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How Many Customer Desires Do You Fold into Bill Design?

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Kathleen Wolf Davis's picture
Blogger Oracle Utilities

Kathleen Wolf Davis blogs regularly for Oracle Utilities with her left hand and manages their social media with her right. She also writes ebooks, white papers and other bits and pieces of...

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  • Oct 3, 2019 1:33 pm GMT

Customer-centric thinking and how to get those valuable utility customers to understand and dive deeper into their energy use—and maybe conserve or perhaps flip to a time-of-use rate or join in a demand-side management/energy efficiency program—starts in one spot: the customer bill.

During the “Update Your Bill from the Customer’s Point of View: Reimaging the Utility Bill” session at the E Source Forum 2019, the speakers, including Nashville Electric Service (NES), revealed a few research-based thoughts on how to make that bill-based starting point for the customer truly appeal to them (and open doors for you, too).

Here are the top tidbits from the session to help your utility make that bill design do more.

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The top point: make it clear. Make the due date obvious, as well as the amount owed. Make it simple. Make the use information easy to understand and easy to find. This may have the bonus of decreasing calls about bill inquiries as well, which is an added bonus.

Also realize: many customers are afraid of that bill.  There’s anxiety in a lot of bill-opening moments. Customers feel, sometimes, that it’s a really, really unhappy surprise. So, utilities need to think about colors and images, along with helpful tips, that could make the bill moment a less scary one.

Remember: ask your customer. Rather than going ad hoc, bring in your customer as a co-designer. Let them tell you how they feel, and ask the questions that will make you uncomfortable—the things that hurt, the customers’ pain points. (And don't forget to ask your internal stakeholders—those very valuable employees—as well.)

Then: assess your current bill. Does it look good (and, yes, that’s important)? Is it too word-heavy? What’s the reading-level of this bill, and is it too full of jargon, abbreviations, and internally-know acronyms? Is it organized well? Is there good definition and sectioning? Is there too much redundancy?

Now: design a bill with a hierarchy. Most important information—deadline-driven information—goes up front. Layer down to deeper details to follow interest. Every customer is interested in what she has to pay (and when), but not every customer cares as much about appliance-tied use details.

But: don’t skip the prototype stage. Take a look at various options. Break down which versions are working better, which are more appealing to your eye. Do iterations and variations.

Finally: think about how that lovely new bill fits into a customer’s overall billing experience. The bill itself isn’t the singular part of that experience. So, how does this bill tie to other aspects of that larger CX billing moment overall.

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Thank Kathleen Wolf for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 3, 2019

Also realize: many customers are afraid of that bill

This may or may not be one of the reasons I choose to go paperless!

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