Customer Care Group
This special interest group is where customer care professionals share tactics on how utilities are improving interactions with their customers.
How Energy & Utility Companies are Building Thicker, Stickier and Longer-term Customer Relationships while Reducing the Costs of Operating the Contact Center
- Jan 2, 2019 4:02 pm GMT
Taking a page from the playbook of other industries, Energy & Utility companies interested in strengthening their customer relationships realize that customers who use more of your products and services are often the most loyal, happiest customers. This reflects in customer satisfaction scores and voice of the customer reviews together with other industry and social measurement devices. For example, rather than simply focusing on selling energy, companies are transitioning into a more robust market strategy that involves helping customers to develop an Energy Plan first. This often includes fixed or variable rate products, demand-based program participation and/or an element of renewable energy in the overall mix. With an Energy Plan identified, the next step is to introduce or expand upon Convenience products and services offerings.
WiFi thermostats, LED lighting, monitors and other environment control products are the middleware that leverages the energy and helps to convert it into satisfying interactions tied to your brand. The last and truly most critical component of the three-part strategy is Control. This is the phone based app, remote control or similar device that controls the convenience items. With the “power of control” over the convenience items that take advantage of the energy plan, this is the trifecta strategy that moves you towards happier customers and ultimately a rapid shift towards self-service and digital interactions.
Strategically, this ties in very well with the growing desire and initiatives by many Energy & Utility companies to cut costs and reduce traditional telephone- based call volumes through a digital deflection strategy. For many brands in the electric, natural gas, solar and water business, traditional inbound toll-free phone call volumes are often highly challenging to manage in line with PUC requirements. Considering the growing complexity and length of training to add new agents, coupled with rising wages and job attrition factors, reducing call volumes can save significant money and also drive higher customer satisfaction, if done properly.
What percentage of your customers use a mobile phone to interact with your contact center today? That number is likely to be higher than 50%- and depending upon the demographics of your customer base, may be as high as 75%--or more.
Moving customers from telephone-based support to self-service is not an overnight transition. There are some steps that need to occur in between to help drive the adoption of digital service alternatives. Putting control in the hands of your customers – in a way that delivers instant gratification – is the key step towards digital deflection. The three party strategy described above helps bring you and your customers down that path. Once customers have experience interacting digitally with your brand, they are more open to expanding upon that channel – for example, moving to live agent text chat which ultimately drives a reduction in the number of live agents required since it is possible to engage in multiple customer text chats whereas with the telephone, it’s still a one call at a time equation.
What types of traditional interactions should customers be able to complete independently of engaging with a live agent? Some examples include:
- Account balance
- Payment status
- Comparing rates
- Making a payment by check or credit card
- Reporting an outage
- Checking status on an outage
- Enrollment / Opt-in or Opt-out
All of these programs and strategies require a coordinated strategy and experienced resources. To rapidly move in this direction, many energy & utility companies frequently leverage their internal contact center and product experts to build a core team and then engage leading outsourced service providers, including contact centers and consultants, who have the depth of experience, operational playbook, deployable technology and people to design, implement, staff and manage the project. The combination of existing and outsourced resources delivers a strong cost-effective solution. This approach reduces traditional capital expenditures and time to market – often delivering an in-market solution within the same calendar year. Equally, the recurring revenue streams associated with the products and services helps to convert the Contact Center from an expense to a new source of revenue.
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