The Utility Customer Experience in 2021

by | Jan 26, 2021

The Utility Customer Experience Has Changed

While the utilities industry has undoubtedly been in a state of transformation over the past decade, the events of 2020 provided an unanticipated change to what customers need and want from their utility provider. This is especially true for utility-customer communication.

Due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic uncertainty, utilities companies had to find ways to interact with customers without being physically present. In addition, utility employees had to adapt to a virtual work environment in order to keep the energy providers running smoothly. 

While massive jumps in unemployment meant utility customers were looking for financial relief from their power providers during a time when they could least afford to have their power turned off. 

Add these roadblocks into an environment where customers now demand more digital engagement from their utilities, more of a role in the power generation market, as well as the influence of new technologies like smart meters and EVs, and the utility industry looks nothing like it did just a few decades ago. 

In this new paradigm in the energy industry, customers are taking a leading role for the first time. Up until now, many customers have been accustomed to a single utility option in their service area and simply accepting whatever programs and services they were offering. However, the utility customer of 2021 is now demanding the type of personalized and modern experience they are accustomed to getting from their bank, an insurance company, and healthcare provider. 

What does this mean for the forward-looking utility company?

The first step for the utility is to determine what their customers want, why these new types of services are important, and how they can best serve customers to fulfill those needs. And for a utility that has immense new responsibilities and considerations, the best solution for keeping customer communications on the leading edge, may just be partnering with experts who know how to unlock this treasure trove of opportunity.

Utility Customers in 2021: What Do They Want?

The customer base for utilities is getting younger, more technologically savvy, and more demanding of their providers. With this backdrop, utility customers in 2021 have different priorities and therefore new expectations in terms of what they want when it comes to information, services, and digital experiences.

Data-Driven, Personalized Digital Experience

Smartphones, smart appliances, and smart voice assistants pervade the average customer’s everyday life in 2021. The well-informed customer is already seeing vendors from online shopping to phone companies tap into the possibilities of these handy digital devices and tools. If their utility is not, then the level of customer satisfaction will surely drop.

Whether that means checking and paying bills via these tools, being able to view live energy usage data on their tablets or computers, or having the utility provide specific advice on programs or purchases they might make based on their specific home data, the possibilities really are only limited by the initiative and creativity of the utility. For utilities that are not yet providing these types of custom experiences for their customers, there are certain starting elements to address. 

Notably, the data that is collected (whether existing data or new data that utilities want to start collecting) must be accurate and robust. Unreliable or spotty data can be worse than no data at all if it results in incorrect decisions. Further, data collection is not necessarily a situation where more is better, despite what an eager utility might think. If the data collected isn’t relevant to empowering the customer, it just creates extra noise, unnecessarily costs, and could see decision-makers paralyzed by too much information.

If data is collected accurately and in line with a well thought out strategy, customers will get the type of relevant communications that are customized to their wants and needs, which will empower them to make better energy and financial decisions, and overall boost their perception of their utility as a partner (rather than just another bill they have to pay)

An Accenture study has found that 33% of consumers across the economy have ended their relationship with a company within a year simply because the experience was not personalized enough.

Note: with all the data available to utilities by default, don’t let that shortfall happen to your organization.  

Seamless Digital Communication Experience

The utility-customer relationship used to be a lot more streamlined and simpler. Customers would receive a monthly bill detailing their energy usage and charges, and then they would submit the payment. If there were questions or issues, they would call the customer service center to get in touch directly. Those options encompassed the entire customer experience.

Today, though, the ways in which a customer can get in touch with their utility have expanded: email, mobile apps, online web portals, customer service chats on utility websites, social media, and more. Considering the availability of all these digital channels, the utility customer in 2021 more than likely wants to pick and choose the most suitable channel and communication method to use, based on their specific requirements, for example:

  • Amid potential service shutoffs due to unpaid bills, customers want the immediacy of a call center or live chat online.
  • When scheduling services, a utility worker may want a written email they can refer back to for confirmation details when a site visit has been scheduled.
  • And every other individual opportunity for connecting with customers may see different preferences, even different from customer to customer. For example 43% of Millennial customers prefer to contact customer service from their mobile device, while 40% of all customers prefer talking to a real human on the phone for more complex issues.

The most customer-friendly utilities will not only make it easy for customers to reach them through this myriad of strategies, but they must also ensure a seamless and uniform communication experience across the different channels. For example, if a customer schedules an appointment on the app, they want to log onto the web portal and see a record of it. If they paid their bill via phone, they want their mobile platform to reflect that. And not only should the content be consistent throughout the digital experience, but so too should the tone, design, and process for all communications.

Despite there being many different departments and voices within one utility, customers expect communication to be consistent across all customer journeys. As 2021 kicks off, seamless communication experiences are more important than ever.

Talk to a utilities customer communication expert. TALK TO US

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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