Many regulators, rightly acting to protect consumers from disadvantage, have created ‘Codes of Practice’ for Customer Services compliance. “Do not contact registries” restrict Utilities from contacting customers. Maintaining the confidentiality of the customer data, customer identity is also an acute challenge since Utility Bill is treated as a proof of address and identity in many geographies. Exposing any of the customer information through the new age channels put added pressure on the business processes and IT systems to adopt cutting edge security practices.
Customer Care through New Age Channels
The foremost challenge associated with using the new age channels for customer care is managing consumer expectations. If the user is not clear about who is going to resolve issues—customer care agents or fellow customers, it can lead to confusion and dissatisfaction. Similarly, if a customer expects immediate problem resolution while using social media and if that expectation is not met, the customer will not only become frustrated but also become averse to using the platform again. Therefore;
• Utilities should specify who is going to respond to their queries and also indicate approximate turnaround times to consumers using next generation customer care channels.
• Utilities should moderate discussions on forums and blogs to ensure that correct advice is provided to a customer by fellow users.
• To do this effectively, Utilities need to have the Business department and Business processes to manage new age channels as proactive customer service with business processes aligned to monitor, analyse, act and improve the Customer Service.
• Customer identification through social network IDs is also an important issue. For problems such as billing disputes, Utilities would need to know details such as customer ID or SSN or phone number.
• Here, the customer can manually provide the details or the Utility Companies can use a mapping software to link social network IDs with customer billing, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and other records.
• Adopting the best practices of Social Network sign-on as the feature within self service channels would be must for seamless business processes.
• In either case, privacy issues become important, and Utility Companies should either seek explicit buy-in from customers or restrict the usage of such self service to limited problem resolutions.
Another important challenge is the seamless escalation of a customer query or problem to other channels in case it cannot be solved through one channel.
The lack of customer interaction history across multiple channels and customer data scattered across multiple silos are the key challenges faced by Utility Companies in their attempt to enable integrated multichannel customer service.
To elaborate, existing systems would typically not include history of customer interactions over new media/ applications such as social networks. Therefore, context and history information could be lost easily, leading to sub-optimal customer service.
Moreover, customer information has multiple aspects and different types of data are usually stored in different types of databases/systems such as CRM and Billing.
However, with next generation customer care, the traditional integration of databases/systems is not enough. Information such as social networking IDs and interaction history need to be catalogued and stored as well.
Therefore, Utilities need to implement integrated multi-channel customer service architecture with new channels, shared customer history, and single view of data with a robust Big Data Strategy to manage data and history.
In conclusion, next generation customer care delivered through new age channels will enable Utility Companies to “be where the customer is” and help deliver superior customer service. Developing these Customer Services features and business processes should be seen as a continuous process by Utilities Companies.
Utilities should quickly develop a presence in next generation customer care channels and aim to improve their services in a phased manner by not only using a roadmap but, also incorporating customer feedback that will help them customize their services appropriately.
Once effectively implemented, these next generation customer service strategies promise to help Utilities to position themselves as leaders in customer care.
Consequently, they would boost the arsenal of Deregulated Utilities in their continuing quest against churn and regulated Utilities against Customer dissatisfaction. Not adopting next generation customer care will hardly be an option for leading Utility Companies.