Customer relationship is one of the key parameters of success for any organization. It is a two-way process between a company and its customers. In a relationship, if one party is changing the perception drastically, then others should also change to maintain the equation. The last few years have seen changing expectations in the utilities customer segment ranging from personalized digital notifications, energy-saving ideas, to omnichannel communication. The eco-friendly customer also wants to take control of their energy usage and has ideas for maximizing their usage of green energy.
On top of this, emerging business models such as EV charging, Distributed Energy Resource (DERs), microgrids, and connected homes etc., are forcing utilities to offer innovative solutions and experience to drive millennial customer satisfaction.
Steps for utilities to enhance their relationship with customers in the next one to three years
Utilities now understand the customers’ expectations, but they have to change their attitude of considering consumers as ‘bill payers’. Here are a few areas for utilities to concentrate and align strategies for acquiring customers:
- Deep-dive analysis of customer journeys: Utilities must examine all customer journeys where the customer satisfaction index is not great. Most of them fail on billing and payment areas where they receive most of the calls as the end customer (90%) does not understand kWh or other energy units. The utilities should represent electricity bills in such a way that they can correlate easily. This is just one of the pointers to improve customer service and the entire journey should be looked holistically to improve the customer relationship.
- Omnichannel experience: In the digital era, where most of the customers are using mobiles, tablets, and social media, they want the utilities to make full use of these technologies for customer service and interactions. Often, the utilities fail to integrate their customer journeys with their multi-channel communications such as self-service portals and websites, etc. These technologies must be tightly integrated with the customer journey to make the omnichannel experience seamless for customers.
- Data-driven enterprise: With the advent of new technologies such as smart meters and sensors, utilities have an exposure to huge amounts of data. But most of them do not make full use of this customer data. If they have to emerge as a brand for customers, they should transform themselves to data-driven organizations where predictive and prescriptive insights will be derived by using advanced analytics. This will help utilities transform their customer engagement model and provide them an opportunity to integrate their processes and channels for generating near real-time insights and informed decision-making.
- Personalized marketing: Gone are those days where you can send your offers to every customer. Now customers are expecting personalized marketing offers based on their consumption and usage patterns. Utilities which will make full use of the data to understand and offer per their customer needs have more chances to retain them.
- Intelligent and interactive chatbot: High Average Handling Time (AHT) is one of the biggest challenges that every utility faces, and without using technology, they can’t improve the same. The IVR solution has provided some respite to them, but customers still have to wait in the queue to connect with the agent for the queries where IVR is not much helpful. To tackle this situation, utilities must make use of intelligent, conversant, artificial intelligence-based chatbots i.e. virtual agents based on machine and deep learning algorithms. These virtual agents should be able to answer most of the customer calls and can operate 24*7 without any human errors. The success of these bots will depend upon the training data, so utilities must make full use of their front-office resolution data.
Utilities must include the above steps for an effective and efficient customer engagement strategy. The company which will have a robust customer engagement strategy, and execute it well, will survive and thrive in a future of a complex energy ecosystem.