Utilities Must Focus On Improving Digital CX
To survive and succeed in today’s competitive, ever-changing digital landscape, utilities must improve their digital customer experience. And there is no reason why they can’t do so - today’s utilities have more opportunities, better tools and a whole lot of reasons to improve their digital customer experience.
On the one side, customers are demanding a more seamless digital experience in line with what they get from other sectors. On the other side, there is now so much technology available to enable a great digital experience. There really is no justification for a utility to enter the new year without a strong digital transformation strategy, particularly in the realm of digital communications.
A 2018 J.D. Power survey found that utilities are among the “lowest-performing industry groups” when it comes to providing great digital CX. This could be due to the intense focus on “keeping the lights on”. Making sure that services are available and reliable gets prioritized over digital CX.
How should utilities embark on a digital customer experience enhancement strategy?
Digital Customer Communication Journeys
A great way to get started on a strategy for digital CX enhancement is by cataloging the various ways customers interact with the utility. This involves defining each unique customer journey and identifying all of the touchpoints or communication that supports it.
For each customer touchpoint, document the following information: the channel used to communicate, how easy it is for the customer to interact and whether the digital tools needed to fulfill the call-to-action, such as websites, apps, and portals, are helpful, intuitive, and easy to use.
Too often, the bill-to-payment journey is the only regular touchpoint between a utility and its customers. If the bill is the only communication the customer is receiving, you are definitely not paying enough attention to customer experience.
Where this is the case, utility billing and payment becomes an exceedingly critical customer journey, as it’s the only opportunity the utility has to engage the customer. It makes sense to begin with this journey and make it the best experience it can be.
To improve the bill-to-payment journey, you must first understand how customers currently receive and pay their utility bills.
The bill-to-payment journey is a good target to move off paper and go paperless, and a great opportunity to make improvements to the customer experience through digital communication.
Digital Communication Offers Speed and Interactivity
Why should a utility encourage customers to embrace digital channels? The first benefit is the speed at which information can reach customers using digital channels such as email and text.
The second is the flexibility and range of application. For content-rich communications, it makes sense to use the full capabilities of digital communication to provide information in a way that is interactive, dynamic and engaging for the customer. This type of communication is best suited to email or ePresentment.
However, urgent notifications should be sent as short text messages to ensure they are received and read as fast as possible.
Communicate to Promote Engagement
Once the utility billing and payment journey is optimized, the utility should expand to other communications. Customers appreciate receiving useful and timely information outside of those regular, expected communications. For example, offering a text or email alert when there is excessively high usage is valuable to the customer. It also benefits the utility, as an unexpectedly high bill can double the odds that a customer switches energy providers.
There are many opportunities to use digital customer communication to build a strong customer relationship. Here are a few ideas:
- Provide consumption reports by email so customers can see trends and alter their usage to be more efficient.
- Recommend programs to help customers save money, such as incentives for purchasing home energy upgrades, the ability to opt into a higher clean energy mix, or opportunities to participate in new pilot programs.
- Encourage customers to sign up to receive a text or email alerts when there is an emergency or outage.
- Use social media accounts to keep customers up-to-date on topics like energy-saving tips, infrastructure upgrades, and cost-saving programs from the utility.
By embracing the speed and interactivity of digital channels, utilities can be sure to keep digital CX a priority and build processes that meet the expectations of today’s customers.
Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, by way of Washington DC. He studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia before diving into the world of federal energy policy.
Today he runs Chester Energy and Policy LLC and publishes his blog at ChesterEnergyandPolicy.com in which he shares news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy and energy technology. You can also see Matt’s work on energycentral.com where he serves as a Community Manage with a utility industry focus.
Matt is writing a series of guest blogs for Doxim, focusing on paperless billing and digital communication in utilities.
For daily quick hits on energy and utility topics, you can follow him on Twitter at @ChesterEnergy.