Customer care

Customer care policy 

 Customer care is directly entrusted to the operating companies which handle every aspect of the relationship with their customers; furthermore, a Customer Care Unit is operative within the holding company, dedicated to monitoring the performances64 which provide an integrated view of the activities.

The monitoring envisages the construction, analysis and reporting of the quantitative and qualitative indicators suitable for gauging the quality of the service provided via the main channels made available to the general public. Specifically, the qualitative indicators derive from the surveys carried out using the mystery caller technique, in other words by means of the simulation of telephone calls by customers to the Acea call centre. The results of the surveys are also used for the purpose of the economic development (results bonus) of the objectives achieved by Acea8cento operators, the latter being the Group company responsible for the contact center.

64 Activities for monitoring the management performances of the contact channels, carried out by the Customer Care Unit, include nearly all the Group’s companies. However, for the purpose of alignment with the reporting area of this section, for the water segment only the performances of Acea Ato 2, operative in ATO 2 - Central Lazio, are presented here.

Once again in 2012, theactivities of the work group  co-ordinated by the Customer Care Unit, continued at centralised level, dedicated to mapping the situations which may generate complaints and supporting the operating companies in the identification of appropriate corrective action with the aim of responding more effectively to customers’ expectations.

During the year, the project for the introduction, at Group level, of the new Customer Relationship Management (CRM Enterprise) system was launched, with the aim of facilitating the corporate strategy targeted at optimising the customer relationship. The project, which stretches over a period of two years and embraces the various business areas, shall initially be applied within Acea Energia, the company responsible for the sale of electricity and gas, with particular reference to the gas sector and the dual fuel offer (electricity and gas) on the eligible market. The plan envisages not only the introduction of a unique technology for the CRM, but also the adoption, at Group level, of a Document Management System (DMS Enterprise) for the computerised handling of all the documentation which passes through the company by means of the various channels (post, fax, e-mail, counter, website) and a new Telephone Platform.

In Acea Energia, a project was achieved during 2012, entitled “Acea Energia Customers”, aimed at increasing customer satisfaction: three teams, made up of Acea Energia employees and co-ordinated by Parent Company structures (in particular the Human Resources Division Organisation Unit, supported by Customer Care) put together action targeted at simplifying the processes activated further to customer requests, granting greater autonomy to the remote channels; reducing the flow to the counters, starting off from the analysis of the main reasons for accessing the same; more fully adapting the availability of the counter services in line with the customer flow methods.

Again care of the company which handled the sale of electricity and gas, a performance improvement programme entitled MICO (on-going improvement) was launched during 2012, with the aim of identifying and implementing an initial group of improvement areas (“pilot sites”) and spreading in-house the culture of on-going improvement, excellent performances and techniques for maximising the value of the customer (lean management). The initial stages of the programme led to the training of around 40 Acea Energia individuals and the identification of a number of “sites”; two of these concerned the quality of the service offered to the customer and more precisely the reduction in the number of contacts due to problems concerning the metering and billing and the increase in the quality of the service for customers on the protected market. A process was completed for both these “sites”, involving the analysis of the problems, the definition of a problem gauging metric and a target to be reached and the identification of a number of solutions; during 2013, these solutions will be implemented and steps will be taken to gauge the results.

Acea Ato 2 and the other water companies prepared themselves to efficiently deal with the sector regulation, entrusted in 2012 to the Authority already active in the energy sector (AEEG). With the specific commitment of Customer Care and the Regulatory unit, the Parent Company organised informative seminars targeted at the water companies to illustrate the experience already accrued by the companies operating in the energy sector (distribution and sale of electricity and gas).

Together with the main Consumer Associations, Acea also supported a project aimed at surveying, throughout Italy, the point of view of the consumer with regard to current topics associated with the water and electricity services (see related box).

Box - Acea and the consumer associations: Water and Energy, their future?

During 2012, Acea supported and furthered the project entitledWater and Energy, their future?, created in collaboration with an institute specialised in public opinion surveys and a number of Consumer Protection Associations - Adoc, Adiconsum, Federconsumatori, Lega Consumatori -, with the aim of detecting, one year on from the referendum, the point of view of the consumer with regard to current topics associated with the water and electricity services. The surveys, carried out in Italy, involved a total sample of 4,800 citizens (2,400 for each service surveyed).

