In every sector, customer communication is important and should be done effectively. In regulated sectors like energy, customer communication of any type -- email, phone, or text (SMS) -- must be done in a compliant way, or the company may face substantial penalties. Surely all utilities want to communicate effectively for the sake of customer experience, but doing it outside the law can be extremely costly: each violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act can result in a penalty of up to $43,280 (that’s $43,280 per incident!).
Historically, utility companies have used various event-based legacy tools and third-party vendors for paper, phone, and electronic communications with their customers. Typically, these communications fall into a few broad categories: mandatory, useful, and marketing. But it’s a tough challenge to manage all the different types and channels in a holistic way; a marketing cloud solution can help.
Mandatory communications: When the power goes off, customers must be notified and notified promptly. As a recent J.D. Power customer satisfaction study shows, utilities can increase their approval ratings by timely outage communications that include an estimated time of power restoration, followed by a confirmation when the power is restored. In addition to knowing when the power will be back on, customers also appreciate knowing the cause of an outage and ETA. This applies to emergency outage notifications as well.
Another mandatory communication is a disconnect alert for nonpayment. Customers must be notified before their service is disconnected (it should be noted that many utilities are not disconnecting customers during the pandemic).
Note that all of these are required notifications – even if the customer opts out of communications. The outage notifications could be sent in the form of email, phone, or text; each channel has its own set of preferences and regulations that must be followed to ensure compliance.
Non-mandatory communications: Utilities also use non-mandatory communications to enhance the customer experience, but customers must opt-in to messages including:
- Usage alerts
- Bill due reminders
- Routine or proactive maintenance notifications
- Marketing newsletters
- Customer surveys
Capturing, maintaining, and managing customers’ communications preferences is a daunting challenge, but it’s a necessary one to stay compliant. A good approach is a marketing cloud solution that helps utilities communicate with their customers effectively and efficiently at all the times and at the same time help them remain compliant.
A marketing cloud solution – like the Salesforce Marketing Cloud – enables utility companies to deliver personalized customer engagement at scale on every channel, including email, web, mobile, social, and digital advertising. It represents a mass communication tool for managing every kind of communication requirement quickly and reliably (see the chart below). Using Salesforce Marketing Cloud enables a utility to:
- Communicate via email, phone, or text from a single, integrated system.
- Facilitate customers’ ability to manage their preferences and maintain a central repository of those preferences.
- Validate customer preferences automatically and send required communications (being mindful of opt-in, opt-out preferences).
- Track the historical details of customer communications at the individual level, providing context for customer service and compliance audits.
- Ensure a high degree of compliance.
- Automatically send outage-related notifications, bill notifications, and marketing newsletters based on specific events including marketing campaigns.
- Integrate communications activities with an existing CRM system for contact details, thus eliminating the need for multiple customer data sources.