Five Practical Steps to Improve Energy Customers’ Engagement

In the first part to this post, we discussed how customer engagement is directly related to the fortunes of Energy companies.

We get it. Everyone knows that customer engagement is important. But help me out: what’s a brand to do?

We have spent the last four years developing Thunderhead ONE, an engagement hub that listens to, visualises and orchestrates individual journeys across every touchpoint, at scale – and in supersonic time. It’s a potent solution to bridging what we call the ‘customer engagement gap’.

For energy companies without Thunderhead ONE, there are several steps that will markedly improve customer experiences.


Behold: Five Practical Steps to improve Energy Customer Engagement:


  1. Recognise the Fundamental Customer Journeys

‘Fundamental’ journeys might include the onboarding of new customers, opening new accounts, updating account details, or seeking moving, bill explanation or payment information. And naturally, customers expect us to be very, very good at enabling these. In ‘bad journeys’, customers struggle to find the help they are looking for: forced to jump between channels, stuck in infinite loops and spending unacceptable lengths of time attempting to satisfy their needs.

These journeys (and associated interactions) tend to be less frequent and more goal-driven in the Energy sector, adding to the importance of consistently successful and swift resolutions (or journey completions). Energy companies are generally forgiven for one significant ‘fail’; any further frustrations and customers begin perusing the pages of uSwitch, as demonstrated in its February 2018 Energy Customer Satisfaction Report. Conversely, understanding and removing barriers in these journeys [see previous post on smart meters] across channels is critical to long term engagement.

Journeys tend to be less frequent and more goal-driven in the Energy sector, adding to the importance of consistently successful and swift resolutions


  1. Analyse Journeys Across Channels – Continuously

Most touchpoint analytics is channel-based, hindering a brands’ ability to understand complete customer journeys. But it is essential to connect and understand this information in the round to usefully ingest the way customers really consume and interact with our services.

For example, do you understand how and why customers are passing from web to call centre, to app?

Without a real-time, holistic view, business-driving insight will fall through the cracks, and acting on broken experiences becomes excruciatingly challenging. Moreover, any investments aimed at improving the customer experience may then be missing their mark.

Tip: If your digital team is still focussing on optimising web pages for the masses, your competition will soon have you on the back foot.


  1. Create, Empower and Nurture a Cross-Channel Customer Engagement Team

‘Connecting’ is more than a digital requirement: cultural walls (and seating plans) often stand in the way of the larger, more established energy companies on the road to creating best-in-class omnichannel customer experiences. Web teams, App designers, CRM, CX, Marketing, Tech and Customer Service teams should be considering how they collectively impact a customer’s journey, so there needs to be a formal conjoining of the expertise.

In its recent paper on Business Transformation, Raconteur noted that “Business transformation means putting the customer at the heart of everything, from product development to marketing”. In a nutshell, that.

Egos and Silos are the enemies of progress!

Create a team. Sit them together if you can. Show channel leads the part they play in both good and bad journeys. And give them the freedom to create the positive change you seek. As adman Michael Baulk once said, Egos and Silos are the enemies of progress!


  1. Mobilise all your Data – everywhere!

Most Energy providers hoard reams of customer knowledge in a static CRM tool or customer database. For instance, they know when customers joined, their tariff, when the most recent bill was sent, whether this was unusually high, remaining months on a contract…

But in reality, how much of this data is genuinely operational and available when it really matters (so-called ‘moments of truth’): is it feeding better customer experiences – or merely gathering virtual dust?

To provide the contextual, relevant and engaging experiences our customers seek, we need to activate our data attributes beyond email campaign segmentation (the most common approach). {So, for example, we know a new customer who is likely suffering from ‘bill shock’ is visiting our website. We can then prioritise content supporting customers with ideas to reduce consumption or understand our payment plans.}

This is about manipulating every available touchpoint, at every single stage of the journey, in our drive for personalised relationships. Think of it as intimacy at scale.


  1. Give, and you shall receive

Inbound calls can represent a frustrating experience for customers – who often sought alternative channels as a first choice in resolve problems. Equally, they can be an expensive method of servicing for the organisation. Nonetheless, physical calls typically contribute a significant proportion of so-called bad journeys.

Fixing as many of these scenarios is clearly worthwhile. As common sense would dictate, good journeys lead to happier customers. The aforementioned Customer Satisfaction Index revealed in January that a 10% shift in an organisation’s customer satisfaction score can equate to a 30% increase in loyalty and an incredible 47% increase in trust. So perhaps, like Bhutan (measuring Gross National Happiness as a proxy for financial growth), we should be thinking more about meeting customers’ need to make them happy – because Customer Engagement directly impacts the bottom line.


So perhaps, like Bhutan, we should be thinking more about making people happy – Customer Experience directly impacts the bottom line.

Of course, fixing bad journeys – and the orchestration of personalised experiences – is a delicate balance between improving customer satisfaction, demonstrating the bottom line benefit and optimising our resources. Fortunately, the two can be symbiotic: when discerning which bad journeys to resolve, we must harness available intelligence to factor in customer lifecycles and value.

Fourteenth Century poet John Lydgate famously declared: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Perhaps, had he the access to modern cross-channel orchestration technology, John would have announced pragmatically (although granted, slightly less poetically) that ‘we can please most people, most of the time’.

Considering its complexities, limitations and history, the Energy sector has made great strides in its provision of better customer experiences. Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda: Utility Industry Insights disclosed that the Utility sector regards ‘Customer Focus’ as its number one strategic business priority [this was fifth for ‘other industries’]. We predict that spoils will follow to those who can organise, invest and mobilise their troops around making this sentiment a reality. As it has been for the other sector innovations, technology will be the catalyst, with data as its fuel. These are exciting times indeed.