Historically, the utility industry’s customer service has been lacking. Even with today’s technological advancements, utility companies lag behind other industries when it comes to customer experience.
The information age has put this stark contrast on greater display. Defining utilities as one of the “lowest-performing industries in digital,” J.D. Power awarded the industry a score of 571 out of 1,000 on digital proficiency. To put this into perspective, retail scored 771.
Why have utilities fallen behind, and what will it take for them to keep up with the times?
A New Utilities Arena
It makes sense as to why utilities are lagging on customer and digital experiences: To put it simply, they’ve never had to worry about these things before. The industry has a legacy of captive customers and little to no competition, and company operations were driven more by processes and workflows than customer desires.
However, much has changed in the last decade that has transformed the playing field, and several new disruptors have entered the utilities market. One such disruptor is Drift, a company that offers greener energy services and adopts a customer-first approach. These organizations’ leaders often come from industries that face significant churn and intense competition when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers.
Coupled with this trend, customers are now used to on-demand, catered digital experiences. Uber has quickly replaced taxis, for instance, and Netflix allows instant access to video content from the comfort of living rooms everywhere. Naturally, customers have started to expect similar experiences from all the companies they interact with, including their utilities. Being personal, customizable, and receptive isn’t just an added benefit; it’s a must.
Between this newfound competition and growing customer expectations, legacy utility companies are being asked to play an entirely new game — one they’re ill-equipped to handle without a serious retooling of their operations.
Utility companies greatly enhance their chances of success when they embrace design thinking within their customer engagement channels. Instead of extending services based on preexisting processes, these companies can introduce tech-based experiences that truly delight different types of customers.
When it comes to interactions with utility companies, different personas might have different desires. For example, a longtime customer might prefer guided advice on how to cut down on energy use in general, whereas someone who’s highly engaged might be more interested in green products and services.
Remember that most customers think about utilities only occasionally; they prefer quick service without irritants when they do need to engage. They might prefer bill payments through social channels or via an online portal that doesn’t require them to remember login credentials.
The bottom line is that customers expect personalized service and actionable advice when engaging with utilities. Clear communication, intuitive navigation, and accurate information all play a critical role in enhancing the customer experience.
Leveraging a Digital World
Successful utility companies of the future will be highly agile. They’ll deliver an energy product and customer experience that audiences will appreciate, and they’ll leverage digital tools to do so.
This begins with integrating insights about customers from all sources — including engagement history, demographics, and social media footprint — and rapidly combining these insights to deploy solutions at speed.
For example, utility companies could offer zero-carbon products to customers who are vocal about sustainability issues on social channels, or they could predict the possibility of a customer calling with a complaint and take proactive measures to anticipate and resolve any questions. With digital tools such as experience platforms, automation, and supportive information technology architectures, these agile customer interactions are certainly achievable.
The ability to be agile and responsive to consumer insight won’t be a value-add; it will become a competitive differentiator in the coming years. Modern customers want to actively participate in the new energy economy, and the utility companies that bring them into the fold will stand out.
This competition isn’t simply about which utility company customers prefer. It’s about offering an “energy supermarket” — an experience that saves customers money, is personalized, and offers a delightful shopping experience. Utilities that can shape and lead this vision will become a model for others and attract the customers of tomorrow.
Looking to turn your organization into a future leader of the new energy economy? Reach out to Wipro for personalized insight.