“This study ensures you don’t make decisions based on presumptions”
Liander’s challenge and WUA’s solution
Liander operates in six areas in the Netherlands. In those areas, they make it possible for millions of people and companies to receive gas and electricity. The net operator is decided by geographical location. Customers therefore can’t choose Liander, and there’s no real market forces at play. Naturally, the government does supervise. The network operator feels it’s a part of its social responsibility to provide a high-quality digital service that’s as efficient as possible.
Liander has more than 3 million customers that mostly turn to Liander (through digital channels) when something goes wrong. In that moment, during a power outage, it’s vital the right information is presented quickly, and customers shouldn’t be bothered with questionnaires about service experiences. That means the service experience needs to be researched in a task-oriented study, and this is how WUA helps Liander: with both quantitative (Web Service Scan) and qualitative (usability) digital service research.
Topline results from the Liander & WUA collaboration
About how they use the WUA research, what it has brought them, how she views the effectiveness of usability research and action workshops, and what she feels about the usability and quality of the recommendations that come from the WUA Web Service Scan reports.
What do you like best about working with WUA and about our solutions?
“We work with WUA because you don’t try to take our seats, basically. The WUA researchers don’t try to tell us what to do. They show what customers think about our quality of service, and the researchers present us with their recommendations. They also provide us with excellent examples from other parties, which are then applied to the case of Liander.nl. In the action workshop, the collaboration truly feels like a collaboration: together, we discuss the results of the consumer research and decide on the next steps to take.
“WUA’s Web Service Scan helps me within the Liander organization to take the rest of the organization with me in how we’re doing with the digital service quality on Liander.nl. It’s a quantitative image, that also gives us kind of a ‘report grade’, also compared to other players in other industries. We’ve been comparing ourselves to other industries for a few years now – this is called ‘out of category benchmarking’ in research terminology – and it offers us a perspective that helps us consistently improve.”
“Additionally, the WUA service model offers us advice on service quality in several aspects: emotional, rational, and functional. To us, given our role in society and because people can’t actively choose us, the ‘emotional’ part of the digital customer service journey is very important: does the quality we offer at Liander make people happy?
“Another important thing in the WSS model and in the service reports WUA provides is channel preference. To us, this is an indicator of the many actions we have to take in this. Currently, the call center is rather separate from our team; it’d be good to use these digital service studies to move towards a situation where we work together on channel preference. There are some good things to be achieved there, I think, to tempt people a little more to use the digital self-help channel. Not because I want them to, but because we know from these studies that customers themselves really want that!”
You ranked first place three times in a row in the annual WUA Net Operators service study. This large-scale study has now, partially as a result of suggestions from Liander, been split into separate tasks throughout the year. You combine these with the usability research and action workshops. How are you liking this?
“The Web Service Scan is always a rather thick report that came all at once; it included a rather thorough set of recommendations and points to improve, and it didn’t entirely match with our development capacity and agile way of working, which meant that sometimes, some things were left lying around for a while.
“So in early 2018, we chose to spread out the large-scale study throughout the year, divided into tasks, linked to action workshops. We started with out-of-category learning about service examples and best practices from other industries. We thought it was high time we didn’t just look at Stedin and Enexis, but also at examples from insurance, finance, telecommunications, and even further removed from our industry.”
How do you use the reports and their results in your daily work at Liander?
“We use the report for our ‘refinement sessions’ and in action workshops with each team. In these workshops, we look back at the results from the reports and we decide which points for improvement we’re going to work on. We use the usability days to check the improvements: have these things really improved in the eyes of the consumers? That’s a more quality-based view of things. Usually, the team walks away at the end of a usability day with heaps and heaps of information, eager to do better the next day and filled with energy to get started.”
Which recommendations from the reports do you feel are the most valuable?
“Sometimes the results seem very obvious – and yet, because customers are saying it, that’s when the issue really comes to light. The research ensures you don’t make decisions based on presumptions. And of course, we get so many new insights.
“We’ve regularly had situations during usability research days that respondents would say: you know who I am, don’t you? So why do I have to specify what type of connection I’ve got? If six different customers all say they can’t find the login button, that means something’s wrong. So they had an expectation of a digital customer environment and a login process, while we’d thought customers weren’t quite ready for that yet: why would you want to log in to your network operator? The study showed customers do expect this from us, even if they don’t know us. On a website like ours, people expect to have to log in first, because you’re talking about changing information that is linked to your personal data. So it’s related to feelings about how you handle privacy.”
What are your biggest digital challenges?
“This coming year, we’re going to set up a ‘Customer Environment’ element on the website – because customers want this, and as a company, we see many opportunities there. Having an IT environment that’s still focused more on connections than on customers, it’ll be quite a large challenge! Of course, we’re hoping that step by step, together with WUA, we’ll be able to realize a great online experience here, too.”
Liander is the biggest Network Operator in the Netherlands. The company sets up cables and pipes and manages the energy network in six areas. The fuse boxes of three million homes connect to this network. Liander does not provide energy, but facilitates other parties in providing energy. In October of 2018, the company had 7,100 employees.