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Utilities, Creating a Customer-Centric Culture?

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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  • Aug 26, 2021
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“For 100 to 150 years, utilities have focused on resiliency and keeping the power on,” says Jim Thomson, vice chairman, U.S. power, utilities and renewables practice leader, Deloitte Consulting.  Now customers want more from their utility.  “Customers are expecting utilities to have the same customer-experience capabilities as banks and telecommunication providers, and ultimately to provide a true digital experience, like content streaming services and ride-hailing companies offer” stated Wytse Kaastra, a managing director who leads Accenture’s utilities business in Europe and its energy retail practice globally. It’s true, other companies and services have spoiled users/customers with alerts when there is a rise in price or usage and typically it’s via text.  The bar has been raised and the potential for profit is great.  Investing in customer experience (CX) initiatives has the potential to double your revenue within 36 months.  The Temkin Group found that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within 3 years of investing in CX.

Utilities are taking a new approach to create a customer-centric culture, one that requires each department to consider the needs of the customer. The success of and loyalty to your utility depends on meeting customer expectations.  Customers no longer base their loyalty on price or product but instead are loyal to companies based on the experience they have.  In fact, a Walker study found that at the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.  It’s no wonder then that businesses and utilities are investing in the customer experience.  In a recent survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 73 utility executives stated their top business priority, in the year ahead, is improving CX.  Improvements depend heavily on data.  Roberta Bigliani, group vice president at IDC explained one issue, “Customers are frustrated because they know the utilities have their data, but the utilities don’t use the data in ways that improve the customer experience.”  How do utilities utilize that data to benefit the customer?  Utilities must their data to provide a compelling CX that will position them to customers as trusted advisors. Digital strategies can help personalize engagement and promote energy efficiency.  Smart metering systems give utilities detailed information about usage patterns that could be used to offer services that match customer behavior and allow them to participate in lowering their carbon footprint. 

Reflecting on the global energy market, Gautam Aggarwal, CMO of Bidgely, suggests that energy providers should share information and build trust to encourage customers to reduce energy usage and increase customer satisfaction.  He said, in an article, ‘I believe utilities that leverage data and smart marketing strategies can rapidly evolve from one-way energy suppliers to trusted energy partners.’  Admittedly, these changes will take time but the goal can be reached one step at a time.  Harvard Business Review’s paper on ‘Improving the Customer Experience in the Utilities Industry’ gave these recommendations. (1) Utilities must provide the basics. (2) Personalization. “If you can’t get the basics right, you can’t personalize the experience,” Geoff Plese, principal, PwC Advisory Group says. (3) Provide value-added products and services. What would a customer-centric culture look like for a utility and what changes must be made?

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