16 January 2014

Elgas win major customer service award

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Australian WLPGA member Elgas wins prestigious award in the 12th Annual Australian Service Excellence Awards.


Elgas was the 2013 ESi winner in the category of Gas Suppliers and spoke about their innovative, technology-driven approach to making things easier for their customers.

“We respond above and beyond.” said Eric Hahn GM Marketing of Elgas in response to the award – and that’s not an understatement. Going above and beyond is exactly what Elgas did for residents in Coopers Creek in north-eastern New South Wales in 2013 following a landslide across its only access road. Cut off from the world, the community were desperate for everyday essentials. The SES helicopter was delivering food but the residents also needed LP Gas for their homes. What could be done for them? Hahn explains: “Our Ballina-Lismore branch manager, who happened to be an ex-SES volunteer, suggested flying in LP Gas bottles. It sounded quite challenging initially. He got together with our National Safety Manager and they came together to create a safe way to do this. He then approached his contacts at the SES to see if they could do it.
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Hahn also explained that Elgas carry out over a million deliveries a year and any complaints are taken very seriously by the team.  Any complaints are logged and then sent to managers, they are tracked and are expected to be resolved within 24 hours. There are various avenues for customers to interact too – there’s a blog, email, Facebook page, Twitter account, telephone numbers and email enquiries through the website. In addition to this, Elgas conduct an annual customer survey by email in which the team analyse the verbatim of any negative feedback to develop methods to eradicate the problems.More recently, customers can now get payment reminders and order via SMS. Enhancing and improving the customer experience became a more obvious priority in 2009 for Elgas. Before then, customer service telephone surveys were conducted by a customer research company. To improve the lengthy but limited process, Elgas developed an email survey that allowed more detailed responses, sending around 50,000 surveys-a-year with a 25% response rate and Eric ensures that the responses are read.

So what separates Elgas from their competitors? The answer is simple: “We’re the biggest. We don’t rely on distributors to the extent that others do. We are comprised largely of company-owned branches, with some distributors and agents. We answer the phones 24/7. We are way ahead web-wise, both in functionality and traffic. We spend a lot of time educating our customers.” says Hahn.

Through the Elgas blog and web pages customers can learn more about LP Gas, safety and the appliances themselves.  Elgas believe that contrary to popular belief, people will read if they’re interested in the subject. Elgas have 400 trucks, 45 branches and 100-plus customer service staff, which approach 200 when they require seasonal help. Weekly training meetings are employed amongst the customer service staff to maintain their level of excellence, generally focusing on getting deliveries made on time and the fastest way possible. The main challenge they face is when customers run themselves out of gas. The system is set up for them to have two gas bottles: they use one and when it’s empty they switch over to the other bottle and then they are supposed to call Elgas. Problems arise when customers neglect to all Elgas and they run both bottles out. Then they order and they expect an immediate result.  Elgas have spent years learning to respond quickly but they also look how to prevent this scenario from happening in the first place.

Internally, the focus remains on having zero complaints but Hahn admits here are some things that just cannot be anticipated, such as the weather. “We helped Victoria rebuild after the fires a few years ago. We don’t make a big deal of it. We don’t do it for sales. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.” he admitted. It’s testament to their philosophy and justifies the various awards they continue to receive. The well-known idiom states ‘easier said than done’ and Elgas continue to make things easier and while continuing to get things done for their customers.

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