Once, customer service in Energy – from outage reporting to resolving bill disputes to moving homes - was all but synonymous with call centers. No more!
New retailers in competitive energy markets chose human-centric design and adopted a 'Digital First' model for customer service, powered by AI and Chat bots. The Utilities industry came to appreciate how this can swing the ‘cost to serve’ dynamics in their favor. Even in fully regulated markets such as some states in the US where most Energy providers deal with captive customers - a growing demand was felt to provide Digital as a compelling alternative to a new generation of customers for whom digital had arrived as a way of life, enveloping many aspects of their personal lives.
Today, almost all Energy providers have started their journey towards digitalization of customer service. Yet despite these investments, Energy providers have not seen the scale of channel shift experienced by other industries like Retail and Banking. As we witness the unfolding events of 2020 including the Covid pandemic and the extreme Volatility in the oil prices, the Energy ecosystem is being wrenched from business as usual practices in many areas. Could this be the pivot for an accelerated channel shift towards digital?
Five Areas to Focus
1. Match Levels of Customer Adoption
Customers have dramatically ramped up usage of digital in dramatic ways in everything from remote working, remote shopping, and even digital aided home fitness programmes and tele-medicine.
Organizations must accelerate their shift to digitalization to catch up to how customers clearly want to engage. Already, in markets like UK, many Energy Retailers have already started seeing an increased adoption of digital by their customers during the Covid 19 lockdown and shrinking call centre demand.
2. Pay Attention to Personas
The prevalence of "Do Not Disturb' personas who have a low recall of their Energy Provider means an urgent need for rapid access and quick turnaround for their transactions.
Yet you’ll also need to satisfy a retired persona who needs the comfort of easy access to expert help, as well as an Engaged persona who demands the flexibility to choose 'zero carbon' energy plans that reduce the carbon footprint.
3. Build Customer Intelligence
Many organizations still lack a true 360 understanding of each customer by segment, reason for calling, and personalized next best action. To improve, organizations must work to unify siloed processes and systems, couple Customer Analytics programmes with business processes, and boost the quality of Customer Data within the Enterprise. The benefits go beyond efficiencies in service and improved customer satisfaction. The better you know your customer, the more effective you can make your upsell/cross sell efforts.
4. Adopt a Multi-Layered Strategy
While expanding channel presence beyond websites to mobile and social media platforms is a good step, it is not sufficient. Worse, it can sometimes obscure other critical enablers required to deliver real business results.
Customer interactions require a ‘symphony’ of various digital capabilities that come together to deliver an enriching customer experience. Voice recognition that quickly zeroes in on the customer’s true intent, the ability to complete a 'Move' journey on a website without anxiety, a proactive alert about a bill spike along with recommended mitigating actions, the ability to resolve a complex issue via web chat all build customer confidence and loyalty. But weakness in any capability diminishes confidence in the whole and increases demand for human assistance.
5. Embellish Digital Tech with Domain Insights
Achieving this level of maturity calls for modern experience platforms (e.g. Wipro's Calls2Clicks platform for Utilities), Analytics/AI models, Intelligent IVR/Chat capability - all enhanced/trained for the Energy sector. Energy providers are also actively exploring next generation customer engagement solutions from specialist start-ups in the energy domain, due to their agility and flexibility. When these capabilities are coupled with a modern IT architecture built on microservices, cloudified systems, and seamless data integration principles - the chances of success are dramatically enhanced.
Accelerating the Journey
Energy providers could consider exploring the following areas so that the transition in the customer mindsets can be used as a springboard to accelerate Digital Adoption: