The demand for improved customer experience is permeating all industries including the utility industry. For utility companies, however, the cost to connect better with customers is often at odds with the cost to maintain service and demand levels. While many utility companies have yet to enter the “UX” arena, those that have are winning the affections of both their customers and their management.
Most Utilities are Slow to Embrace the ‘Customer Experience’ Opportunity
Until recently, utility customers were a captive crowd; with few options, they were content to pay their bills so long as service remained stable and reliable. These days, however, those same customers are now accustomed to accessing many of their life’s services online, making purchases, coordinating deliveries and managing a myriad of details from the convenience of their digital device. They also enjoy the seamless record of their activities that technology provides automatically, as well as the wealth of ‘Big Data’ it generates and the significant insights that the accompanying analytics programming offers.
Despite the innovations and growing demand, however, utility companies still struggle to develop the specific customer experience process that fits their business model and customer profile. Many find the potential cost of such an upgrade to be prohibitive. A recent survey indicated that customer costs already consume nine percent of non-fuel operating costs, and those have been increasing at an average of six percent over the past ten years. Keeping those costs in check only exacerbates the utility’s challenge to keep up with the times while also keeping up revenues.
Customer Preference Drives the Process
Identifying and implementing a customer experience strategy requires utility managers to consider the values their customers can gain when they can connect digitally to their service provider:
- Some customers will value the enhanced information capacities that keep them tuned into usage data and routine billing cycles.
- Others may want to understand how much of any specific utility service they consume at any given time so they can tailor their consumption to better meet their budget.
- Still others are looking for better control of their services, such as the opportunity to turn on the air conditioning from their smartphone.
For the company, the best customer experience strategy will depend on how the company operates today, its business model, its existing relationship with its customers, and its optimal connection with them in the future.
- Learning from Customers
Today’s utility-facing software provides the tools to both identify and respond to every utility customer’s preferences. Analysis of customer history data offers service providers insights into usage patterns, including customer service calls, complaints, and payment cycles. Correlated weather and community data offer additional insights into the energy and resource demands of whole communities. This growing database facilitates evidence-based decision-making for utility leadership as customers, conditions and the utility markets fluctuate.
- Empowering Customers
That same technology also empowers the customer to customize how they experience their utility service. The emergence of the “smart home’ and the Internet of Things has delivered a whole host of gadgets and devices designed to simplify and streamline how every home functions. By connecting these devices to their utility services, consumers can gain control over virtually every aspect of how they access and consume those resources.
- Communicating with Customers
The sophisticated technology can also dramatically improve customer relations by giving them access to company departments through any media channel. Email, text messages and video phones all provide quick, secure access to their utility company, whether it’s to report a problem or make a service change.
Customers of every industry are using advanced technology to improve both their ability to communicate and their satisfaction with their services. Utilities that invest in that technology can improve both their customer service capacities and their bottom line.
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For additional resources on analytics and utility companies please download white papers: “Analytics: The Customer-Friendly Collections Solution” and “Advanced Analytics Technology Enhances Utility Management.”
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Find out about why building a digital bridge for utilities customers isn’t optional, and industry customer engagement success stories.