With reference to the water service, those interviewed expressed their opinion on the quality, indicated their consumption habits and illustrated the reasons underlying the expectations developed, also in light of the referendum results, while the surveys relating to the electricity service had the purpose of revealing the sensitivity of the citizens with regard to environmental protection, the commitment of the consumer to adopteco-sustainable consumption habits and their awareness regarding energy saving solutions, renewable energy sources and the green economy. The emerging data revealed a considerable opening up of the citizens with regard to environmental matter: 95% declared that they were willing to commitment themselves sufficiently or a lot in the adoption of a more sustainable lifestyle.

The projects also saw the organisation of two round tables, in Rome: Acqua in scena – i consumatori vogliono sapere e contare, held in June at Palazzo Rospigliosi, and L’energia di domani – i quesiti dei consumatori, in October, at the Chamber of Commerce, during which the results of the surveys were presented and the representatives of the Consumer associations,  business circles and the authorities competent with regard to water and electricity service entered into discussions, reflecting on the possible future scenarios of the two sectors.

Acea Energia put together, also irrespective of the fulfilments envisaged by the regulations of the Sector authorities, a series of projects with the aim of preventing the phenomenon of unrequested contracts, implementing precise procedures aimed at ensuring the utmost protection of the eligible market customers  (see related box for details).

The company responsible for electricity and gas sales also established an internal audit process for cases of eventual incorrect commercial practices (mis-selling) which envisages the application of monetary and disciplinary sanctions vis-à-vis the sale network. In order to prevent such conduct, activities have been enhanced for the training of those involved in sales, with the aim of clearly and accurately transmitting the principal notions relating to the eligible market dynamics and the sales proposals of Acea Energia (also see the section Tariffs and the part on Suppliers).

Box – Acea Energia: internal procedures protecting eligible market customers

In compliance with AEEG Resolution No. 153/12, Acea Energia sends a confirmation letter to all the customers who have complied with a sales offer on the eligible market. The latter informs the customer of the details of the offer they have complied with in order to ensure complete awareness of the choice made. After the sending of the letter, and on a precautionary basis, the process for the activation of the commercial offer is suspended for 45 days, in order to permit the best handling of any complaints for unrequested contracts. Once this period has elapsed without having received any indication from the customer subject to the proposal, the latter is activated.

The company also wished to implement additional procedures with respect to the fulfilments envisaged by Authority regulations, aimed at the phenomenon of unrequested contracts, establishing that:

  • the customers who have subscribed to a offer on the eligible market via door-to-door sales networks are also contacted by telephone, for the purpose of checking that the content of the contract signed has been stated clearly and that the conduct of the sales person was correct; in the event of a negative answer from the customer, the possibility of proceeding with the activation process for the new offer is prevented in the computerised information systems;
  • the customers who have subscribed to an offer on the eligible market via the telephone sales network (teleselling) are further protected thanks to the playback of all the telephone call registrations produced by the sales agents which are carried out by Acea Energia; in the event of a negative outcome from the playback, the possibility of proceeding with the activation process for the new offer is prevented in the computerised information systems.

At the end of the trial period launched in August 2012, Acea Energia intends to include these additional activities, during 2013, in a Voluntary self-regulation protocol so as to prevent the phenomenon of unrequested activations and contracts for supplies of electricity and natural gas .

In the event of sales disputes with the company, the customer has the possibility of resorting to the joint settlement procedure, an instrument for the out-of-court settlement of disputes. The joint settlement procedure is operative in Acea both for the water service - care of the companies Acea Ato 2 and Acea Ato 5 - and for the electricity service - Acea Energia. Furthermore, during 2012 joint settlement was also introduced for the electricity distribution service and Acea Distribuzione was the first Italian company in the sector to offer its customers this service (see Institutions and the Company). The legal disputes during the year between Acea and the customers are illustrated in the related box.

Box - Disputes with customers

Legal disputes which customers furthered vis-à-vis  Acea Group companies mainly concern: disputes relating to tariff problems, rebates and delays in the activation of the supplies. It should be pointed out that in 2012 the problem of estimated billing of energy consumption was particularly critical, not corresponding to the effective consumption recorded by the meters (also see the box dedicated to the measures of the sector Authorities, in Corporate Identity).

