How do you know if your utility is giving its customers everything they want? The old answer: you don’t! You simply provide what you have, and they pay for it. The new answer: they tell you because you provide comprehensive customer service options that give them control over managing their utility resources, and you make sure that your improved products and services respond to their requests for innovations, alterations and support.
If you’re not yet totally up to speed on all the elements of the new answer, then maybe it’s time to track your customer’s journey through your entity’s systems. Those utilities that intentionally invest in improving their customer’s interactions with their websites, products and services enjoy higher Returns on Equity investments (RoEs) and higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Gaining Consumer Insights Through Journey Mapping
In most cases, traditional utility company “customer service” practices don’t respond to the ever-more-technical demands of today’s digitally savvy consumer. Accordingly, to remain competitive, utility companies must change how they do business if they want to maintain their share in the increasingly competitive utility markets. Today’s consumers want the same online connectivity and control with their utility services that they receive from almost every other commercial market:
- mobile access to accounts;
- utility-based apps that have a high level of functionality;
- personalized engagement;
- almost instant responses to inquiries (within five minutes, according to McKinsey), and
- customization opportunities so they can manage as much or as little of their utility contract as they wish.
All that digitization is expensive; what value does that transformation offer the utility enterprise? For most, enhanced customer experiences translate directly to higher revenues and reduced costs. The McKinsey report revealed that annual revenues rose ten to fifteen percent as customer satisfaction numbers rose. The digitalization of services also reduced in some cases the time to process consumer concerns from 19 days (using traditional consumer concern processes) to just ten minutes (through the digital portal).
Those companies that scored the highest RoE numbers had invested in learning exactly how and why they could and should improve their customer experience, and they derived those insights through strategic mapping of all their customer’s journeys through their corporate channels.
How do Customer Journey Maps Help?
Think of the customer journey mapping process as an investigation that will reveal both what your customer wants (on several levels) as well as what your services now provide (across all departments). By developing a series of journey maps, each focused on a specific issue or process, you’ll gain insights across your organization about where it’s meeting or failing its customer’s demands. With that information, you can make critical changes based on actual data.
For utilities, the maps are often organized to respond to two different but equal concerns: improving the retail customer experience and clarifying the success of internal product distribution practices. Some examples reveal how utility customer journey maps that track these two concerns can direct corporate activities:
Ensuring a culture of continuous improvement
Toronto Water created 13 customer journey maps to further its commitment to continuous improvement of its customer service capacity. The data it gained drove revisions of both policies and practices and gave customers enhanced controls on the website, as well as expanded their access to work-order processes.
Gaining higher Returns on Equity (RoE)
Regulators are also interested in how well their local utility services are meeting consumer demands, especially those that are intent on improving customer satisfaction, according to a 2015 PwC study. Those entities with customer services ratings in the highest quartile received higher percentages of their requested rate of return than those in the lowest quartile.
Easing access with digital tools
Improved utility/customer relations also emerged from the increasing use of digital technology and the convenience it offers consumers. Texas utility Austin Energy offers an $85 rebate for customers with installed “smart meters” to facilitate their requests for time-based rates and real- or near-real-time consumption data. The utility uses the devices to manage its “PowerSaver” demand response program, which lets the city adjust thermostats during peak times (usually during the 15-day annual average of excess heat days). Further, since 2016, Austin has mandated that all newly constructed homes come with the smart meters installed.
Each of the entities in the above examples used customer journey maps to identify where within their practices and systems they were losing customer confidence and potential revenues. The maps also directed the activities needed to repair those gaps in ways that provided an authentic response to customer needs.
So, how do you know if your utility is giving its customers everything they want? You know because you’ve mapped their various utility-consumer journeys; prioritized their needs and modified your practices to give them the control they want.
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Find out about why building a digital bridge for utilities customers isn’t optional, and industry customer engagement success stories.