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Upping Your Customer Experience Game: Strategies for Utilities in 2018

The new year is a good time to think about business enhancements, and customer experience (CX) is one of the most critical areas to focus on for any company’s success. A recent Forbes article states, “Ultimately business success depends on how you treat your customers, especially now when they are in the driver’s seat. Where customers want to spend their money is no longer influenced by brand messages, but rather by the experiences they get from brands.”

For energy companies in particular, the idea is no different: people want to be treated respectfully, have a smooth experience, and get problems resolved in an efficient and timely manner. A high percentage of customer saturation within the energy market means the only way to gain new customers is to get them to switch. As CX increasingly replaces quality and price as the top selling point, a company’s ability to stay ahead of the competition in this area is key. Below are a few CX strategies that energy companies may want to consider for 2018:

Personalization

Utilities that understand customers are more likely to retain their business. Toward this end, a company could develop a database of each customer’s history and preferences, to better serve them at every touchpoint. As explained by author Robert Walton for Utility Dive, such a customer-centric approach represents a “shift from monolithic services people rarely communicated with, into resources to help customers lower bills and buy energy how they want.”

Virtualization

So much communication takes place via social media and other electronic means that energy companies must find ways to meet customers in those spaces. This process may include setting up and responding through social media profiles, creating apps for customers to use, or seamlessly partnering with other providers to offer complimentary services, such as the Nest smart thermostat.

CX Management

Companies that take CX seriously are making it a priority throughout every department, in a practice known as customer experience management, or CXM. “CXM…places great importance on thoughtfully engineering the best customer experience, then delivering on this experience every time, consistently in every channel,” explains author Penni McLean-Conner for Electric Light & Power. She goes on to state that this strategy “yields high first-contact resolution and a reduction in rework,” saving costs while encouraging customers to stick around.

Energy Marketplaces

Utility Dive reports, “As utilities seek to enroll customers in demand management programs, help retrofit inefficient homes, replace older lighting, or provide any other service, many are [bringing] all of those offerings together in one place.” To do so, they’re developing marketplaces that increase customer convenience. The concept could also be used to support energy exchanges in the power grid of the future, something like an “energy internet,” according to Fast Company.

Listening

Perhaps the most basic of all CX concepts is understanding customers’ needs. Listening to them isn’t always easy, but it’s always necessary. New technology — such as online customer panels and tools that can analyze customer calls and emails — helps companies listen in new ways, in addition to trusted standbys like surveys and focus groups. These same strategies can be used to measure customer satisfaction, which may indicate additional areas for improvement.

The key takeaway here is summarized well by Kimberly de Silva for Entrepreneur: “The way you treat your customer defines who you are. It’s an important part of the promise you make to your customers. It defines how they see you and how likely they are to buy from you. Your customer experience is the key to your success.” Forrester’s 2017 US Customer Experience Index notes that CX is on the decline, so there is plenty of room for all companies — including energy companies — to up their CX game. 

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