31 Mar 2023
Interview with Nicole McCarthy, Head of Contact Centres, Sydney Water about how ICSS is supporting Sydney Water to deliver world class customer experiences
The Sydney Water Corporation is a New South Wales Government–owned statutory corporation that provides drinking water, wastewater and some stormwater services to the greater metropolitan Sydney, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains regions of New South Wales. Employing more than 3000 staff, Sydney Water services in excess of five million people, supplying about 1.5 billion litres of safe drinking water and wastewater services as well as more than half a million with stormwater drainage services. Here we talk with Sydney Water’s Head of Customer Contact Nicole McCarthy about the experience of completing their first ICSS Certification with CSIA.
What motivated Sydney Water to seek ICSS certification with CSIA?
To support our vision: Creating a better life with world-class water services, we took the opportunity to seek an independent assessment against the standards. We feel that the certification is a continuation of the activities we have taken to become a customer centric organisation. We’ve been working with CSIA for some years, focusing on our complaint handling process. Achieving certification against the ICSS allows us to benchmark all processes against an international standard.
One of Sydney Water’s core values is ‘customer at the heart’. How important are positive customer experiences to the company?
They are incredibly important – delivering positive experiences helps build advocacy and trust with our customers. Our customers have told us that they want us to be easy to deal with, understand their needs and to resolve issues quickly when raised. We design our processes to facilitate these outcomes.
What was the process like, completing the ICSS certification through CSIA?
We found the certification process to be a positive experience. We were realistic with our self-assessment and pleasantly surprised with our first-time result. The opportunities identified range from quick wins to transformational, the process has helped us identify some key focus areas for improvement and we have established a cross organisation working group to help deliver some of these improvements.
How important is knowing which areas of the company need attention, ie: advancing customer segmentation to provide more specialised service?
For us, it’s incredibly important as it helps shape our future initiatives, we know different customer segments will have different needs and expectations from us. Ie: A business customer will have a different need to a residential customer. Segmentation will help us deliver tailored services and/or solutions to our customers.
In bringing to light upcoming challenges, did the ICSS process help uncover ways to overcome them?
Yes, the auditor was able to suggest ways of improving/uplifting experiences for our customers and our employees. We also used our debriefing session with the auditor to understand how others in the industry are overcoming challenges.
What would you say are some of Sydney Water’s core strengths in providing positive customer experiences?
We use operational feedback from customers to help shape/change the way in which we deliver our service. We’ve commenced a customer-led engagement program; Our Water, Our Voice. We’re engaging with customers on a wide range of topics to understand what is priority to our customers. Gaining insights into what’s important to our customers will help ensure that we deliver products, services and experiences that meet their needs and expectations.
How important is Sydney Water’s website in building positive customer relations, and making sure customers feel heard?
Our website provides key information about our products, services and local projects as well as customer engagement activities. Our refreshed website offers a greater user experience and connects customers to self-service portals allowing them to interact with us when it suits them.
Do you believe the ICSS certification reinforces Sydney Water’s commitment to the delivery of exceptional service to customers?
Being accredited against an International Standard reinforces our commitment to delivering world class experiences. The standards framework has allowed us to identify continuous improvement opportunities that we will embed to demonstrate our commitment to delivering exceptional services to our customers.
About ICSS certification
This certification helps organisations achieve customer service excellence, via assessment and certification to the International Customer Service Standard (ICSS). The process involves assessment and certification to the International Customer Service Standard (ICSS) which provides both a recognisable benchmark and ‘how-to’ implementation approach. The International Customer Service Standard (ICSS 2020-25) is a regularly updated and improved standard that addresses changes occurring in the customer experience landscape in each iteration. It endeavours to capture the advancements in technology and of the changes occurring with mobile and social platforms introducing new modes of communication and new levels of access to big data to inform customer experiences.