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Voice of the Customer Is Essential to Utility Customer Experience

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Stuart Ravens's picture
Principal Research Analyst Navigant

Stuart Ravens is a principal research analyst contributing to Navigant Research’s Digital Transformation service. Ravens focuses on utility digitization, analyzing topics such as IT, analytics,...

  • Member since 2016
  • 3 items added with 2,511 views
  • May 24, 2019 8:35 am GMT

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-05 - Customer Care, click here for more

A facet of the electricity industry that surprises me most is the lack of engagement and awareness of the general public. Most take electricity—and the companies that provide it—for granted. Until the turn of the century, most utilities strived to minimize contact with customers as this was a measure of success; customers would only get in touch if there was an outage or billing inquiry. However, with rising energy costs, deregulation, increased regulatory pressure to improve customer service, and the decentralization of energy, there is significant pressure on utilities to improve customer engagement.

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CX Analytics Should Drive Business Development

I have written extensively about customer engagement and the growing interest in customer experience (CX) analytics. It is a broad subject, and one where utilities can learn a lot from other industries. Although the electricity industry will remain unique, it cannot hide from the fact that decentralization of energy could soon become a game-changer for long-term strategies.

CX analytics can provide deep insights into a utility’s existing CX performance, and can be used to drive business development. The energy transition creates many new opportunities for utilities, for which many find themselves unprepared. Incumbents will face significant competition when offering new energy services.

Consider transportation electrification. EVs offer a significant growth opportunity that can extend well beyond providing the power to charging vehicles. Each utility must gauge which business models are the most feasible. Part of this assessment is to measure organizational ability to deliver each new product or service. Internal factors are only one side of a coin—a utility must ask itself what business models its customers want and how they would prefer to adopt these services.

Voice of the Customer Is Essential in the Energy Transformation

Utilities have data that tells them how much and when its customer base uses power; those with advanced metering infrastructure know this for individual customers. But no amount of detail gives insights into what a customer thinks or really needs. Voice of the customer (VoC) data will help to answer these questions:

  • How will customers use their EVs?
  • What patterns will there be to EV charging?
  • Where and when will they charge their cars?
  • How will this change across different customer segments?
  • How many customers will want to join a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) program?
  • Which is most trusted to run this program: a utility or a third-party aggregator?
  • How do customers want to be rewarded for V2G participation?

Use VoC Insights to Deliver CX

A utility cannot possibly know these answers. VoC analysis is critical to defining customer adoption pathways and building products and services that help them on this journey. It not only helps utilities optimize their marketing budget, but also directs sales efforts to the right customers with the right products at the right time. By delivering customers the services they actually want rather than a long list of potential products, utilities will build brand loyalty and improve customer satisfaction. VoC insights should also help a utility avoid making investments in areas their customers do not want.

Some utilities are already using CX analytics. Alliant Energy based its EV pilot program on feedback from its VoC research. 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.

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