Digital CX_ How Utilities Can Exceed Customer Expectations

Digital CX: How Utilities Can Exceed Customer Expectations

Most people don’t expect a good digital customer experience from their utility providers. While leading retailers, insurers, and banks have all put serious resources into digital customer experience (CX) and reaped the rewards, utilities have been slower off the mark.

While a focus on “keeping the water flowing” has historically served utilities well, customers now expect more from every organization with which they interact. The days when a utility could get away with communicating only at billing time or when a payment is overdue are long gone.

That said, utilities shouldn’t view digital customer communication as a chore that needs to be ticked off a checklist, but as an opportunity to build relationships with customers.

Giving Consumers What They Want

Consumers want hyper-personalized interactions and meaningful experiences that align with their lifestyles. Utilities need to provide services and communications that are relevant to each customer, like telling those who are increasingly environmentally aware how they can help reduce the consumption of resources that affect the environment.

Customers also expect to immediately receive the information they need. When a customer has a question, they expect the answer to be available anytime, anywhere. For utilities, this means being able to provide customers with information as soon as they ask for it, or even providing that information before the customer asks.

That’s because today’s consumers not only expect companies to know a lot about them, but they also expect a certain level of anticipation of their needs. Achieving this requires data and analytics tools that can predict the customer’s future behavior and provide the service or information before the customer is even aware of their need.

Using The Data To Your Advantage

Utilities are actually well-positioned to provide this kind of hyper-personalized communication because of their access to such a wealth of data.

Technologies such as smart meters, for instance, could warn customers with immediate communication of any surges in water usage that might be the result of a leak. Doing this before the customer is presented with a massive bill doesn’t only save them money, it will also improve their overall sentiment towards the utility concerned.

Using long-term profiles of their customers, utilities can also provide advice on how to save money by reducing consumption. This is made even easier if the utility happens to know what kind of appliances the customer has, and whether or not they have a swimming pool.

The Right Tech On The Right Channel

In order to ensure that utilities have these capabilities, they need to make use of the right technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), for example, are having a massive impact on the utility space.

AI will not only play a significant role in how utilities manage demand and infrastructure, but it will also help them understand consumer behavior and optimize engagement and communication. AI could be used to create individual offers and services to help utilities retain their most profitable customers, while ML applications could allow utilities to craft rates that maximize their margins while minimizing customer churn.

This kind of hyper-personalized service is most effective when it’s delivered on the channel that customers prefer, whether that is email, text message, app notification, or the customer portal. And channel preference is a moving target as new technologies provide more and more options.

Voice assistants, for instance, are becoming increasingly important. eMarketer.com predicts that 117.7 million Americans will use a voice assistant at least monthly in 2020, an increase of 9.5 percent from the previous year.

Enabling customers to access services via personal assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Home will leapfrog CX expectations. For example, utilities could explore allowing customers to check their bill to date or their account balance by asking Alexa to tell them how much they owe. They could also provide a simple process for customers to pay the amount due via the same channel.

Digital Engagement At Every Step

Whatever technologies utilities adopt, they need to ensure that they consistently engage digitally with their customers, and not just when it’s time for the monthly bill. Importantly, these communications must be relevant, useful, and personal to each individual customer.

By taking this approach, utilities can achieve the kind of CX that players in other industries have benefited from — improving how people perceive them and increasing customer loyalty.

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