Image credit: meddygarnet, used under Creative Commons license. (This photo does not show a representative of any of the companies mentioned in the post.)
Some time ago my friend and colleague Jerry Stifelman noted that just because something saves the world, that doesn't make it popular, and he was right. Product and service quality are every bit as important as environmental credentials if green business is ever going to become the mainstream. (And become the mainstream it must if it wants to fulfill its mission.) So I'm excited to note that one renewable energy provider is not just trouncing the competition with its support of clean energy, but in the way it answers the phones too. How can every green company ensure that customer service also contributes to a better planet?The first thing to note is that while we can't rely on our eco-credentials to make up for poor service, or a crappy product. Yet the two are nevertheless intrinsically interlinked. The fact is that if your customers know that your company has a mission beyond making money, this is an opportunity to win trust and loyalty. Just as, in our personal lives we are more likely to trust someone who spends their spare time volunteering in a soup kitchen, as opposed to someone who is always trying to make a fast buck, so too green companies can use their green credentials to their advantage. If they demonstrate that their care for their customer is an extension of their broader sense of ethics as a company, then green really can help keep customers happy.
However, the reverse is also true. If a green company delivers shoddy service, or a less than stellar product, the temptation is to assume that the company's core reason for being is simply to deliver on its "green mission", without much thought for the consumer. Never mind the fact that such an approach is ultimately not green, it's also not commercially sustainable. (Who wants to be used to achieve somebody else's political or environmental goals!?)
That's why the news that British green energy provider Ecotricity—purveyors of stunning urban wind turbines; vegan biogas direct to the consumer
, and now utility-scale solar power plants too—are trouncing the opposition when it comes to customer service is especially exciting.
In fact, according to new figures from the UK energy regulator OFGEM, Ecotricity received 10 times lower levels of complaints per 1000 customers than the very best of the biggest six utilities, and twenty times less than the worst. How did they do it? Let's just say it wasn't rocket science, as CEO Dale Vince explained:
"We answer the phone ourselves (average 12 seconds last quarter) and that first (real) person you speak to resolves 90% of all queries right there and then. If we promise to do something we do it (obvious but rare). And when something does go wrong, we have our own Customer Champion to fix it - in most cases within 24 hours. In fact these new figures show that in the last year there were only 27 occasions when we couldn't fix a problem in less than a day."
More on Ecotricity
Stunning Urban Wind Turbines Circumvent NIMBYs (Slideshow)
Biogas Direct to the Consumer
UK's First Utility-scale Solar Power Plant Get's Go Ahead
Wind Entrepreneur Listed Among UK's Richest