“The customer is always right” is a mantra that can be clearly witnessed in services industries like hospitality, sales, or entertainment. When looking through the lens of fields like utilities – more specifically regulated utilities – turning this thought into practice can be a lot more difficult. This challenge was even further highlighted by the recent winter storm in Texas.
When framed properly, the answer comes into focus: with limited differentiation among competitors due to product quality, and prices being relatively comparable, companies have one way to separate themselves – the customer experience they can provide over the competition.
There’s a direct and proven correlation between the level of customer engagement and business profitability, and an exceptional relationship with the customer base is the perfect vehicle to increase engagement. The customer experience in the utilities industry is key to the latter.
Introducing Tools to Boost the Customer Experience
Should a company with a guaranteed customer base spend significant time and effort proactively interacting with its customers? Answering this question is key, especially since everyone is guaranteed to be an active utilities customer. Let’s focus on regulated utilities a little bit more: the easy answer is that since regulatory bodies function on behalf of the consumer, it becomes vital to engage with customers to drive good reports back to governing groups.
By leveraging the correct tools, regulated companies can more easily facilitate these relationships with minimal investment. However, by failing to engage their customers through quality service and a foundational customer relationship, these same governing bodies can force utilities to rectify complaints.
As utilities companies have sought more fulfilling customer relationships, we’ve successfully helped in bringing to life these more advanced technologies. Here are some lessons learned we’ve uncovered by implementing these tools:
Prioritize External Facing Media: A variety of print and virtual media provides a great broadcast medium and first contact point for most customers. This channel is key by funneling in a new user base and showing customers what your company is all about. After distributing your print media, having an expansive website should provide quality content for users to spend time learning more. Ensure that the website showcases branding, links to other channels (mobile app, customer portal, etc.), and continues to draw customers in for a deeper engagement.
Maximize Efficiencies Through IVR: A touchtone or voice activated phone system will be the go-to way to address widespread concerns quickly. Low wait times and consistently correct answers will bolster confidence from customers, and therefore company perception. This should be the second focus, right after website and print media, since it will free up agents to more appropriately address difficult customer issues. Many off-the-shelf IVR solutions exist, so research and institute the one that best fits your company.
Expand With a Customer Portal: This channel is primarily functional, allowing the user to quickly interact with your company and make requests. The experience should be efficient, intuitive to use, transparent, secure, and designed well to engage the customer. A successful portal can be gauged by a high volume of engagement, but a low time spent in use by each user. The portal can be an offshoot of your primary website, with the sole purpose of addressing requests normally handled by live call agents. Combined with IVR, the self-service aspect of a customer portal will eliminate customer wait times and raise satisfaction.
Differentiate Using Mobile Apps: Utilizing phone real estate will be the most complicated of the channels to implement, but also introduces the largest opportunity to create separation from the competition. A mobile app should bring the most important functionalities from each channel right to the customers fingertips. Engaging with customers on their phones is vital and having a quality mobile app provides a one-stop shop for all routine user needs. Even though this channel will feel like a duplication of many other functionalities, that is a primary goal. Customers like convenience, and a smartphone is something they already use throughout the day; by providing your information and services to a location they already frequent, your customers will be thanking you for coming to them instead of forcing them to come to you. Due to the complex nature of developing a mobile app, ensure a robust implementation team is engaged throughout the project for an optimal customer base engagement.
Some of these tools might be completely new to your company, so it’s highly recommended to craft a complete customer experience roadmap before immediate implementation. By carefully planning the target audience and goals of each channel, you can ensure your entire customer base is covered with no demographic gaps remaining. After that, implementing the tools, with the help of trusted partners, will help you boost your customer experience and continue to differentiate your company in the utility space.