Many customers had no choice but to move onto digital channels in 2020. Discover 5 ways to help customers embrace digital communication in utilities



What Utilities Can Do To Keep Them There

Utility Customers Had No Choice But To Move Onto Digital Communication

Utility customers are receiving high standards of digital services from other service providers, so it’s understandable that they expect the same from their utility. But “going digital” and feeling comfortable using digital channels to interact with a utility, are not the same thing.

The key to helping people embrace digital communication in utilities is providing a seamless customer experience no matter which channel the customer opts to use at any given time.

Many customers had no choice but to move onto digital channels in 2020, and it’s in the interests of the utility to make sure they are comfortable enough to choose to stay there. An increased focus on education and consistent support of new users will go a long way to encouraging customers to stick with digital communication.

Having said that, it should not be difficult or frustrating for a customer to opt to go back to physical channels or to print and mail services.

The key to success is allowing the customer to interact via their preferred channel at any point in time.

Here are 5 ways to help customers embrace digital communication in utilities:

1. Remove friction from the customer journey

A digital transformation strategy needs to be designed from the customer’s point of view. When the transformation is based on what’s possible, instead of what’s required by the customer - you end up with bits and pieces of processes on different channels.

This introduces friction to the customer experience. For example, many providers have gone paperless for utility billing, however, they still send paper-based collections notices. This inconsistency exists within a single customer journey (bill to payment).

In addition to the inconsistency in the channel, too often the tone and style of documents and communications differ from one to the other.  Aim to create consistency in both channel and tone/style within a customer journey.

2. Leverage digital to record customer behavior and engagement

One of the best things about digital communication is the rich data it generates. But that data is only useful if it can be analyzed correctly and accessed by other systems in the communication process. To really maximize on the reporting and analytics from digital communication, you need to understand how and when your customers engage, then use this information to improve future communications.

It is also important to link engagement data to the customer’s profile data. The marriage of different data sources gives rich content and can drive further engagement or even purchases. For example,  knowing that a customer has an interest in conservation would be an advantage when selling a  product that conserves water/energy. Together, activity data and profile information provide insight into what kind of messaging each person should receive.

3. Ask customers how they prefer to interact and record those preferences

Customers expect their utility to communicate with them via the channels they prefer. Understanding a customer’s digital preferences and preferred channel of communication for a particular message is a vital part of improving the customer experience.

Once you know which communication channels you have available, the next step is to ask your customers how they prefer to interact and record that information. The more granular your preference data, the more you can customize each communication to what that customer wants.

4. Apply data-driven personalization to send the right message at the right time

When it comes to building strong relationships, it’s important that you speak to customers as individuals. Ensure all messages to your customer are personalized, relevant and well-timed.

Communications such as critical service messages or outage notifications must be highly personalized so that the customer is able to quickly understand the message and act accordingly.

The urgency of the communication should dictate the level of content, which helps to determine which channel is most appropriate. For example, an outage notification is best communicated via a short text message, whereas monthly utility billing contains a lot of information, making it more suited to delivery by email or presentation on the customer portal.

Each time a customer receives a message that speaks to them personally, you are adding value and improving their overall perception of the organization.

5. Review communications at least once a year

As a means to remove friction from each customer communication journey, it’s advisable to review all of your customer communications at least once annually. As part of this audit, you need to check the relevance, tone, and style of each message.

Also, ask yourself if the communication still fulfills its purpose. This is especially important for triggered communications that automatically send messages, following an event, on a significant date or when approaching a limit. It’s all too easy to “set and forget” these communications, which can quickly become out of sync with other messaging.

Also, consider ways to improve each customer touchpoint. As technology evolves, there are more opportunities and methods to interact and communicate. Enhancing your messages will not only increase customer engagement but also improve the overall customer experience.

To recap, utilities need to be aware of customer expectations when it comes to receiving the same seamless experiences they receive from other service providers.

While utilities are less likely to lose customers in the short-term because they don’t cater to these expectations, they have much to gain. Consistent communication, relevant information and personalized messaging will build loyal and more profitable customers.

We can help you meet your utility customers’ expectations through consistent, relevant and personalized messaging

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Mia Papanicolaou

General Manager at Aspire CCS

Mia heads up Aspire CCS in the US, working with companies to provide strategy and advice and is a regular speaker on digital customer communication, digital maturity and improving the customer experience.

Mia has been named as an email marketing influencer multiple times and is passionate about helping organizations improve their digital communication maturity.

Prior to joining Aspire CCS, she worked at Striata for 15 years in South Africa, the UK and then settled in the US as the COO of the company, after which she headed up consulting at Doxim Striata.