The traditional one-size-fits-all customer communication strategy is quickly being abandoned by utilities. There is a growing realization that targeted messaging, through evolving channels, is proving to be more successful.
Utilities are using the various channels to create a stronger customer commitment and ownership, and influence behavioural change with regards to consumption. The success of demand response and smart grid programs is heavily reliant on customer engagement.
Preparing for the next level of engagement
However, there are still utilities that are unprepared when it comes to this level of customer engagement. While the majority of investments are being directed towards technological components such as meters and software, utilities should also take advantage of this transformation as an opportunity to mature their customer engagement capabilities.
Deloitte’s Customer Engagement Maturity Model [Deloitte-Getting Smart Grid customers plugged in -Motivating change through mobile and social technology] identifies five stages towards the development of effective customer engagement:
Developing stage-Customers receive only essential communication via traditional methods. At this stage of development, customers are viewed as an afterthought to a strategy and are only engaged when absolutely necessary. Customers are generally not prepared for imminent changes.
Basic stage-At this point, the utility is beginning to formulate a better customer engagement plan. Internal processes are set to identify change impacts and an engagement strategy begins to form. Training and communications are also integrated into the engagement process.
Progressing stage-Here, the utility formulates a successful and sustainable execution of plans to engage customers. The utility now also identifies its customers as stakeholder groups in any change initiative and activities.
Advanced stage-Customers receive a consistent flow of relevant information and the infrastructure for a two-way communication process is implemented in order to relay critical topics that will have a major impact on customers.
Leading stage-Customer engagement forms part of the utility’s overall strategy for any change event. At this point, formal engagement activities have become second-nature when it comes to pursuing changes.
Using all channels
During the development towards effective customer engagement, it is important for the utility to understand that social media ties in with a wider customer engagement strategy. Social media is not a silo and there should be a consistent approach across all channels, whether in-person, over the phone, using email, webchat, Facebook or Twitter.
Various segments of the targeted population will respond differently to various communication channels. In our article, Utilities: Focus More on Consumer Practices, we discuss the importance of getting to know the customer. Consumers have differing needs and perceptions of things and these should be taken into account when reaching out to the consumer. It is important to know your customers’ needs first. This will help utilities develop a successful and sustainable communication approach-one that customers are sure to respond to since their needs have been put first for a change.