Leverage the Utility Bill to Improve Utility Customer Communication & Customer Engagement

by | May 3, 2021

How To Improve Engagement With Customers In The One Place They Are Paying Attention – The Utility Bill

The utility bill may seem like a strange thing for customer engagement professionals to get excited about, but it is the one place you can be sure to grab the attention of the utility customer. The monthly bill can either be seen as a necessary evil that is unwelcome and frustrating for customers, or it can be an informative utility customer communication that also provides a relationship-building experience.

Utilities that fail to leverage the monthly utility bill to build customer engagement and provide relevant and useful information, are missing a valuable opportunity, as they can also benefit from the results.

Here are 5 ways in which the utility bill can be used to provide a great customer experience that drives engagement and loyalty – ultimately improving the relationship between utility and consumer:

1. The bill as an anchor for your utility customer communication

For many utility customers, the monthly bill is the only regular communication they receive. There may be other adhoc messaging, but the communication relationship is centered on the bill.

This is an ideal opportunity to set the bar for what the consumer can expect to receive and how the communications will look.

To position the bill as the anchor of your utility customer communication, it must be accurate, easy to understand, relevant to the individual/household, and provide useful information.

2. The bill as a catalyst for faster payments

Bills that are difficult to understand don’t get paid as quickly as those that are clear and consistent. Past due payments are stressful for both parties. If the consumer doesn’t trust the bill and must spend time ratifying what they owe, they may not pay on time.

The utility must also follow up on overdue payments, which is a costly and time-consuming process.

Providing a bill that shows the essential information upfront, such as the total usage, amount due and payment due date, reduces frustration on the consumer’s side, and is also likely to result in faster payment.

3. The bill as a means to share targeted information about energy efficiency

When customers are viewing a bill, their household expenditure is top of mind. This makes the bill an ideal place to provide targeted energy efficiency information to help the consumer manage their usage.

Including data such as highest and lowest usage periods will help residents understand time-of-use principles, how they can manage their own energy consumption and ways to save money through efficiencies in the home. For example, educate the customer on how many gallons of water they use when they shower and do laundry to reduce their water bill. Likewise, pointing out how much electricity is used by a lightbulb, the TV and the washing machine, can assist to manage the electricity bill.

This information is easily understood if the bill includes a visual representation of how much was generated, used, and sold for the month.

4. The bill as a way to promote emerging technologies and green initiatives

Consumers tend to open and read their utility bills, so, unless the bill is causing frustration or confusion, it can be used to promote emerging technologies (such as solar energy) that may benefit the customer.

For customers already using these resources, the monthly bill is a terrific opportunity to show how much energy they are saving as well as feeding back to the grid.

5. The bill as a driver of a positive public image

Whether the bill is the cornerstone of a utility customer communication strategy, or the only regular communication customers receive, it can still be either a positive or a negative experience for the customer.

When monthly bills are not accurate, readable, and friendly, the customer experience is a negative one, which can tarnish the utility’s public image.

By contrast, when the monthly bill is clear, easy to consume and provides all the information needed, it creates a positive experience. Utilities need to build this goodwill with customers, as it will help gain their understanding in difficult times, such as outages or rate increases.

The negative effects of bad utility bills 

In the age of instant information via social media, the impact of sending a bad utility bill or wrong billing information can be very damaging to a utility’s reputation. The public and media are quick to point out a problem, and hardly ever give the same level of attention or exposure to how well the utility handles it. Even once the issue is resolved, evidence of the error remains available online forever, and seldom is information about the resolution appended. 

Billing errors degrade the trust relationship with customers. If the utility can allow the wrong bill information to go out to customers, what other mistakes are being made? 

Sending bad bills causes issues for customers and utilities alike and getting to the bottom of billing exceptions requires specialist skills. Not every utility has the expertise, tools, and time necessary to really minimize errors. 

Read more about the Reputational Damage of Bad Utility Bills 

Based on the above, it seems the monthly utility bill is a critical utility customer communication and worthy of both excitement and attention to detail.

It is the one connection point that reaches all customers, and it offers a valuable opportunity to reach out, share information and engage with customers.  However, the bill can only become a valuable touchpoint if customers trust the information it contains.

Download The Playbook: 5 Risks Utilities Can’t afford To Ignore In 2021 

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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