What do customers want from their electric utility? Great question.
The utility industry is central to daily life, and yet it isn’t probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of customer service.
By the end of 2020, 88% of customers will expect a personalized experience, according to a Walker study. As consumers, we’ve evolved from “the customer is always right” to “I have 24-hour access to everything.”
Customized interfaces are a baseline expectation of consumers.
Take healthcare, for example: We log into a portal to access a dashboard that puts our prescriptions, lab results, and exam schedules at our fingertips.
Our vehicles have apps that allow us to lock the doors, start the car, and schedule service. Interaction expectations are why it’s so crucial for the utility industry to remember that it’s a consumer-facing service.
Customer experience investments: A meter for service and savings
Creating ways for customers to feel more in control is customer service.
Building a scenario that puts the customer in the driver’s seat can be a cost-saving measure for companies. The ability for customers to adjust on the fly, gain insight into ways to go green, save money, or even pay bills falls squarely into the consumer caretaking category.
Customer satisfaction leads to:
- Brand loyalty: The more we feel a brand understands us and cares about our experience, the more connected we become.
- Passionate partnership: The chemistry of satisfaction and confidence leads people to share their stories.
- Increased sales: For utilities that sell more than commodities, and every utility should if allowed, 86% of consumers are willing to spend more for better customer experience.
- Reputation boost: Every positive experience builds the brand’s external foundation, important in an industry that has often come under scrutiny. Happy customers are ambassadors and defenders of the brand.
- Lower expenses: For deregulated geographies, investing in happy customers means less money spent on acquiring new clients.
What do customers want from their electric utility? Lasering in on the cost (value) of personalization
It’s understandable to have that gut check moment of, “Can we really afford to invest in this,” so let’s take a closer look.
Forrester revealed in a study that customers interacting with a live agent could cost between six and twelve dollars. Not cheap; however, an automated interaction via IVR (interactive voice response) can be as inexpensive as 25 cents. A Gallup poll highlights that emotion drives 70% of consumer purchases.
How do you know how to invest and where?
So, what do customers want from their electric utility? Well, if you were the customer, what would you want?
- Information: Access to account details, usage and expenses, outages, proactive alerts and notifications.
- Options: Different ways of accessing information-mobile, desktop, app, chat features.
- Attention: The sensation that my distinct concerns are being addressed.
- Consideration: Paying for services and having the ability to interact with the company, the services, and my investment completes a circle.
Delivering self-service capabilities to customers greatly diminishes the need for a customer service representative. The customer becomes their own representative—a shorter distance to travel between desire and satisfaction.
Building this uninterrupted channel to interact with the utility means that through a simple platform, customers can raise queries that are quickly funnelled, increasing operational efficiency. Beyond that, there’s so much to gain from allowing the customer to self-service.
Understanding the customer is easy when you let them communicate through action.
Utilities can better interpret customer preferences and behavior, thus allowing them to tailor future offerings and to live up to the list of information, options, attention, and consideration. Personalization can be enhanced, the more familiar you get with what customers want.
Building the platform for success
The availability of digital service options for utilities is full of customer-pleasing self-service tools that are web and mobile-friendly.
The use of live chat and search functionality allows customers to get exactly the information they need, exactly when they need it.
In the event of an outage, they can immediately take action, simultaneously providing the utility with information. Investing strategically in access and autonomy for customers allows utilities to strengthen relationships as they streamline processes.
The potential for innovation and customer retention is amplified as utilities shine a light on customer service.