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Trends and Observations from CS Week 2021

Mark Wilkinson's picture
SVP Products Ibex Digital

Helping utilities and their customer experience teams transform customer journeys,  decode customer insights  and enhance revenues for nearly 15 years.  At Ibex, I lead the teams delivering...

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  • Oct 19, 2021
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While attendance at CS Week in Tampa, Florida this year may have been lower than “normal” years, the quality of conversation and engagement among utility clients and partners certainly topped all expectations.  Either in presentations or on the exhibit hall floor, we found much deeper engagement at this year’s show.

As our teams continue to parse the feedback, I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the top trends we heard repeatedly from utility clients and contacts during CS Week.

Budgets Remain Disrupted Nearly Everywhere – We heard a LOT of feedback about program delays due to budget disruption.   COVID conditions and account delinquency continue to put pressure on utilities to adjust plans due to budget realignments.  Unfortunately, customer expectations, especially for digital channels, continue to increase regardless of budget challenges. Utilities certainly need some budget relief and help finding ways to offset costs or drive incremental dollars from new sources.  

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Renewed Interests in Revenue Enhancements – Coupled with budget pressure, we heard renewed interest from nearly all visitors for new products and services to offer their customers.   Everyone seemed to appreciate the need to expand the catalog of products AND services as a way to develop incremental revenues to reinvest in the customer engagement programs or offset other budget challenges.  Most of our conversations touched on finding the right catalog of offers that are proven to appeal to utility customers so that programs can generate real value for both customers and the utility.  I hosted a recent podcast with Fortegra’s Steve Davidson on the topic of customized service plans that some utility offer to customer to protect the smart home.   And, Questline has done great work showing how utilities can really support customers by engaging on smart home programs and offers.

Marketplaces Ready for a New Evolution – A high performing marketplace should be a great balance of both customer satisfaction and strong ongoing sales, at least as far as what utility contacts at CS Week told us at the show.  And, we certainly agree.  In fact, I think sales needs to be a key indicator for a utility marketplace, along with CSAT, but most marketplaces still struggle to get traction and sales.  Consider that in ecommerce,   customers look to buy products and services they value from brands they trust.  A well-executed utility marketplace should expect to deliver strong sales and a high volume of repeat traffic to support customer lifetime value, indicating customers appreciate the offers and services.  We built a brief playbook to help utilities tune their own ecommerce programs for better performance.  Find it here, and let me know if it helps.

If you missed CS Week, I hope that this summary helps shine a light on at least a few of the major trends we heard repeatedly at the show.  The team at CS Week delivered a great event despite all of the COVID challenges and we are all looking forward to the next edition in Phoenix in May 2022.  Hope to see you there, and please share your themes from the show in the comments.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 19, 2021

Thanks for sharing for those of us who were unable to make it-- sounds like it was a tremendous conference, and hearing about lessons learned during COVID I think will inform customer care in the industry for years to come

Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Oct 21, 2021

Thanks for an interesting article. I've got one comment and one question. Firstly, is there not the space for bringing energy saving devices to existing customers. From small items, to perhaps solar panels + installation, where utilities have economies of scale. Here in the UK a while back, my utility offered me a "energy saving adaptor" in return for completing a short survey. I've still got it and it shuts down peripherals when I switch off the computer, so I am very happy with it.

As utilities are trusted, known to users, rather than someone from the yellow papges, they might be able to install (or subcontract to reliable companies) the work for installing various devices like solar panels, heat pumps etc.

 

The question is - with the labour shortages in several countries, does that mean that it will be harder to find/retain good customer service staff in future?

 

Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Oct 26, 2021

Julien,

 

Certainly utility marketplaces can and should offer energy savings devices.  Most of the marketplaces currently available deliver LED light bulb kits, "starter kits" with bulbs or smart plugs, and smart thermostats,  though that limited selection doesn't give customers much reason to return to the marketplace again for other offers.  

 

Many utilities offer solar information on their corporate sites, but solar installation and panel selection rarely finds space on the utility marketplace.  It's something we're considering, but likely more as a resource to find installers, solicit competitive quotes or register for solar connection to the grid.  US utilities have a very varied relationship to solar in their service areas, and the private sector typically provides sales, installation and service of those options, for better or worse.

 

All evidence shows that customers have interest in buying a wider variety of products and services from their utilities, especially as they can be a trusted and credible resource for information without concern for competitive pressures.  We're fans of a diverse catalog and price points so that the utility offers products and services of interest and affordable to the widest array of their customers as possible.  

 

Appreciate your note.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Oct 22, 2021

Thanks for sharing this as a post!

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