As a utility provider, you’ve kept the power on, you bill fairly and your technicians respond in a timely manner. That’s a great way to boost CX for utilities. But in today’s experience-driven world, it may not be enough to satisfy your customers.
Like all industries, customer expectations of utility providers have changed dramatically in the last decade. People aren’t just looking for the best product or service at the best price anymore. Instead, they want customer experiences (CX) to remember and brands that remember them.
Unfortunately, some utility providers have a long way to go on that front. The American Customer Satisfaction Index ranks industries every year. Last year, municipal utilities came 41st out of 43 ranked industries, just ahead of internet service providers and subscription TV.
Retailers and other businesses have jumped fully on-board the CX wagon, so now customers expect the same from their service providers, including utilities. In fact, customers demand energy providers know three things:
- Who they are
- Why they’re getting in contact
- How they want to be communicated with
So here are a few initial steps to take to start powering up CX for utilities:
Assess and pinpoint areas for improvement
Now that you’ve talked with customers, take it a step further. Find a technology partner who can answer their concerns with business analytics and intelligence to find solutions to problems they haven’t thought of yet.
To see how customers interact with the brand, CX leaders must ask themselves a few key questions. First, what does your current customer journey look and feel like? How does that vary from your ideal version? Which channels do people use to interact with agents?
After this high-level view, ask these questions to find your next steps. Do these channels provide convenient access to information customers need so you reduce fatigue? Lastly, what types of complaints do customers often express? Once you’ve gathered answers, determine what customers want in an ideal journey.
When you proactively make improvements, it creates obvious benefits to CX for utilities, but there’s financial benefit, too. In regulated markets, any re-investment in your business is directly dependent upon how potential improvements would benefit the end customer.
Innovative projects answer what they want and will certainly strengthen your rate case the next time you’re in front of the PUC. Projects could range from infrastructure improvements to new customer service technology, like updating your contact center or IVR. Give West a call to learn more about finding the right solution for your business.
Connect channels for consistent service
Next, as you increase your CX maturity, create an engagement strategy to apply your new solutions across channels. Customers have many ways to talk to you, including laptops, phones, tablets and even smart watches. According to a recent study, 86 percent of consumers expect companies to let them choose a method for follow-up.
When companies offer multiple channels of interaction (mobile, social, voice or agent), they often fail to fully connect the varied channels, functions or data to foster visibility. An IVR may send the same message. Or a contact center agent may ask for the same information twice, which causes them to feel overwhelmed and dissatisfied. Such problems tend to result in poor outcomes for everyone involved, including lower productivity, returns and satisfaction rates.
As utilities adopt these channels, a consistent experience is important, too. Reporting an outage via the web should be just as easy as reporting via IVR. Consistency makes customers more willing to use automation and self-service. That both lowers costs and increases satisfaction.
And it’s good for business. Customers don’t want to “re-tell their story” every time they use a different channel to reach their utility provider. If a customer can’t pay his or her bill via IVR, a clear view of all interactions across channels lets an agent pick up right where the customer left off. It’s more satisfying for the customer, easier for the agent and less expensive for the company.
Evaluate mutual value for company and customers
It’s not feasible (or wise) to make every improvement at once. A business that mainly offers voice customer service should start by looking at automation systems and building deeper links between their IVR and contact center. Those with mobile options in place might start with a proactive SMS texting solution to reduce inbound care costs while offering convenience.
No matter the route, energy providers should see that multiple channels supported with customer data are vital to maturing CX for utilities. This strategy connects you to your customers. Plus, it creates links in back end systems, including data storage, field and outage management, billing and communication solutions from different vendors.
With that in mind, utilities can shift away from the notion that customers are simply “rate payers” and adopt a customer-first approach to all facets of their business. Then they can meet all three customer demands: who they are, why they’re getting in contact and how they want to be communicated with.
More ways to grow CX for utilities
Recent studies have shown that providing “reliable” service is no longer enough. Customer satisfaction scores from analysts like J.D. Power are significant KPIs for utilities, and that satisfaction is closely tied customer taste — the core of CX.
Utility providers who develop ongoing, personal relationships with their customers will be ahead of the CX curve. Talk to your customers and learn what they want to say and how they want to communicate with you. Exceptional CX doesn’t just make customers happy. With higher satisfaction and increased efficiency, improving CX for utilities is just good business.