A Look At The Critical Role Customer Communication Plays In The Utilities Industry
The utilities industry is under pressure to transform digitally. A daunting task for most utility organizations, but undergoing this change is necessary. Not only will it help them become more efficient and agile, but they will also benefit from an improved customer experience, which is critical for success in today’s competitive, dynamic, digital landscape.
Considering all the digital technology and tools available today, there is no justification as to why utilities cannot prioritize digital transformation. Enhancing digital customer communication is a great place to start, so Customer Communications Management in utilities is becoming ever more important.
The articles that follow will give you a clear picture of how critical the shift to digital and specifically digital customer communication is for utilities today.
Our CCM expert, Erin Romo concludes with great advice on how utilities can use digital customer communication to build a strong customer relationship.
Doxim can help enhance your utility organization’s customer communications. CHAT TO A DOXIM CCM EXPERT TODAY
Digital Experience: Why Do Utilities Lag Behind Other Industries (INFOGRAPHIC)
A great infographic by J D Power that compares the utility industry to other industries in terms of digital experience. It is noted that utilities lag other industries when it comes to investments in digital, despite consumer demand and the past year’s events that compelled most industries to speed up their digital transformation efforts.
Here is a summary of the key points highlighted in this infographic (with a focus on utilities):
- Utilities only redesign their digital properties every 5 years
- Utilities’ mobile web experience underperforms other channels
- Many utilities don’t offer mobile apps despite their popularity and benefits
- Assisted digital channels, such as online chat, are not available to utility customers despite becoming the norm
- “20% of utility customers are not able to resolve their problems on the digital channel of their choice”
- Education and communication need to become a priority to help customers make informed decisions based on usage, etc.
Read further to learn more about the state of digital transformation in 2021, more specifically, the seven key trends that have been identified, namely: The rise of on-demand healthcare, the importance of big data in healthcare, treating patients with virtual reality, the growth of wearable medical devices, predictive healthcare, artificial intelligence and blockchain and the promise of better electronic health records.
Critical Role of Customer Connect in Changing Utilities Environment
A two-year digital experience study by J D Power shows that “customer communication has reached its highest point among utilities.”
Utilities today face many challenges, such as, an increase in consumer expectations, old infrastructure, a rise in demand and environmental instability.
It is noted that a focus on the customer relationship is a key determinant in a utility’s future success. It is therefore vital that utilities focus on improving customer satisfaction. Reference is made to a previous JD powers study which shows that “higher levels of customer satisfaction one year prior to a rate case are associated with higher levels of return on equity for a regulated utility.”
We also read that today, to improve customer satisfaction utilities need to invest in digital technology, to align with consumer’s current expectations based on their exposure to such in other industries. Successful utilities are leveraging technology to enhance customer communications and drive self-serve options. It is noted that digital communication channels are preferred for customer communication.
How COVID-19 Is Changing Utility Customer Engagement
It is no wonder utilities have had a weak relationship with their customers. Referring to customers as ‘ratepayers,’ as noted in this article, is a clear indication thereof! However, the pressure is on for utilities to focus on improving customer relationships.
Key factors forcing this change:
- Digital customers have new expectations
- Clean energy regulation presents opportunity or threat
- COVID-19 impact and shifting workforce requires focus on containing and reducing costs
- Newmarket entrants have a narrow lens
The current digital landscape provides utilities with many opportunities to improve their business processes and enhance customer engagement. Specific reference is made to digital transformation in the high-tech sector and how it has led to customer success. It is therefore suggested that utilities apply the ‘success lessons’ from this sector when planning their transformation.
Read the article further to learn more about the ‘five key customer success principles that utilities should borrow.
How customer communications management in utilities can improve customer experience
Often, the bill-to-payment journey is the only regular touchpoint a utility has with its customers. So, it’s vital to begin with this touchpoint and make it the best customer experience possible.
Once the utility billing and payment journey is optimized, the utility should expand to other communications. This could include sending customers useful and timely information outside of the regular, expected communications.
For example, offering a text or email alert when there is excessively high usage is valuable to the customer. It also benefits the utility, as unexpectedly high bills can increase the chances of the customer switching energy providers.
There are many ways utilities can use digital customer communication to build a strong customer relationship.
Here are a few ideas:
- Encourage customers to sign up to receive text or email alerts, so they are kept in the loop when there is an emergency or outage.
- Provide consumption reports by email, so customers can see trends and alter their usage accordingly.
- Recommend programs to help customers save money, such as incentives for purchasing home energy upgrades.
- Use social media accounts to keep customers up to date on topics like energy-saving tips, infrastructure upgrades, and cost-saving programs from the utility.
The speed and interactivity of digital channels gives utilities the opportunity to significantly improve customer engagement and customer experience.