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Contact-less Consumer Care in 2020: A New Reality

image credit: © Tero Vesalainen | Dreamstime.com

This item is part of the Special Issue - 05/2020 - Customer Care, click here for more

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strike hard across the globe, while engaging with companies, Consumers place a high premium on safety factors. People are anxious to minimize physical contact and maximize contactless interactions to reduce the risk of infection, and companies take note of that. For instance, Tesla offers a contactless car delivery scheme which minimizes Consumer contact with employees of the car maker.

At the same time, Utilities have taken growing interest in Consumer experience (CX) over the last few years. As leading digital natives shape Consumer expectations increasingly, utilities face growing pressure to create compelling Consumer experiences in their own industry. With the decline in costs of solar, storage, and other distributed-generation technologies, they fear losing Consumers, or part of their usage, to companies like Tesla Energy. And as demand slows, infrastructure ages and cost pressures mount, utilities are looking at ways to minimize operating and maintenance costs without compromising their service quality and Consumer experience. 

“Touchless interfaces have become integral to the Consumer experience in a health-and-safety conscious world”

Credit: Capgemini Research

Key trends post covid-19 in consumer expectations

  • Touchless interfaces have become an integral part of the Consumer experience due to a health and safety consciousness.
  • Contactless mobile transactions such as receiving bills, product information and payment using mobile apps are gaining momentum
  • The pandemic offers a unique opportunity to speed up the use of voice-based applications in physical settings

Industry slowly started to understand that Consumer care and information are among the most important functions they need to focus on – especially for modern audiences. Younger consumers favor convenience, so they want services delivered in a timely and efficient manner, and they’ll speak up when things go wrong.  They also want information on affordable and eco-friendly utility options.

As businesses begin adopting digital channels and self-service Consumer service functions, they will really begin moving the needle on Consumer satisfaction and loyalty.

“Post Covid-19 era, Contact-less consumer care become even more important"

Credit: Capgemini Research

Possible areas to adopt the contact-less Consumer experience in Utilities

1.) Empowering your consumer can reduce your dependencies and improve contact-less experience

Between monthly invoices, most Consumers aren’t encouraged to engage with their utilities companies. The Consumer relationship becomes about only providing a service and not taking a step back to make sure Consumers are actually happy.

To slow churn, companies must figured out where along the Consumer journey, the consumers decide they’ve had enough. Once they know this, these utility companies can use mobile/APP messaging tactics to engage with their Consumers to keep them happy.

2.) Smooth reminders & Short payment journey can improve collection & consumer experience

Consumers miss payments for a number of reasons: they forgot about the payment deadline, they dispute the billing amount, or they can’t afford it. As a result, the utility launches a collections campaign.  Collections is one of the hardest tasks for utilities must deal with, but a friendly tone, and low friction payment process, can maintain great Consumer relationships. Also by making payment journey small and easy such as giving single click payment link can be effective in collection as well as experience.

3.) Mobile-based instant & timely notifications can improve contact-less Consumer experience

One mistake many utility companies make is they only communicate when there are issues or lost Consumers which have left because of a bad experience. Consumers want a utility company that solves their pain points (prompt service response) and engages them on important utility relevant topics. Utility companies should timely give service level information to Consumers, introduce new offers, change in schemes and engage them with latest, relevant and impacting updates to show that you care and focus on your service.

4.) Field Tech is utility’s front face who can improve CX from the roots

Utilities should take care of their field force when they are in field with all important measures post COVID-19. This will give a confidence to Consumers as per as service quality and safety is concerned. Quick enough and intelligent service requests allocations to field force on a Mobile App can bring prompt service responses, and communication to consumers on each and every stage of a service request life-cycle can improve experience and also can help to nurture the connection between Utility and the Consumers substantially.

5.) Infrastructure & Consumers both are Assets, should be taken care to improve overall experience

Utilities should communicate to Consumers timely before scheduled maintenance, also should give an idea if the backup is provisioned or not, this gives small stress relief to Consumers from outage. Intelligent systems can help utilities to avoid sudden breakdowns which is one of the most important factors to Consumer experience. Utility can use mobile applications for their field force to avoid contacts and send site report to supervisors remotely, take required approvals and capture all required digital data trail.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted consumer preferences towards health and safety parameters. Consumers have begun adopting social distancing and sanitary practices as new and potentially permanent norms in their lives. As part of this, they have grown increasingly cautious of touching shared interfaces and objects foreign to them. This major behavioral shift means that, people are looking for touchless practices. Organizations must therefore reassess their customer experience, with a focus on emerging technologies such as vocal interfaces, and mobile-based applications. At the same time, however, they must bear in mind critical concerns over data privacy and security. Fair and transparent policies will be critical to ensure these technologies continue to thrive once the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 28, 2020

I think we're seeing in a lot of industries that the post-COVID measures being taken are ones that customers may have wanted (whether they knew it or not) all along, but the momentum wasn't there to make it happen-- restaurants with digital menus, more work from home opportunities, virtual doctor visits, etc. Do you think it's the same with utilities-- might these changes have been inevitable in the utility sector but the pandemic just provided the shot in the neck that was needed to get them done ASAP?

Nilesh  Gudhe's picture
Nilesh Gudhe on May 28, 2020

Since Consumers interact with Utilities once in a month or in case of issue or in case of emergency, it may not be that prevelent in Utilities. However, due to COVID-19 situation, consumers will look for contactless touch points. Moreover, millenials are very much interested in digital experience.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 28, 2020

Very true-- as one of those pesky Millenials, I found it frustrating to move from a utility that had a mobile-based dashboard to one without it

Nilesh  Gudhe's picture

Thank Nilesh for the Post!

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