October 13, 2021
Why Utilities Need a CX Transformation Now
Insights from the Digital Journeys of Leading Global Utilities
The much-talked-about utility industry disruption has brought digital customer experience (CX) and customer relationships to the boardroom. Utilities are keenly listening to industry conversations and watching the transformations at play. Not only today, but tomorrow and far into the future, CX will play a crucial role in building the utility ecosystem and winning, serving, and retaining customers.
A typical utility has a lot on its plate, including the increased focus on all things “customer.” Utilities must: address changes to the engagement model to reduce costs; provide new solutions to counter nonregulated solutions; alter consumption behavior to drive energy efficiency and/or water conservation; deliver far better engagement; position for smart home services; and use customer advocacy as a lever for favorable treatment by regulators.
In addition to these changes, the industry is witnessing a digital shift, as reflected by the statistics below:
- A study conducted by Harvard Business Review revealed that 62% of companies are working on new initiatives to make their business more digital.
- 52% of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices, while 50% of customers will stop visiting a website if they think it’s not mobile-friendly.*
- 33% of customers getting help from service teams are frustrated by waiting on hold, and 19% are frustrated by slow response times**
- Customers prefer to solve issues themselves, with 81% troubleshooting issues independently before reaching out to service teams. ***
If you haven’t yet defined how your utility will transform customer experience and relationships, now is the time to place your organization’s full energy behind it. While every utility must focus on their own organization’s unique objectives, here's a look at key drivers for customer experience that leading utilities have adopted as part of their customer-centric and digital-first strategies to set CX benchmarks.
The Marriage of Operational Efficiency and Cost Savings
To offer truly customer-centric service, energy and water providers must provide digital self-service capabilities to consumers and keep track of customer preferences such as communication channels and modes of payment. Utilities must ensure that all channels have a consistent integration with support systems across the business landscape, thus enabling a seamless end-user experience. Equipped with customer insights and a 360-degree view of the users, utilities can unlock operational benefits for customer services.
Insight from Leading Global Utility #1:
In its endeavor to enhance service excellence, a leading utility provider in the US that delivers gas services to 2 million+ customers is leveraging an integrated digital CX platform. Within three months of the platform launch, the utility has been able to stabilize and reduce its call volumes, decrease the cost of its customer service operations, streamline customer operations, remove procedural inefficiencies, and increase performance. Additional operational benefits for utilities include: saving costs on call centers; maximizing agent productivity; establishing personalized and contextual interactions with customers; enhancing customer retention rate; augmenting cross-functional collaboration; and enhancing upselling/cross-selling.
Innovating with Chatbots and AI
To facilitate a smooth digital customer experience, energy and water utilities need to adopt a customized, flexible, and comprehensive chatbot integration strategy. A comprehensive strategic plan around intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants should cover: notifications and alerts; building awareness; demand response; promotion and branding; customer services; and input for data analytics. Powered by AI, chatbots enable many capabilities and benefits, including: business automation; 24/7 always-on support; real-time interactions; insights into customer behavior; reduction in handling time; personalized and consistent engagements; first-contact query resolution; and higher customer satisfaction levels. This functionality helps free up bandwidth of customer service representatives and other utility employees so that they can focus on new customer-centric business processes, more value-added services, and better customer connections.
Revolutionizing Billing and Payments
Digital payments take minutes, and user-friendly digital portals make access to billing details for customers faster and more convenient. And that’s not all. Through online billing and payment capabilities, customers can track their consumption and associated expenses, compare their usage month-to-month, enroll in saving programs, and easily interact directly with utility providers for assistance. This eliminates outdated procedures in favor of a more “human,” personal, and interactive dialog. Utilities should accommodate various payment channels and methods, establishing a preference-driven payment interaction. Some forward-thinking utilities are also introducing customized payment arrangements and tailor-made payment plans that offer customer control and convenience while substantially improving customer service. The digital alternative also optimizes the revenue cycle for utilities.
Insight from Leading Global Utility #2:
Since introducing its customer self-service portal, one leading energy utility has recorded the lowest arrears in 7 years. A key aspect for utilities looking to take online billing and payment features to market is the speed of execution, which in the case of this utility’s ‘My Account’ platform took only six months for implementation.
Providing Delightful Utility Services
Insight from Leading Global Utility #3:
Utilities are making self-service options available to customers to start, stop, or transfer their utility services. One leading electric and gas provider, serving over 3.6 million customers has successfully implemented a one-click transfer request for customers via their comprehensive CX platform. The feature quickly walks customers through the transfer process and requirements to complete their service transactions within minutes. Digital service-request capabilities allow utilities to enhance the customer experience by allowing customers to handle changes in their own timeframe. It also facilitates the automation of utility processes for faster service delivery. Customers can view their pending start and stop requests in the customer-facing portals and get their money back on outstanding requests within 30-40 days. After fast resolutions of start/stop/transfer requests, utilities can provide personalized programs and rebates to customers based on their consumption needs and demands to drive environmental stewardship.
Next-Gen Modular and Scalable Digital Experience
Beyond delivering an excellent customer experience, implementing digital CX platforms can be done in an agile, quick, and scalable manner. The modular structure helps utilities augment the platform with new capabilities and innovations based on the needs of the customers, the changing energy landscape, and technological advances to deliver state-of-the-art utility services to their customers.
Leading utilities have shown how digital platforms are essential to elevate customer experience, meet the growing demands of consumers, reduce cost-to-serve, and establish real-time digital engagement to manage services, view and pay bills, and monitor energy and water use. Smart Customer Mobile (SCM®), by SEW, is the #1 Digital Customer Experience (CX) platform for energy and water providers. Driven by AI/ML, the platform facilitates utilities' engagement, education and empowerment of their customers through its self-service digital portal, delivering customer-centric services while elevating the experience at the same time. Utegration is an industry leader in utility customer experience solutions, especially for expert integration with SAP.
Utegration and Smart Energy Water, together, help global utilities connect with their people and build superior digital customer and workforce experiences. Connect with us and find out how we can help you become future-ready!
* Source: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/app-and-mobile/what-users-want-most-from-mobile-sites-today/
** Source: https://blog.hubspot.com/service/enterprise-customer-service-trends
*** Source: https://hbr.org/2017/01/kick-ass-customer-service