utilitiesAccording to Wikipedia, “Utility is usefulness, the ability of something to satisfy needs or wants.” Yet for many utilities sector customers, including those for services like electricity, gas, and water, the wiikipedia definition of the word utility may not be one they’d use in describing their Customer Experience (CX). Too often, the CX for Utilities is complex, disjointed and time-consuming, making it difficult to satisfy customers’ needs.

There is good news! According to the ACSI report for Energy Utilities in 2013, “Customer satisfaction with electric and gas utilities continues to climb, although the pace of improvement has slowed.” From a consumer perspective, a survey from the 2013 Customer Experience Management for Utilities conference (Europe) asked respondents to rank 10 key factors that would impact a customer’s decision to choose or change suppliers. CX was the third highest reason (behind Price and Emergency Handling), and ahead of Reliability of Service.

To overcome customer engagement challenges and improve CX, there are three key areas that Utilities must focus on:

  1. Reduce the complexity
  2. Deliver a multi-channel CX
  3. Make customer engagement easy

Let’s take a closer look!

1. Reduce Complexity

Reducing the complexity is key to delivering great CX. Customers (consumers) are always on a journey with the organization with which they are engaged, and they always have a goal to achieve. These customer journeys can include purchasing, on-boarding, account changes, problem resolution, and service renewal.

These journeys are often even more complicated for Utilities due to the wide variety of services provided and by the business and regulatory environment in which they operate in. To support this, there are typically a large number of customer-facing business processes and business systems to manage, including order entry, fulfillment, maintenance, case management and contact renewal, and spanning ERP, BPM, CRM and CX systems.

In order for Utilities to deliver a great CX, they need to focus on hiding this complexity from their customers. For example, leading companies are proactively keeping customers informed about service delivery, billing and collections, network outages and field service appointments, using text, email and voice messages. They have also design customer interaction processes to leverage both the customer and business context to better manage each interaction.

2. Deliver a Multi-Channel CX

The 2013 Customer Experience Management for Utilities conference survey also asked, “What are your two biggest challenges when trying to engage with consumers in the utilities sector? The number one response was Multi-Channel.

According to research by CEB (The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty), around 58% of calls come from customers who started with a transaction on the Web and 34% are still on the Web while talking to an agent.  These customers are having to call in because they cannot complete their transaction without changing channels.

This need to change channels results in greater customer effort and frustration. In fact, CEB calculated that each channel change reduces the customer’s loyalty by 10%.  As a result, improving web self-service needs to be a focus, but being able to offer assisted service seamlessly in that channel is also vitally important for reducing the customer’s effort. For example:

  • If customers are looking to move Utility suppliers and get stuck with the application process, then offering online assistance will will stop them dropping off and going to a competitor.
  • Ensuring that customers can also get assistance with billing queries, field services appointments or other customer service activities, whichever channel they choose, is also key to ensuring that the CX is less time-consuming for both customer and Utility.

3. Make Customer Engagement Easy

The most important area to address, however, is to make it easy for the customer. Whichever channel they choose to use, even if they change channels part way through an interaction.

CEB found that reducing the customer effort is key to increasing a customer’s loyalty and increasing spend and their likelihood to recommend. Reducing customer effort can be accomplished by ensuring that each agent has the appropriate context about the customer, including current and past interactions, and any outstanding matters, to resolve the issue easily and quickly. It’s critical for this information and context to be:

  • actionable at every touchpoint
  • in every channel
  • in near real time

This will reduce the time that the customers spend dealing with their Utility providers, reducing their effort.

Conclusion

For Utilities, actively managing the customer experience across all channels and, where appropriately, proactively, reduces the effort for consumers. It also improves business outcomes for Utilities, including:

  • reducing the volume of inbound contacts during outages and bill cycles,
  • reducing the number of missed field appointments
  • ensuring that staff do not need to request or search for information that is already known and available.

 

Thanks for reading!

Brendan Dykes

Brendan Dykes

Brendan has over 25 years of experience in the customer service industry, in both business and technical roles. This broad experience has allowed him to see first-hand the importance for both customers and organizations of delivering consistent omnichannel customer experiences....