Improving Customer Experience in the Utilities Industry
- May 13, 2019
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The utility industry has come a long way over the past decade. The industry realizes it needs to start viewing customers differently. In the past, they were simply ratepayers or bill payers but now they have to be seen in the light of their whole customer journey.
Utility companies are seeking to become trusted advisors on the journeys customers take. Changes have taken place but there is still work to be done to develop positive customer experiences.
Examine the customer’s journey from beginning to end
Utility companies must identify where customer satisfaction needs improvement and where there are unnecessary contacts and cost. Even if one touchpoint scores high – perhaps a particular customer-service agent is helpful and courteous – that doesn’t mean it’s the same throughout the journey.
It’s important to deliver good service across all journeys but paying attention to certain ones known to increase customer satisfaction can deliver results faster. Good customer service experience leaves an imprint on their mind and this proves to be a defining factor for returning customers.
The billing and payments journey, followed by managing usage and outage as well as resolving billing and payment issues appear to contribute most to customer satisfaction. Most companies choose to focus on improving one or two journeys at a time to improve the chances of a successful transformation.
For example, a company could focus on making it easy to sign up. This is one of the most important journeys for a small or medium-sized business. With an increase in online signup and self-service, costs decrease and customer satisfaction improves.
Offer technology-based solutions
Most consumers today use technology in their daily lives. Technology such as online portals and mobile apps provide convenient, effective engagement with customers.
In order to develop an end-to-end relationship with customers instead of a merely transactional one, technology must be integrated into the journey. Enabling customers to use digital channels can drive down costs for companies and self-service is often more satisfying to the customer.
Employ personalized marketing
By tracking customer interaction with a company, data can be used to nurture relationships. The company can provide personalized recommendations that apply to specific customers. Consumers who are already engaged want to know what step to take next.
They want to know more about how to save, become more energy efficient, how it impacts their health, etc. For example, a company providing heating and air system should provide information on whether they provide air-conditioning solutions for allergy sufferers or not. This will send a message to customers that you care about people’s problems.
Companies that deliver service that goes above and beyond customer’s expectations can lead to a dramatic improvement in customer relationships.
One utility has gone as far as experimenting with handling power outages in a unique way. It issues field crews with flashlights, water bottles, wilderness blankets and even has a Wi-Fi hotspot for customers experiencing power outages.
Make financial benefits of participation clear
Customers want to know what financial benefits they will receive if they use a service or participate in a program. Using easy-to-understand, personalized information and graphics to demonstrate how a bill relates to energy usage is one way to drive satisfaction with the billing and payments journey.
Measure progress with metrics
To make sure progress is continuous, companies have to set clear goals and use metrics to track performance and the impact of changes.
The metrics should not only measure customer satisfaction on their various journeys but operational indicators underlying them. Operational performance indicators and customer insights are essential to steer continuous improvement.
One company placed customer-satisfaction metrics on the dashboards of top managers throughout the company. When results dipped below a certain benchmark, compensation was adjusted for the whole company. This helped to reinforce that customer satisfaction was everybody’s responsibility.
Utility companies who want to be successful must develop strategies for effective consumer engagement. They need to listen to what consumers want and design programs that maximize their satisfaction and participation.