An Agile Approach to Customer Communication in Utilities During Times of Crisis

by | Jan 21, 2021

CX Expert Speaks To Doxim On How Utility Communications Transformed During The Pandemic

Doxim recently chatted to Douwe Busschops, a Director of Customer Experience in the utility industry about how customer communication in utilities changed during the pandemic.

Doxim:  As a customer experience expert in the utility sector, we wanted to get your take on how utility communications shifted through the pandemic. What are your thoughts on how utilities continued to service customers through the disruption and how your utility changed its communications approach? 

Douwe BusschopsDouwe: Yes, it has been quite a whirlwind. Of course, the primary focus was to ensure the continuation of services to the communities we serve. Water is an essential service and the pandemic meant an extra emphasis on washing hands and cleaning. We needed to reassure customers that water would flow and there would be no shutoffs.

We also had to make a lot of changes such as stop face to face services, like inspections and meter changes, which usually take place at customer homes. This had a massive implication in terms of educating customers on what these changes meant.

We also had to transition our call center so that customer service agents could work from home.  

Doxim: The fact that utilities are always ready for the next snowstorm or hurricane – do you think this helped you deal with the transition? And how did you manage to get all your customer service people working from home so quickly? 

Douwe BusschopsDouwe: As the implications of the pandemic became clearer, we had to rapidly move our customer service teams to work from home. Many utilities were prepared for remote working based on their business continuity plans in place for natural disasters. But this crisis is different. 

Our technology investment in cloud computing helped a lot. Fortunately, we had already invested in a cloud-based system, so we could do this quickly. For a call center still running on hard phones, it would have been impossible to move fast enough. We are proud of how seamless the transition was – we have over 100 agents now supplying services from their kitchen counters or living rooms.  

Doxim: You should be proud. When you look at other industries like banking and insurance, they struggled to make the change to WFH. You mentioned communication. Have you seen a shift in the communication to your customers during this period?

Douwe Busschops

Douwe: In the beginning, there was a massive need for information and reassurance. No one knew what was going on and what would happen. We were working out what to communicate on a day-to-day basis. For example, water is critical for cleaning and hygiene. We had to tell our consumers that COVID could not spread via water and the product is safe.  

Some of the communities we service went into severe lockdown. We still had to maintain the critical infrastructure which meant field crews had to go out to do maintenance work. They faced some backlash from the public and we had to educate them that these workers were doing critical work.  

Many of our customers lost their ability to pay their bills. Part of our early messaging included recognizing this and removing some of the collections processes that were used pre-COVID. We wanted customers to know that we would not turn their water off.  

Doxim: What do you think is appropriate for the next phase of communication? 

Douwe Busschops

Douwe: I think other industries could actually learn something from how utilities managed communication through the crisis. Usually, it’s the other way round, with utilities catching up to banks and other providers when it comes to CX.  

The crisis has and will continue to act as an accelerator. Trends that we were already seeing will accelerate. Personalized services, targeted communication, making sure messages are relevant to individual situations.  

Previously messaging was very broadcast focused – one message to all consumer households. We are already seeing a shift in this – the desire to offer more tailored messaging – helping customers with solutions that are relevant to them. The utility industry will continue to focus on supporting low-income customers. Making sure we offer solutions that support them. 

Thank you to Douwe for his time and insight into communication in the utility sector.  

Keen to discuss how Doxim can help enhance your utility organization’s customer communications? CHAT TO US

3. Expansion of digital products

As banking customer behavior shifts, banks must move with the times, or risk getting left behind. Many banks today are exploring the power and potential of open banking, which can allow them to offer more innovative products and services to their customers, as well as to better compete with fintech companies and other non-traditional financial service providers.

As you shift your banking business model to reach new segments or provide an enhanced array of services, communication becomes even more pivotal to your success. After all, if your customers don’t know which new services they qualify for, or how those services will help them meet their goals, then they are unlikely to explore them further. CCM technology can be leveraged here to provide personalized on-statement messaging that directs customers to the right products and services, as well as 1:1 personalized “explainer” videos to help them get started.

Adjusting your bank’s priorities to thrive in 2023

In an era of constant change, the key to successfully transforming your bank’s business model will be to stay attuned to the changing needs and preferences of customers, and to be open to exploring new opportunities and technologies that can help your FI stay competitive and relevant. But these new opportunities are doomed to fail if you do not clearly communicate their benefits and make it simple for customers to access them.

That is why transforming your customer communication strategy is the best first step to broader digital transformation. By updating your approach to communications to meet omnichannel customer needs, you also position your bank to communicate the benefits of changes in your broader organization, like new or enhanced products and services. The pace of change in banking has never been brisker – but with the right strategic approach to these changes, the future is bright.

Investing in a modern customer communication management and engagement platform is an essential part modernizing your banking strategy, as it can provide the personalized digital experiences that will keep your bank or credit union ahead of the competition. It helps provide a great customer experience, and builds rich relationships, which in turn results in customers for life and a competitive advantage in the rapidly evolving financial marketplace.

How Doxim can address the banking customer communications trends identified and help future-proof your digital banking strategy

banking customer communications trends

Doxim’s experienced consultants and omnichannel platform can help transform your customer experience in many ways, including:

  • Gathering and utilizing customer data to continually improve the personalization of communications.
  • Building trust with customers via communication (via print, PDF, HTML, email, text, and online interactive experiences).
  • Leveraging interactive video to drive personalized digital customer experiences, such as interactive statements, bills, or reports, that offer visual engagement and real-time interactivity
  • Putting customer data, including customer statements, at the fingertips of your service representatives for immediate and personal service.
  • Making a meaningful connection with value-added content, like information about philanthropic activities, on customer statements.

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