Customer interactions with the utility have always been largely transactional and initiated by customers for billing and service management needs. But, with the industry becoming increasingly competitive and customer needs growing in complexity, utilities recognise that the billing and service experience could actually be a tool to engage better with today’s customer.
Digital engagement: creating a sustainable engagement
Utilities are already adopting digital engagement techniques to achieve a more sustainable relationship with the customer, thereby creating value for both parties.
Real-time notifications for service updates around general maintenance and especially outages, as well as alerts to potential high bills, can help reduce the volume of calls to the utility’s call centre, not to mention the level of complaints which eventually lead to switching utilities.
These regular updates can certainly go a long way to unnecessary conflict and can only enhance the utility-customer relationship.
Multi channel digital platforms-the right mix
While it’s true that mobile and cloud technologies are enabling utilities to deliver services using real-time communication with their customers, it’s also important that the right message is delivered to the right customer at the appropriate time. This is where Customer Engagement Platforms are critical to the success of multi-channel engagement.
Other industries such as retail, banking and social media have enjoyed the successes attained from these platforms as customers react positively to the personalised and highly tailored engagement approach that is created for each customer, enhancing customer sentiment.
An engaged and informed customer can help utilities drive value through operational cost savings but only the appropriate mix of multi channel digital platforms will help utilities draw the right balance during active engagement whilst reducing contact and outreach costs. These platforms can include various smartphone applications, internet sites and email.
Smartphones are proving to be particularly popular since they are mobile and offer customers greater flexibility and convenience. Utilities are are already exploring or deploying smartphone applications for residential consumers to check and pay balances. There are several good reasons to offer ease of access solutions: younger bill payers want mobile convenience to suit their lifestyles. Not everyone is in front of a PC all day but generally speaking, most use their mobile phones to complete a number of tasks on the move.
An engaged customer is a happy customer
Customers who are not engaged are generally less satisfied with their service provider andthey are often unaware of or not accepting of new initiatives like rate increases or smart meter deployment. This can lead to lower operating margins for the utility.
It is clear then that utilities should develop the appropriate channels to create a more sustainable and ongoing engagement so as to meet operational and customer relationship goals.
Using the right multi-channel engagement approach and digital platforms for real-time communications, utilities are seeing substantial improvements in customer satisfaction and operational savings.
There is no doubt that the use of mobility is paramount here. As an increasing number of consumers embrace the digital mobile shift, businesses are forced to change the way they conduct business. Failure to do so could leave businesses obsolete.
Customers only spend a few minutes a year interacting with their service provider, unless it involves service updates or billing, so to improve engagement, utilities have to transform from being a demand services provider to a managed services provider. To stay ahead, they have to adopt technologies like cloud-based software, big data analytics, mobility platforms and Internet of Things. These platforms enable utilities to analyse large quantities of data from smart meters, smart grid, customer engagement platforms, etc. This stream of data gives utilities more insight into their customers’ demographics and consumption patterns. This data, in turn, can also help utilities to educate and motivate customers about responsible electricity usage. This insight helps utilities to create targeted marketing campaigns which provide the tangible results they need to remain viable in a highly complex and competitive industry.
Personalised outreach is key
As utilities work on expanding their programmes, mobile and Internet channels can be used to educate and support customers on a wide variety of initiatives. For instance, customers will gain greater insight into their consumption with self service options. Through these channels, customers can use real time data to manage their consumption better and even participate in programmes that will support a higher level of energy efficiency.
Since everyone’s consumption needs differ, gone are the days where one-size-fits-all mailers should be sent out. With today’s modern technology, there is no excuse either as these offer highly personalised communications through digital channels.
Marketing is made even more effective by segmenting customers based on customer data. Digital technology can send out personalised messages that will resonate with their individual needs, creating more relevancy and improving engagement.
Another plus is that digital engagement can be scaled to reach millions of customers with personalised messages at little cost when compared to traditional methods.
Proactive digital engagement reduces costs
Digital customer engagement can save utilities when it comes to cost to serve. The reason for this is because engaged customers prefer self-service tools. It gives them more control over their energy consumption, thereby enabling them to reduce their carbon footprint through reduced usage. Customers are likely to be more responsive to programmes and service signals if prompted to do so.
Not only is digital engagement increasing the adoption of paperless billing and reducing late or non-payments, it is also improving call centre efficiency. Because of the self help capability on digital channels, the calls have decreased. Not only is this saving the utility money, it is also proving to be beneficial for the customer from a time saving and cost saving perspective. The same can be said for electronic bill payments which save the utility from sending out paper bills. With digital technology, reminders can be set, thereby improving payment discipline and enhancing the general billing experience.
Digital mobility and associated platforms are opening doors for utilities when it comes to improving engagement with their customers, thereby enabling the sector to move forward from traditional business practises to a digital offering that today’s customers are after.