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Customer Satisfaction Research Programme for Northern Gas Networks

Northern Gas Networks Limited were keen to identify service attributes certain customers desired to boost customer satisfaction. We worked with the network to develop and deliver a targeted customer research programme, providing the consumer insights they needed to enhance customer interactions.    

About Northern Gas Networks

Northern Gas Networks deliver gas to 2.7 million homes and businesses in the North East, Northern Cumbria and most of Yorkshire. The network delivers gas to customers on behalf of suppliers via a vast network of underground pipes and is currently undertaking work to replace old gas mains with over 3,800 km of modern pipes.

The Issue

In line with the company’s commitment to providing high-quality customer service, the network was keen to improve understanding of the wants and needs of two core customer groups:

  1. Customers Affected by Planned Works (PLW) – Maintaining, repairing and replacing the gas network requires excavating under roads and pavements. An activity likely to cause some disruption in and around customers’ homes and businesses, such as, access and parking restrictions, the network wanted to refine their customer experience.    
  2. Customers Requiring Gas Emergency Response and Repair (ERR) – If a homeowner smells gas or is concerned about gas safety, they can contact the network who will dispatch an engineer. Depending on the nature of the problem, the engineer will either make the situation safe or advise the customer to contact a Gas Safe Registered Engineer to carry out necessary repairs.

Recognising that customers want a timely and helpful response in such situations, the network wanted to identify how they could improve service delivery through meeting customer expectations. 

Northern Gas Networks’ specific business research objectives included:

  • Understanding customer expectations and perceptions of the service they receive from the network across their PLW and ERR functions.
  • Identifying the performance gap between what customers expect of the network’s PLW and ERR services, and how close they are to achieving those expectations.
  • Determining immediate actionable priorities to enhance both core customer-facing services.

TTi Global’s Customer Research Methodology and Approach  

TTi Global’s Business Research team worked with Northern Gas Networks from the outset to design and implement an effective, end-to-end customer research programme.

Stage 1 - TTi ran an expert-led workshop to acquire a deeper understanding of the network’s business priorities and customer challenges. 

Stage 2 – Survey handlers conducted a series of qualitative interviews with a sample of the network’s customers who had experienced their PLW and/or ERR service. Customers’ expectations gathered were used to develop a tailored gap analysis questionnaire.

Stage 3 – Working from TTi’s dedicated Computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) unit, survey handlers conducted several quantitative interviews with network customers. The 15-minute customer service survey measured each customer’s expectations compared to their perceptions of how well the service was delivered.

Stage 4 – The interview data was analysed and compiled into a detailed Gap Analysis report. TTi’s matrix reporting structure shows the overall response and individual customer feedback for each survey question, allowing the network’s management to identify and prioritise improvement actions easily. 

Stage 5 – TTi presented the findings to Northern Gas Networks’ senior management team, followed by a review workshop to explore the data in more detail and how it might influence future service delivery.

Northern Gas Networks Customer Feedback – How the Data Was Used

Eileen Brown, Customer Experience Director at Northern Gas Networks, said “In terms of change within NGN, the gap analysis methodology allowed us to think differently about the satisfaction questions that we should be asking our customers. We also better understand what parts of the journey we are delivering well, and what we could be delivering better. 

“Following a period of rapid improvement during 2013 to 2016, our customer satisfaction scores have remained stable and strong over the last two years (2016-18). This research has allowed us to focus on some specific areas of improvement, and we have tailored plans to implement them within the business.”

On working with TTi Global Research

“Regarding the project management aspect, it ran smoothly from start to finish. The construction of the research really challenged our thinking in terms of the journey that our customers go through. Regular updates were provided throughout the fieldwork process, and reporting was provided on or before the deadlines that had been agreed. 

“Overall, we were better able to understand the priorities of our customers, and how they perceive the service that we provide. It really enhanced the information that we get through our usual customer satisfaction surveys.”