.5 per cent of complaints were resolved in less than 6 days while billing complaints remain very low (1 out of 1,000 customers throughout the year). Most complaints were raised during summertime, when the electricity consumption is very high.

Commenting on the accuracy of elec- tricity bills and customer satisfaction in general, Al Kimyani said that distri- bution companies measure customers satisfaction by a survey on service accessibility, obstacles and the way com- panies address them. Improvement in service offered is measured before and after introducing any the change. 2018 figures show customer satisfaction has exceeded 74 per cent, at Group level, compared to 70 per cent in 2017.

NG companies also organise awareness campaigns to rationalise electricity consumption and ensure safe usage on social media platforms and audio and visual channels. Nama Group sought to improve the quality of communication with customers and met with its CRT customers to explain CRT and share experiences of some major customers in rationalising electricity consumption that reduced their operational expenses. Further, Nama Group organises aware- ness campaigns in schools and other community groups to increase student awareness of energy conservation and the safe use of electricity.

Continuous development

Nama Group strongly believes in promoting a culture of continuous growth and learning to keep pace with global technology development. It began implementing the Lean Management project to review, improve and streamline all operational procedures. The project is expected to increase NG companies’ productivity and efficiency and help them offer customers high- quality services.

Call centres

On the benefits of modern technology in customer service, Mr. Mahmoud Jallad said that the impact of technical transformation has become visible in various operational areas, such as billing and services. Today, customers can contact NG call centers and raise their inquiries or can use many services electronically without having to physically visit the company. Current call center services include managing interruption reports, answering billing inquiries, updating readings through self-reading services, addressing complaints and offering instalment plans for customers failing to pay their bills. Nama Group has renovated its reception offices and the offices of contractors handling bill collection.

The Head of the Customer Service Development Team at Nama Group said that Mazoon Electricity Company introduced several new customer service channels including a new channel through Sanad Service Centers. In 2018, Sanad offices received more than 95 per cent of applications for new connection, initial connections, tariff change and restoration of electricity for maintenance. Statistics indicate that more than 20 per cent of customers applied after official working hours, which reflects the great flexibility in services now offered around the clock.

Committed to better service

NG companies are committed to provide quality services for safe and sustainable electricity by empowering our human resources, investing in modern technology and joining hands with other stakeholders to follow the policies of our wise government to ensure Oman’s welfare and prosperity.

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