The key determining factor of customer satisfaction is the convenience they experience (Net Effort Score). Immediately after we complete a job, we ask customers for feedback on our services. To express the amount of convenience experienced by customers, we calculate a percentage score. The calculation consists of the balance of the percentage of respondents who experience little or very little inconvenience minus the percentage that experience great or very great inconvenience. This provides insight into the results we achieve and the areas where improvements still need to be made. The Net Effort Score is updated on a monthly basis on our website, Alliander.com.
Customer convenience came under pressure owing to difficulties completing all the work we have to do, and to the long waiting times customers faced as a consequence of those difficulties. Despite this, the figures were fairly stable.
Customer convenience rated by business customers
In 2018, customer convenience based on the Net Effort Score (NES), as rated by business customers was 38%, compared with 39% in 2017. The main reason for the slightly lower figure for business customers is failure to keep to agreements in the proposal and realisation phases, and inadequate communication regarding related changes. Large business customers in particular feel that the contracting process is bureaucratic. Against this, improvements in call handling by coaching of project managers and in communicating lead times had a positive effect. We are working to make improvements in the areas of personal contact with customers and the digitisation of processes.
Customer convenience rated by consumers
Our customer convenience score for the consumer market stood at 50% in 2018. This represents an increase compared with 2017 (47%). Despite the difficulties in completing our work package, there was an increase in customer convenience as rated by consumers. This increase is attributable in part to improvements in the accessibility of our customer contact centre as well as new communication channels. In addition, we changed the method used to obtain feedback on our services, leading to an increase in the number of customers reporting a positive customer experience. Interaction with customers in the smart meter roll-out remains a key consideration.
Sharp rise in number of customer queries
The number of customer queries was up 35% compared with 2017. Most customer queries made through liander.nl concerned requests for information about outages or fault reports. Other common reasons why people visited the website included looking up information about their energy connection capacity or tariff. The call centre mostly received queries about the application process, the status of submitted applications, and how to avoid being disconnected. The third reason why customers contact us is to ask for general information about Liander as an organisation.
Other customer convenience scores
The energy suppliers, which are our most important partners, awarded us a customer convenience score of 73% for 2018. The customer convenience score given for the installation of smart meters was 63%.
Customer convenience (perceived convenience, expressed as a percentage)
Online customer service
During the year under review, there were 2.2 million visits to our website liander.nl. Customers consult the website primarily for information on outages or the energy transition. Satisfaction with our services has increased in response to the provision of online self-service tools that customers can use whenever they want. In 2018, we carried out a survey among visitors to the website, which revealed that business customers often looked for information in the wrong place. In response to this, improvements were made to the website. The changes made to the home page and navigation ensure visitors are now guided to the right part of the website straight away. We have also made information intended for our partners, such as energy suppliers and municipalities, easier to find. They can contact us through new digital communication channels as well. Other changes:
Customers can use the number of their meter to log into liander.nl and view information about their connection, report changes, and check whether their meter is suitable for a dual-rate tariff and feeding in electricity generated by solar panels.
By entering their postcode in an online tool on the Liander website, customers can see immediately when their smart meter is due to be installed.
Customers want to be able to find relevant information on outages quickly on liander.nl quickly. Advertisements on google.nl and our new outages page help them find that information. The outages page now contains more accurate information on how long repairs are expected to take, and the information has been made easier for smartphone users to find. Moreover, we improved the platform so that the website can cope with larger numbers of visitors.
Impact case I: the impact of optimum integration of local energy generation into the network
In 2018, we considered an anonymised case in which we investigated what the financial and natural impact would be if we were to decide not to invest in upgrading, but were instead to opt for smart management and reduced power peaks. The result was positive.
Energy networks have a long useful life. In the past century, an intricate electricity grid was developed in the Netherlands. Over time, an extensive, highly reliable network came into being. Network operators are required by law to connect customers to the network promptly and make sufficient capacity available. More and more renewable energy is being generated locally. The grid was not designed for feeding in locally generated energy on a large scale. Feeding energy into the existing network is not always straightforward at every location. Under the current design rules, additional cables and mains supplies will need to be installed to facilitate this.
When energy is fed back into the electricity grid, a connection may be required that has a higher capacity than what the local capacity and voltage level were originally equipped to cope with. The network operator’s statutory transmission obligation may mean a major investment is required in order to handle a small number of power peaks each year. The question this raises is whether the cost of an expensive local upgrade of the network outweighs the social added value provided by a small additional renewable energy supply. The network operator therefore faces a dilemma: either invest in extra capacity and cables, or investigate the extent to which the existing infrastructure is sufficient when combined with smart management and reduced power peaks. From a technical perspective, it is necessary to determine the optimum level of available network capacity and network voltage in relation to the requested connection. From a social perspective, what matters is how the network operator can use investments to facilitate the integration of locally generated renewable energy in the best possible way.
In this anonymised customer case, the calculation of the impact on financial and natural capital was based on not upgrading two 820 m 10 kV electricity cables and not constructing a medium-voltage station. Instead, the capacity of the customer’s connection was reduced from 50 kWp to 40.5 kWp. In this customer case, the impact on financial capital is positive. By avoiding investments in cables, a transformer and hours, the network operator saves € 140,000. The impact on the natural capital is positive. In this example, the avoided energy input due to materials amounts to 350 gigajoules. By not upgrading the network, the amount of energy that the customer supplies to the network may be reduced by up to 68 gigajoules. The avoided eco-costs for the materials are positive, and amount to € 14,000. Overall, there is a net positive effect of 12 tonnes of carbon emissions thanks to avoiding the carbon footprint of cables and materials.
This customer case has provided us with experience in dealing in a different way with a request for a network infrastructure upgrade for the local electricity supply in relation to the network operators’ obligation to provide connection and/or transmission services, and the associated consultations with competent authorities. Alliander and the competent authorities are in dialogue on the conditions and legal options for speeding up connections for locally generated renewable energy.
Not upgrading the network has a positive effect on financial capital and natural capital in this specific case. The avoided impact is greater than it would be if peak capacity were facilitated by upgrading the energy network, and the money saved can be used to better effect elsewhere to invest in the energy transition.