Changing Your Utilities Business for Customer-Centricity

More so than ever before, each-and-every industry is going through its own pretty fundamental change. Don’t worry though, change can be a very good thing.

So, what does this mean for utilities? It really doesn’t matter if you are in a de-regulated or regulated market, we all need to remember one thing – the consumer is now in charge. This is the undeniable change that has already happened. We need to not only understand this concept, but rally around it.

Back in the day it used to be about location, location, location. This has completely changed. In fact, today’s connected consumer has higher expectations than ever before. So, it’s all about experience, experience, experience.

For utilities to respond to these major changes in many cases will take a major culture shift. Why is this? Well, think about your organization:

Q – Do you have a web team? A – Check
Q – A mobile team? A – Yup
Q – A contact center team? A – For sure
Q – Do these teams talk to one another? A – When someone makes us we do, but our digital teams do sit near each other.
Q – Are the success metrics of each team based on corporate goals and objectives? Or, are they based on consumer objectives? A – Hmmm – why are you making me feel uncomfortable?

Another major change has been the essential need for utilities to start thinking through the lens of your consumer. Do consumers think in terms of channels? No. They expect seamless/frictionless cross-channel experiences. They simply want to do what they want to do as easily as possible, they expect to be treated like a human being not a number and lastly, they expect you to understand their needs and help them.

Let’s think about a couple of specific examples for utility companies:

  1. Bill shock. You send out a bill (probably an e-bill) to a consumer. They click on the link in the email and are surprised at the amount. They look around at usage and comparisons and still can’t figure out why the bill is so high. What do they do next? They look for an 800 number and call the call center. The CSR picks up the phone – after getting some account info from the IVR – and what’s the first thing your consumer is asked? ‘Why are you calling today?’ What an awful experience. Wouldn’t it be better if your CSR was equipped with information about that consumers recent journey and answered the phone like, ‘Hi Mr Joyce, it looks like you’ve received your first bill and might have some questions…” Better yet, what if you had the ability to understand the signals that this consumer was sending and helped guide them thru their first bill digitally? In either case, you are delivering a better experience; in the later example, you are helping drive consumers to self-serve channels. And oh by the way, you might also be lowering costs in the contact center by immediately enabling the CSR to have an incredibly relevant and real-time conversation with your most precious asset – your customer.
  2. Reporting an outage. How many calls do you get a week/month/year to report an outage. What if you could send a proactive notice – via email or SMS – notifying your customers about a storm and walking them thru digital notifications. How many calls could you avoid? What if a consumer was sending a signal via the website, mobile site or app that they were looking to report an outage and you were able to send them with a proactive and intent-drive notification – ‘looking to report an outage, click here.’ You need to understand their intent and provide the right sort of messaging to guide them thru their own individual journey.

Remember when we did not have to worry about comparisons? That’s all changed. In order to maintain CSAT, NPS and JD Power scores, comparisons are the name of the game. In fact, we have to compare ourselves outside our industry. Why? Simple. Our customers are doing so. When a customer comes to pay a bill, report an outage or request a service move, they are not comparing you to other utilities; they are comparing you to their most recent experiences with any other brand. So, you are competing against the best experiences out there. You need to anticipate what they want and need, then provide it for them.

As a utility, you have very specific business goals and objectives – whether customer acquisition/churn reduction in a de-regulated market, customer cross-sell/up-sell or call shed/cost-to-serve reduction in all markets. Sometimes, I bet it feels like your organizational priorities might compete with your consumer’s goals. Well, no longer is that the case. What if you could create value for both your organization and your consumers?

Here’s the great news…

No longer do you need to ask them what they want. Now is the time to give them what they want. Consumers expect that you will give them what they want, when they want it, where they want it without having to tell you. This is where intent-driven conversations are becoming table stakes. Why should a consumer have to tell you that they came to pay a bill? Why should a consumer have to tell you that they came to report an outage? Why should a consumer have to tell you that they came to switch service locations? Each and every time a consumer interacts with one of our channels or touchpoints within a channel, they send out a signal. We have to anticipate each and every individual need, provide real-time and incredibly relevant content and help them get there – regardless of their channel of choice. Give the experience to them without them asking for it.

After all, it’s their journey, not yours.