Total disputes between the company and customers did not undergo any significant increase with respect to the previous year: the overall figure as at 31 December 2012 came to around 330 cases (300 in 2011). 94 disputes were settled during the year mainly by means of transaction, 44 of which opened and closed in the same year.

With respect to disputes with other stakeholders (employees, suppliers), those with customers are numerically more consistent but also have a shorter duration and a lower economic unitary value, with an average value of Euro 2,650.

Contact channels and performance

Customers can contact Acea and the other Group companies via an exchange which puts them through to corporate offices and sites; the commercial free-phone numbers, free-phone numbers for reporting faults, the counters (physical and online), or further still via letter, fax or corporate websites (www.acea.it, www.aceaenergia.it and www.aceaato2.it) The “key customers”, such as companies and institutions, have dedicated structures.

Box- Telephone contact channels  

  • Acea exchange: 06/57991
  • Commercial electricity free-phone number for the protected service800.199.900
  • Commercial electricity free-phone number for eligible market customers: 800.130.334
  • Commercial gas free-phone number for eligible market customers: 800.130.338
  • Free-phone number for eligible market supplies: 800.130.333
  • Commercial water free-phone number: 800.130.331 
  • Free-phone number for water complaints/faults: 800.130.335
  • Free-phone number for electricity and public lighting complaints/faultsin Rome: 800.130.336
  • Free-phone number for cemetery lighting service: 800.130.330
  • Free-phone number for district heating: 800.130.337

NB: Acea guarantees respect for privacy in managing personal information in all relations with customers (in accordance with Italian Legislative Decree No. 196/2003 and subsequent amendments and additions).

The main  operating companies avail themselves of Acea8cento SpA for the handling of one or more remote channels - telephone, fax, webform, e-mail - for mainly commercial use65. The service performed by the contact center features the maximum level of operations, guaranteeing - in as far as it is possible - quality, promptness and uniformity in the solution of the customer’s requests

Furthermore, Acea8cento identifies possible areas for improvement in the “remote” handling of customers and implements specific projects: in 2012, in particular, the extension, to 24 hours, of the Acea Energia commercial free-phone numbers service was planned and implemented on the telephone platform (for the protected, eligible market and gas sector customers). In addition, in November and December 2012 the implementation on the telephone tree of the service for the acquiring self-readings for electricity supplies in the various time brackets was planned and carried out, with Acea Energia; it was then set up and running in January 2013.

Therefore, Acea Energia was able to enhance its electricity sales dedicated free-phone numbers, ensuring the coverage of the service over a time-space of 24 hours.

Furthermore, following the analysis carried out by the “Acea Energia Customers” project team, also the counter was progressively enhanced with new operators, with specific reference to the eligible market service,  and it was reorganised in terms of multi-functionality between the front end and back office activities, placing each operator in a position to both serve the customer at the counter and handle the paperwork. In the public hall at headquarters, the area made available to customers for sorting out the most simple problems via the call center was equipped during the year with a greater number of telephone devices and a printer activated remotely by the call center operators.

In conclusion, during 2012 Acea Ato 2launched an installation project for 2 “virtual tellers”; the virtual counters will allow water service customers to interact achieving the simple and rapid handling of the commercial requests. Activities are still in the test stage and during 2013 the two devices shall be installed in the public hall for the launch of the first pilot phase; further to the valuation of the results achieved, the project envisages extension of the use of the virtual tellers to peripheral offices as well and to municipal authority premises currently lacking counters open to the public.

The billing processes were affected once again during the year under review by the change in the computer system, which took place in the second half of 2011, for the handling of the electricity sales activities to protected market customers. In order to get round the dialogue problems between computer systems, which limited the possibility of using readings made for the billing of consumption, Acea Energia took steps, via Acea8cento, to implement the self-readings acquisition service (activated in January 2013), also for supplies with electronic meters, both for protected and eligible market customers. In this way it will be possible to more fully align the billed consumption with the effective consumption also in the event of failure by the electronic meter to transit data to the billing system.

