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Peace of mind: This is Money's Rachel Rickard Straus tests out Npower's mindfulness roomBut apparently these aggravating phone calls take their toll on call staff as well a€“ which is why as part of Npowera€™s strategy to overhaul its customer service it installed a mindfulness room where staff could meditate a€“ and trained up mindful advocates, who can offer words of support and guidance to frazzled employees. I spent a day behind the scenes at Npowera€™s largest call centre to learn how a customer service basket case attempts to transforms itself so customers dona€™t need their own mindfulness rooms to recover from the botched billing, endless hold music and unresolved errors for which Npower has become infamous.I listened in on calls, quizzed chief executive Paul Massara a€“ and I also rooted out the best tricks for getting your complaints dealt with fastest a€“ and maybe even how to get some compensation for your troubles.Who knew that the best time to phone to get through quickly would be your lunch break? Interactive: The door to the customer enquiries department displays a message about a raffle, customer enquiries events and new fixed rate tariffsCall centre staff are told to try to ensure call lengths average at 533 seconds.
Constant reminder: Boards hang from the ceiling asking questions such as 'how are you standing up for customers today?'Huge pictures of Npower customers adorn the walls of the office at every turn. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
But I have to admit that on reflection once Ia€™d got over the initial horror of the catchphrases and acronyms, a lot of it seems to make sense. Staff have bands playing at lunch time, get free coffee, have studios for dance classes, a Christmas fete with an ice rink in the car park, annual Pride Awards, a method of nominating colleagues for a€?applausesa€™ which result in cash prizes a€“ plus cash prizes every time the company reaches another a€?stage gatea€™ on its journey towards becoming number one for customer service. Photos and quotes from customers cover the walls - and posters about Npower's new customer service system called 'Rant and Rave'Npower has been working tirelessly to bring the power back to what it calls the a€?frontlinea€™ staff (the ones answering your phone calls). Staff that deal with complaints that come through MPs can offer compensation worth hundreds of pounds a€“ and can write off bills, Ia€™m told.


But if the trial goes well (and it seems to be) will be rolled out across the board.The way ita€™s explained ita€™s as if ita€™s revolutionary.
Smattered around the call centre floor I periodically spy huddles a€“ groups of staff gathered round talking about how things are going.Every day starts with one of these, in which the first question to staff is a€?how do you feel?a€™ Staff are then encouraged to put a coloured pin in a smiley green, indifferent yellow or frowning red face to denote their current mindset.
He did not know I was listening in, but I promised not to share any particulars of the calls I heard.a€?No problem,a€™ said Neil. Complaints made directly to Paul Massara are also dealt with by this team a€“ and can command equally large payments.A However to get stuff sorted quickly, the head of the social media department assures me that making contact through Facebook and Twitter is the most efficient.
To come up with this idea took Npower an extensive consultation process lasting several weeks, involving 2,000 customer verbatims, workshops with experts in key areas.But surely this is only what customers deserved in the first place. At this point staff can raise any concerns they have with their managers, who in turn pass them on to their managers at their next huddle, who pass them on to theirs. This is likely to be because there are nine staff designated to social media correspondence and still a minority of customers who choose to contact Npower in this way.A I was also impressed by how keen call staff were to get things sorted. So we ask them how often they want us to be in touch, when, and using what mode of communication,a€™ says Fiona.
I wonder whether most customers might not think that they could have saved Npower a lot of time and money just by telling them that they want problems solved quickly, to be able to speak to the same person and be told whata€™s going on.I also dread to think what Npower has spent on consultants over the past couple of years.


It is true that as part of Nwow there is yet another initiative called Rant and Rave, in which customers are asked to rate their customer service experience out of five and give direct feedback about the staff with whom they have spoken. This all goes up on the a€?huddle boardsa€™ and is relayed to managers a€“ so staff are incentivised to keep customers happy.But their commitment seems to go beyond this a€“ you can tell because staff will strive to fix stuff even if it goes against their interests. These are people who can be called on to answer calls from home,a€™ says Fiona.Workers only need internet and phone connection to be able to work, so ita€™s convenient for people who live in remote areas. Well apparently they have remote huddles, with all their pictures added to a video screen.It wona€™t be long, though, before there will be little need to contact Npower at all. What I dona€™t think anyone could have known then is the SAP [billing system] issues would be as bad as they were.
So I said, a€?look guys, I dona€™t think wea€™ll get to number one at the end of the yeara€™, but our goal is to be number one and our determination is as much as ever.



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