Customer expectation levels are increasing especially as new innovations are being introduced across many industries. The energy industry is certainly not excluded and is having to make a number of changes in order to meet those higher expectations.
In the webinar, Disruptive innovation – The three steps to the customer centric utility and what this means for your business, co-presenter, Amy Marshall, Director, Power & Utilities, KPMG, points to her company’s latest research findings which focus on how to achieve customer excellence. The research is the result of a study across 11 sectors, including the energy sector, in the UK.
The study highlights six pillars of customer excellence as relevant for all sectors. These include personalisation, minimising customer effort, turning negative experiences into positive ones, exceeding customer expectations, engendering trust and creating deep rapport. The report points to customer excellence as being critical to a business’s success.
She stresses that working towards customer excellence takes time and has to form the heart of the organisation in order for it to be a success. There are three phases towards achieving customer excellence and this process can take up to three years-and in some cases even longer, according to the research paper which is expanded upon during the webinar.
Utilities creating trust
Surprisingly for some, KPMG’s research shows that utilities in the UK have seen progress in their customer relationships. The relationship is moving towards a scenario where richer information is flowing between producers and consumers. This has required root and branch re-engineering, that is, a change in cultures and attitudes as well as systems and processes. According to Ms Marshall, the heart of the issue for utilities has largely been the matter of trust.
Utilities’ customer satisfaction levels still low
While brand integrity has improved a great deal, there are signs that the digital experience is not as seamless when compared to other industries, according to the report.
Co-presenter Madhavi Dahanukar, Senior Vice President and Global Business Head, Utilities, EXL Service, points to the UK Customer Satisfaction Index 2015 which shows that while utilities are making rapid strides in improving their customer satisfaction levels, the sector remains at the bottom of the scale when compared to other industries.
The changing industry landscape is adding to utilities’ woes. Ms Dahanukar says that while the sector is grappling with innovative changes in the technology landscape, they also need to keep up with rapid changes on the customer side because the balance of power is shifting towards the consumer.
Three core steps to customer centricity
Traditional operations involved the ‘inside out’ approach towards business processes. This saw customer centricity constrained by organisational and environmental factors. Basically, business processes weren’t functioning together to serve the customers’ needs.
Ms Dahanukar explains that customer centricity cannot be achieved unless it is embedded in a business’ operations and it has to be led by top management so that employees follow. Without this vision being management-led, staff will not buy into it, she adds.
Technology and analytics also form a great part of this move towards customer centricity. Through this, insights into valuable data will help utilities make relevant long-term changes.
She explains how to do this through the use of a Customer Outcomes and REtention (CORE) model, which involves three steps:
1. Designing operations with the customer in mind
The operating model should be designed with the customer at the heart of the operations. The success of this customer centric model relies heavily on the understanding of the customers’ expectations. The idea in this step is to “decompose the voice of the customer” to identify the customers’ moments of truths. These truths and expectations should then be worked into measurable outcomes. Delivery managers should be made responsible for this process which is to identify customer outcomes and to establish the linkage between customer outcomes and process outcomes to drive operational performance. Analytics should be embedded in operations to create a continuous flow of data insights.
2. Taking ownership of customer outcomes
True customer-centricity relies on an organisational culture which is outward, not inwardly focused. The operational structure must support the overall ownership of the customer. A ‘silo’ approach to dealing with customers has to change and as a result, constant coaching and training is required. The flow between various functions during the customer journey must be made seamless and transparent to the customer.
3. Assure outcomes
This step is all about measurement and management because eventually what gets measured gets managed. The aim is to ensure consistent service delivery and this can be done by measuring the effectiveness of end to end processes across customer journeys to assure the right outcomes. The utility needs to work towards meeting customer outcomes and not towards process outcomes. In other words, there is a big difference between a customer receiving a bill and a customer receiving a bill when it is due and it is a bill they can trust. Analytics is again key here.
CORE’s key enablers include analytics, people, technology and processes with the customer remaining central to these.
During the webinar, Ms Dahanukar points to a case study where these steps were followed by a utility and successes achieved. EXL Service was involved in this process.
“While utilities have made and continue to make good progress towards the goal of customer centricity, the shift from good customer service to excellent customer engagement is still for many a shift that must be made,” concludes Ms Marshall.