This special interest group is where customer care professionals share tactics on how utilities are improving interactions with their customers. 

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Maintaining Customer Satisfaction, Remotely

image credit: Photo 156643075 © Kiosea39 | Dreamstime.com

Customer expectations began climbing before we were all forced indoors to work from home, zoom with friends and shop online.  Forced to conduct not-in-person customer interaction, what approach will utilities and businesses need to adopt to maintain customer satisfaction?  Subrah Iyar, CEO and cofounder of Moxtra and former CEO, chairman and cofounder of WebEx, said, "Consumers' expectations have gone digital, and there's no turning back. Regardless of a shift back towards pre-pandemic life, the convenience and flexibility of a digital customer experience is here to stay. Businesses need to adopt digital solutions to keep customers satisfied and continue growing their businesses.”  Utilities are no exception to the rule.  In May 2019, research analyst, Stuart Ravens wrote about the importance of ‘Voice of the Customer (VoC) data and how it would help utilities.  Today, despite dramatic changes, the facts remain the same. Customers want personalization and expect a digital customer experience.   William Hughes, principal research analyst with Guidehouse Insights said, “More utilities are now using digital tools to engage their customers in new ways, transform traditional offerings, optimize operations, and empower employees.”

Investments will reflect this trend as well.  Ravens continued, “Upfront investments in VoC analytics brings a utility closer to its customer base, provides valuable insights in new business development, and should save utilities money in future investments.”  A report from Guidehouse Insights said that utilities will invest nearly $700 million in customer experience and management technologies analytics by 2029.  What once was considered high-tech will soon be the norm.  Self-service capabilities, mobile apps, online chatting and real time information are expected.  According to the report, utilities that have embraced customer experience and management technologies have benefitted from enhanced customer satisfaction, lower operational costs, reduced bills for customers, and a host of environmental benefits. 

Beyond the controversial privacy issues, are businesses concerned about personalization becoming too impersonal?  Do customers prefer convenience to compassion?  According to Harvard Business Review, customers have come to expect the faster, more personalized service that automation offers. The convenience of automated systems does not automatically (no pun intended) equal a cold customer experience.  With careful planning, empathy can be expressed to your customers, albeit digital.  Customer service teams have already incorporated empathy training but the need for it has increased substantially in recent months.  In fact, Forbes contributor Adrian Swinscoe, predicts ‘Empathy will emerge as a top customer experience metric.  In addition, Steven Petruk, President, Global Outsourcing Division, CGS, said, "Amid the challenges of the pandemic, customer care centers have all but done away with any metrics around call duration and are actively encouraging agents to spend more time on the phone with clients. While empathy has not been an operational performance metric in the past, it absolutely is prime area of focus now and will continue to be. In an effort to measure empathy, many companies are adding empathy-specific questions to their post-call surveys.”’ What method is your utility applying to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction? 

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