The Acea free-phone numbers during 2012 received a total of around 4.4 million calls, up by 27% with respect to the roughly 3.5 million calls received in 2011; this change mainly depends on the increase in calls to the commercial free-phone number dedicated to the eligible market but also the rise in calls to the electricity service for protected customer services.In this latter segment, the increased need for contact is due to the fact that in 2012 situations consequent to the changes to the computer system introduced last year were still being handled. The percentage-related distribution of the volumes of calls received confirms the greater importance of the commercial free-phone numbers for the electricity sales service, which cumulatively absorb around 72% of total calls; a positive reduction is also revealed in the percentage attributable to free-phone numbers for reporting electricity faults, from 6.7% last year to 4.8%, which is also matched by a reduction in absolute value (see charts No.  20 and 21 and table No. 43).

65 Besides the commercial channels, Acea8cento also handles the numbers for reporting faults for the water services carried out by Acea Ato5 and for the cemetery lighting service seen to by Acea Distribuzione.

Chart No. 20 – TOTAL TELEPHONE TRAFFIC OF ACEA FREE-PHONE NUMBERS (2011-2012)

Chart No. 20 – TOTAL TELEPHONE TRAFFIC OF ACEA FREE-PHONE NUMBERS (2011-2012)

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Chart No. 21 – Percentage-related distribution of the telephone traffic received by Acea free-phone numbers in 2012

Chart No. 21 – PERCENTAGE-RELATED DISTRIBUTION OF THE TELEPHONE TRAFFIC RECEIVED BY ACEA FREE-PHONE NUMBERS IN 2012

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The Gas and Electricity Authority appraises the call centres of the electricity and gas suppliers and, on the basis of global scores66 (TQI) assigned by means of six-monthly surveys to each operator, draws up a classification making the same public67. The classifications drawn up by the Authority, available at present, disclose - for the first half of 2011 and the first half of 2012 -the loss of 5 places (from 20thto 25th) for the Acea Energia call center service. However, an increase in the positioning within the classification compared to that in the second half of 2011 should be revealed, when the company, due to the loss of three months of automatic instruction services further to the separation of the computer system, was unable to declare the related score, dropping to 28th place.

66 The global score comprises three partial scores: two of which refer to figures for the quality delivered – access to service (PA) and service quality (PQ) – and the third concerning the results of surveys on the quality perceived by customers – degree of customer satisfaction for those contacting the call centre (PSC) –, carried out by the Authority.
67 The classification on the quality of the call centres of electricity and gas sellers, processed on the basis of the figures for the first half of 2012, is available on the website of the Electricity and Gas Authority (www.autorità.energia.it).

Having recovered this function during the first half of 2012, the advantage was partly mitigated by the clarifications provided by the AEEG regarding the additional scores on the  Access to Service (PA) and Service Quality (PQ) area, which must only be declared if the characteristics belong to all the numbers of the call centers used by the operator, with a review of the inclusion criteria for certain scores. Acea Energia straight away adopted a number of initiatives aimed at improving the service, in particular taking steps to keep the call centers open 24/7; this will positively affect the score in the Access to Service area and, therefore, the positioning in the classification.

With regard to the other Acea free-phone numbers – water sales, reporting of faults for the electricity, water, public lighting and cemetery lighting services– the main performance indicators for the last two years are shown in Table No. 43.

With regard to the electricity services, a further significant improvement in the service levels has been seen (% replies out of calls received), with respect to last year’s performances; along with recovery in the water faults service and a slight deterioration for water sales. The average waiting times disclosed an improvement, with the sole exception of the Acea Ato 2 commercial free-phone number, which remains more or less stable. The latter service (water sales) once again in 2012 reported an increase in the number of calls due to both the new tariffs introduced in the previous year (application of the single tariff, introduction of the special tariff for customers in determinate conditions of economic hardship, amendment of the billing plan from six-monthly to quarterly) and due to debt collection activities.

