Understanding The Future Of Utility Communications Is A Top Priority For Forward-thinking Utility Leaders
There is a customer experience (CX) revolution underway, and it extends across all industries, geographies and demographics. Customers everywhere are growing accustomed to levels of personalization, convenience and communication that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, and they expect their utilities to meet these standards as well.
To succeed in the future, utility leaders must encourage a change in mindset from a primary focus on infrastructure and technology to a more customer-centric approach. Investments made in improving the utility’s ability to manage and enhance CX will pay off in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
One of the major drivers of great utility customer experience is how a utility presents and delivers billing information to their customers. Customers interact with their utilities most often through their bill and other transactional documents, making customer communication management in utilities, or CCM, an integral part of a CX strategy.
Understanding the future of utility communications is, therefore, a top priority for forward-thinking utility leaders.
For Utility Customer Communications Management, the Future is Omnichannel, Secure and Hyper-Personalized
The future of Customer Communications Management in utilities, will include a blend of print and digital channels for services and communication.
Skills in data systems and analysis will be in high demand, as utilities rely more and more on customer data to create personalized experiences and communications for each individual customer or household.
In addition, to meet both regulatory obligations and data privacy requirements, utilities will have a strong focus on data security and ensuring the privacy of personal information.
Trends That Will Impact the Future of the Utility Industry
Along with a broader focus on data driven CX, the utility industry will also be affected by several more granular trends, which are already influencing forward-looking utilities in their choices for CCM technology.
Consider the following trends, their impact on utilities and consumers and how this impacts technology choices:
1. Growing use of alternative/green energy sources
Green trends in transportation and energy will continue to accelerate as the decade progresses. Electric utilities can support their customers and communities by not only fulfilling their strategic role of energy providers and facilitators of the alternative energy marketplaces or exchange, but through education and information to help consumers adapt to change.
2. Increased penetration of smart home/smart devices/IoT
As smart devices become mainstream, consumers will expect more information on the potential savings and next steps for them to continue to reduce their utility bill amount.
Utilities would benefit from participating in this communication ecosystem and adding intelligence around smart device usage into their datasets.
3. Higher demand for communications agility
Communications regulations require that utilities provide certain important information, like outage and maintenance details, to consumers in extremely short timeframes. Being able to provide information in short order is also best practice for the general security and wellbeing of utility customers.
When selecting a technology partner, utilities will look for reliability, uptime and ad-hoc communication capabilities. Utilities will need a CCM platform that allows them to push out notifications and alerts quickly and at scale, especially in the event of extreme weather events.
4. Accelerated innovation in energy conservation
As growing economies and populations drive an increased demand for energy, water, and other resources, utilities will continue investing in energy efficiency programs and support for their communities. For consumers, this creates a need for more information about energy-saving. Utilities must meet this need by communicating effectively and with smart use of data.
In this context, the customer communications management and customer experience technology platforms of choice should be able to handle communications at scale. All security measures should also be in place and be open to connect to new data sources as they emerge.
5. Utility bills evolve into hyper-personalized customer engagement touchpoints
To be both customer-centric and responsive, utilities will engage with customer focus groups to co-design their bills and other communications based on changing needs. Information on the bill will be easy to consume, removing complexities and providing key information about usage and amounts due upfront. At the same time, personalized messaging on the bill will encourage customers to make behavioral changes (like reducing consumption during expensive peak hours) that benefit both the utility and themselves.
Bills and other communications will be highly personalized, with information that is useful and relevant to each customer and supports decision making. The utility will be able to effectively market additional services that benefit the consumer via inserts on the printed or digital bill.
Bills will be available via several channels (both print and digital), enabling the customer to choose their preferred channel and to seamlessly swap between channels. Regardless of the selected delivery channel, bills will be compliant with AODA accessibility regulations.
Making a payment will be a clear and simple process for the customer, and utilities will offer easy ways to pay the amount due through multiple convenient payment channels. This will have a positive effect on Days Sales Outstanding.
Balancing ROI While Transforming Your Utility
The key environmental and consumer trends listed above will put additional financial pressure on utilities, but they will also offer substantial opportunities for operational savings.
For ongoing success and ability to innovate, utilities should work closely with their CCM technology providers to estimate and achieve their target ROI. This will require the parties to monitor progress through KPIs, such as:
- Increased adoption of electronic billing
- Reduction in call center volumes
- Changes in time to pay with the implementation of new payment options
- Better communication strategies to payers
With the right CCM technology stack in place, and a communications strategy that prioritizes CX and innovation, forward-thinking utilities will be poised to meet the evolving needs of their customers.