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Commercial Policy and Customer Care

The commercial policy for 2008 was again basically broken down into two major programmes:

  • Commercial Development
  • Optimisation of Customer Management

Commercial Development

During 2008 there was an increase of the supply points on all services (as illustrated in the table)

Supply points20072008Delta (07/08)

For the free market services, the increase was achieved by continuing the commercial development policy broken down as follows:

  • Multi-service: simplifying customer management by offering a sole contact and just one bill for energy services (Gas and Electricity), and also for licensed services (water and TIA) in districts managed by Hera.
  • Proximity to the customer: being “physically” close to the customers through a network of branches and a widespread sales structure; being quickly accessible through contact centres and the web; being socially responsible and contributing to the growth of the territory and local communities through its activities.
  • Simplified management: independent management through the new portal HER@ ONLINE and the option of receiving the bill via e-mail.
  • Economic advantage and transparency: proposing offers that are always competitive and with no surprises, suited to the needs of all customers (more than thirty offers are available, many of which can be customised further).

The pillars of the sales strategy are otherwise based on the following customer segments:

  • Families
  • Small and medium-sized companies
  • Large companies
  • Blocks of flats
  • Public Administrations

For families, our range of offers was further enhanced on deregulation of the electricity market in July 2007. Specifically, in June 2008 the new dual fuel offer, Tre per Tre, was launched for families – three years at a diminishing fixed price (calculated on the raw material component), with single and dual timer options.  Added to which is the Formula Risparmio, offering savings on the raw material component defined by the AEEG (applied for all customers that have not changed over to the deregulated market).

Optimisation of Customer Management

Since it was founded, the Hera Group has maximised integration between services and group systems by setting up a single platform composed of two main structures:

  • Group Invoicing and Collection System
  • Management channels

Group Invoicing and Collection System

Through its unified systems, Hera issued over 15 million bills in 2008, following the multi-service strategy that allows our customers to simplify administration and reduce the costs payable. In the second half of 2008 customers were also offered the option to receive bills via e-mail, in replacement of the printed and mailed version.

With regard to payment methods, in 2008 the option to pay at Sisal and Lottomatica outlets and online credit card payments saw a boom among customers choosing not to pay by direct debit, the first of these options seeing a total of 16,000 payments per month and the second around 2,000 payments per month.

The new method open to customers of submitting meter readings via sms, available since 2007 as an additional option to submissions via telephone and web, saw a strong increase in numbers.

Management Channels

Again in 2008 the Hera Group continued its policy of strengthening the contact channels available to customers with the goal of making contact increasingly simple and fast. Hera has 5 separate contact channels:

  1. mass market call centre
  2. business call centr
  3. branches
  4. web
  5. mail
Average contact centre waiting time (secs) 2005200620072008
residential customers70.234.546.266.1
business customers 43.926.842.4
Number of calls to the contact centre (no.)2005200620072008
residential customers1,394,4581,991,2642,375.8232,489,180
business customers 59,686105,447115,997
Percentage of successful calls to the contact centre (%)2005200620072008
residential customers87.10%94.10%94.20%93.20%
business customers 89.00%97.60%95.50%

A number of service parameters that highlight the accessibility of these channels are shown below.

Average waiting time at branches (mins)2005200620072008

In 2008 a new queue management model was implemented in the main Group branches, allowing average waiting times to be improved, reducing them to just 18.5 minutes. This result was achieved as part of the “F.A.S.T.” automated queue timesaving project, which by synchronising the expected customer flows with available human resources and implementing new operating methods offered optimisation of operations and, consequently, improved quality of service in terms of waiting times.

During 2008 we witnessed substantial improvement of all the accessibility parameters except for the average contact centre waiting time, which in the aftermath of increased traffic the waiting time also increased but remained at levels substantially lower levels than those of 2005 and lower than target times set by the AEEG. The first half of 2008 was characterised by a mass influx of calls that led to waiting times higher than those of 2007. This result is also partly attributable to the commitment to response training for personnel which allowed us to achieve important results in terms of customer problem-solving capacity. In fact, according to the overall Group Customer Satisfaction survey, the score for problem-solving capacity increased by 6 points in 2008 compared to 2007. Furthermore, in the second half of the year the average waiting times and percentage of calls answered improved compared to 2007 for the mass market channel and remained stable for the business channel.

In support of the telephone channel, web services (Hera on line) were improved to allow customers the option of always being able to consult their position or perform operations such as online meter-reading and receive bills via e-mail.

Today the Group has 85 branches spread across the entire area covered. Of these, 8 area branches are located in the main cities served, 38 are medium-sized “priority" branches normally located in municipalities outside the main cities, 47 are "contact points", i.e. smaller branches normally in peripheral locations.

The project to modernise the layout of the Group’s main branches continued in 2008. It follows architectural lines that communicate the concepts of territoriality, neighbourhood and respect for the environment, and reconciles these with accessibility, liveability and service efficiency. The layout, optimised on the basis of specific focus group results, after completion of the first central branch in Bologna (September 2007), was extended and inaugurated in the Forlì and Cesena branches in December 2008. The project will continue in 2009 with modernisation of the Imola and Ravenna branches.

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