Table No. 43 - The main performance indicators of the Acea free-phone numbers (2011-2012)

performance indicators Electricity faults (Acea Distribuzione) (*) public lighting (Acea Distribuzione) (*) Cemetery lighting (Acea Distribuzione) Water sales (Acea Ato2) Water faults (Acea Ato2) (*)
  2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012
Total No. of calls received 233,859 211,440 90,580 95,547 69,891 89,436 392,601 476,290 370,632 380,092
Total No. of replies 213,961 203,496 84,714 92,678 59,149 82,131 271,215 314,047 285,274 305,798
% of replies out of calls received 92% 96% 94% 97% 85% 92% 69% 66% 77% 81%
Average waiting time before reply (min. seconds) 1m 31s 39s 1m 10s 35s 1m 35s 1m 08s 2m 10s 2m 28s 4m 06s 3m 38s
Average conversation time (min. seconds) 1m 39s 1m 46s 1m 25s 1m 34s 3m 14s 3m 57s 3m 45s 3m 47s 2m 30s 2m 47s
NB: the table does not include the performances of the commercial free-phone numbers of the electricity service subject to regulation by the Gas and Electricity Authority and commented on in the text. (*) the telephone calls satisfied by the automatic system or terminated by the customer during navigation of the automatic call system are also considered to be replies.

Customers can also use the websites of the various service companies (www.aceaenergia.it reported 1,223,595 visits in 2012 and www.aceaato2.it 435,949 visits), , directly or transiting via the website of the holding company (www.acea.it), which have on-line counters. This makes it possible for the customer to carry out contractual and commercial transactions, request information and check billing and payments.

Specifically, on the Acea Energia website, renovated during the last quarter of 2011, the on-line counter - which as of 31 December 2012 had around 30,000 registered customers - extended the range of available services, with the aim of providing customers with useful support for the handling of their electricity and gas supply in terms of availability and disclosure clarity.

In addition to the possibility of viewing the trend in consumption and the bills, during 2012, the following services were activated:

  • on-line payment (this permits the payment of the bills for all the supplies);
  • web bill (for eligible market customers - this permits one to receive the bill via e-mail eliminating delivery times without incurring any cost and respecting the environment);
  • SMS and e-mail notification services(for eligible market customers - the customer is informed in real time of the issue of the bills and the related payment deadlines);
  • contract cancellation, transfer or take over transactions; 
  • electricity and gas self-readings (also for customers who have electronic meters - activated in January 2013). 

Furthermore, updates have been developed aimed at improving navigation and the retrieval of information, both that more useful to customers already existing and that addressing potential customers (services, products and new sales promotions). A direct form of communication with a strong impact was chosen to present the new sales proposal packages in order to makes the features of the products clear to the user in relation to the various needs and consumption habits (see section on The tariffs) and a new form was implemented which makes it possible to comply with the proposal simply and rapidly, reducing the data registration and compilation time.

Box – Acea Energia opens up to the social networks

Launched in March 2012 at the time of the Rome Marathon for the promotion of the campaigns “Vivi l’energia a modo tuo” (Live energy in your own way), the Acea Energia fanpage on Facebook progressively became a channel for:

  • communication of events, appointments and occasions for visibility of the brand and presence of the company;
  • promotion of new products and services via post and viral activities;
  • training and information on aspects relating to the world of energy (home automation, certification and energy saving);
  • monitoring of the level of customer satisfaction and development of positive perceptions;
  • handling of the requests for intervention or information made by the customers, with simultaneous “education” on the use of the correct channels for executing the procedures.

During 2012, the Acea Ato 2 on-line counter received 16,137 new registrations, for a general total of 42,894 registered customers, confirming the growing trend of the last few years; work was also carried out during the year for the rationalisation of the on-line subscribers. eliminating partial or incomplete registrations stratified in previous years. A virtual assistant is active in the on-line counter, guiding the customer with regard to the use of the various functions available, which at the end of 2012 have been implemented: today, the water service customer can directly carry out transfer, take over, cancellation and record file information changes via the website.In order to spread awareness of the new functions of the on-line counter among customers, Acea Ato2 sent an information leaflet during the first 2013 billing cycle.

