How Utilities Can Leverage Digital Communications To Build Strong Customer Relationships
Today’s tech-savvy consumers expect their utility to provide a customer experience in line with what they receive in other industries. Unfortunately, the utility sector was not an early adopter of digital technology, which would have helped them meet these evolving consumer expectations.
One reason for this aversion to change is perhaps that there has not been much need for utilities to be concerned about customer experience and retention until now. The lack of competition for utility services in certain areas has resulted in a sense of complacency when it came to customer retention, allowing the utility to focus solely on infrastructure, rather than investing in customer experience.
There are other reasons why utilities are resistant to change. The industry is highly regulated and while this should create a stable playing field, the reality is that renewable energy regulations are constantly shifting. This puts pressure on utilities to keep up, which draws further attention away from improving customer experience.
Now, in addition to the evolution of customer expectations, utilities are feeling threatened by increased competition. This is brought on by new technology entrants and partnerships offering alternative services that reduce customer loyalty and dependency on the utility itself.
While utilities scramble to catch up, there are ways utilities can start adding value to customer relationships via a digital communication strategy.
5 Ways digital communication can improve your utility customer relationships
Print communication will continue to play a vital role in a comprehensive customer communication management plan. The challenge is to advance digitally, without neglecting print and mail requirements and to remain consistent in messaging across channels.
Digital communication offers several unique benefits, to the utility and its customers:
1. REAL-TIME INFORMATION:
Digital communication enables the utility to provide real-time information that empowers consumers to make smart decisions. This is becoming increasingly important in a world of instant gratification, where consumers want information at their fingertips, with the click of a button.
Consumers are more tech-savvy than before and want immediate access to information that can, for example, help them save money and be more efficient. For example, a self-service portal provides instant access and can present customers with all the information they need in real-time.
2. CHANNEL PREFERENCES:
Offering digital communication channels provides the consumer with one of the most important benefits: choice. Consumers expect to be able to select their preferred communication channels and to receive information on the device they choose, in their own time.
3. FASTER DELIVERY:
Digital communication offers quicker turnaround times, meaning the consumer receives critical communications on email, text or via a portal, much faster than print and mail.
Digital communication also offers proof of delivery which is often required in regulated communications. Faster delivery of communications like bills can also speed up payments and reduce days sales outstanding.
4. PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCES:
Digital interaction between a utility and its customers allows for the use of data analytics to assess customer behavior and enhance CX. Data is critically important, as it enables personalization and today’s customers expect utilities to personalize their products, pricing and overall experience.
Not only should communications be personalized, but they should also present the data in a way that is easy to understand and actionable. Present the most important information first and let the customer drill down to the supporting data for detailed usage, time, and comparisons.
5. TWO-WAY DIALOGUE:
Digital communication is an entry point for encouraging customers to engage with a variety of online messaging and web properties.
Once a digital relationship is established, you can direct customers to a particular link or document which contains exactly the right message at the right time.
The digital relationship opens a two-way dialogue that can be leveraged for utility marketing campaigns and operational information. More importantly, it brings you closer to the customer.
Utilities must have a foundational communications strategy that both anchors and synchronizes the customer experience, regardless of channel. To achieve this, they must be agile in response to shifting regulatory requirements, evolving consumer expectations and new digital technologies.
This requires investment in customer experience. Fortunately, research shows that spending on CX is worth it when the results are increased customer lifetime value and customer "stickiness".
At Doxim, we understand the unique requirements of the utility sector and can advise on how to leverage digital communications to build strong customer relationships.
Vice President, Utilities Vertical Lead at Doxim
With over 15 years of experience in providing information technology and services to the utility sector, Erin's expertise extends across project and operations management, as well as sales and account management.
Erin was Director of Customer Solutions at Utilitec, (acquired by Doxim in 2019) having been with the company for 15 years. Prior to that, she worked as a Project Manager at MSX International.