The “physical” counters for electricity, gas and water service customers are located care of the public hall at the Acea central headquarters in Piazzale Ostiense, Rome; other counters are found at the satellite offices in Ostia Lido and the company Acea Ato 2 manages another 11 counters dedicated to the water services in the Rome province area, and a mobile office, operative during every working day.Acea Energia opened a counter in 2012, on an experimental basis, for the electricity service care of the headquarters of the IV Municipal area in Rome; these premises were chosen due to the logistic location, the extreme opposite direction to the Piazzale Ostiense offices, and therefore suitable for providing the service to customers in the north-east sector of the city.

During 2012, the public hall at the central headquarters received a total of 280,987 customers, up 41% with respect to the 198,983 customers registered in 2011. The figures regarding the turnout at the various counters shows a general upwards trend in the last three years (see table No.  44): the majority of the visitors availed of the services offered at the counter dedicated to protected market customers, of the electricity sales company, but there was also an increase in visits to the counter dedicated to eligible market customers, in part deriving from the consolidation of the customer handling in the gas sector, and to the counter dedicated to the water service; by contrast, the turnout figure for the water service counters in the Rome province area bucked the trend, where visits fell from around 160,000 in 2011 to roughly 134,000 in 2012.

The service levels (expressed by the ratio of customers served to tickets issued) for the counters at central headquarters once again in 2012 confirmed themselves to be very high. The energy sector counters were managed so as to balance as far as possible the waiting times for the two types of users: the protected and eligible market customers waited on average 44 - 45 minutes; the water counters, despite the increase in visits, served customers in a shorter space of time with respect to 2011, involving a net improvement in the last few months of the year.

Table No. 44- Counter performance at central headquarters (2010-2012) 

  Electricity service Acea Energia (protected market) Electricity service Acea Energia (eligible market) Water service
Acea Ato 2
  2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012
Tickets issued (No.) 128,180 129,592 175,505 10,824 37,994 66,906 24,960 31,397 38,576
Customers served (No.) 125,740 125,672 174,315 10,419 36,732 66,612 24,414 30,734 37,475
Level of service (customers served/tickets issued) 98% 97% 99% 96% 97% 100% 98% 98% 97%
Average waiting time (mins.) 21 34 44 38 58 45 26 35 31
Average service time (mins.) 9 10 10 13 10 10 14 14 12
NB: the counter for the eligible markets was opened in July 2010

Written complaints are managed by the operating companies according to in-house procedures which make it possible to follow, via computer, the documentation process: from the initial report to its solution.

With regard to the electricity service, the timescales and the percentages for responding to complaints/written requests for information represent specific and general levels of commercial quality for the sales company, laid down by the Gas and Electricity Authority. In cases where the vendor, so as to reply to the customer, needs to obtain technical data from the distributor, the latter - as per the specific level - must make this information available within 10 or 15 business days according to the type of information requested. Replying to written complaints is also included under the general quality levels which the distributor is responsible for  (reference is made to the section Quality supplied, tables No. 27-31).

Responses to written complaints/requests concerning the public lighting service (reporting of faults, requests for new systems etc.) are seen to directly byAcea Distribuzione, which promptly answers the same. In 2012, 1,171 complaints were received, a figure down by around 7% with respect to the 1,264 complaints in 2011. The company had replied to 1,131 complaints by 31 December, around 97% of the total, and roughly 93% of the replies were given within 30 days; the remainder were dealt with in the first few months of 2013.

With regard to the integrated water service, Acea Ato 2 received a total of 12,700 complaints/requests from the various municipalities managed (Rome  and Province), 92% of which were dealt with.

The increase in the figures with respect to the previous year is essentially due to 3 phenomena: an additional tariff adjustment approved by the Mayors’ Conference and applied to customers during 2012, the water emergency with the related shift system and the “arsenic” emergency which occurred in a number of municipalities in the province of Rome (also see Quality in the water sector, under Quality supplied).

The bill sent to the customer, besides showing the costs for consumption and the service and the payment terms, contains other information. In detail, on the bill for the electricity supply service, a dedicated space conveys specific communications to the customer, lists the possible payment methods and the possibility of paying amounts due by instalment, the handling of meter readings, the opening hours and location of counter services, the website address, special terms in the event of use of electro-medical appliances, etc..  In 2012, a space for the summary of the consumption was introduced on the bill and for 2013 further rationalisation of the data shown in envisaged so as to facilitate comprehension and reading of the bill by the customer.