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Do we have ‘Digital Engagement’ in our ‘Utility Customer Care Community’: why ‘Customer-Centricity’ is so important?

image credit: Image courtesy: Icons8 team - Unsplash

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

By: Rahul Krishna Pandey, Karthika M

Perceiving modern utility consumer is tech-savvy and it’s constantly on the go. With the help of technology implemented in the community, service providers are expected to be up to date, if not more, when it comes to their utility experience. In order to keep up with today’s fast-paced society, it’s vital to utilize the technologies available to them such as mobiles/ wearable devices, so that they can stay relevant and have a lasting impression on their customers.  Well, even though, the utility businesses strive their best to keep up their service applications as feasible and accessible as they can, at times, it fails to bring out a tangible solution based on what the customer exactly wants. Utilities stumble upon technical glitches and application errors, which is more common in any industry that leads to service gaps. The usual drawbacks are resources not being enough or customer representatives not spending much time to resolve customers’ issues.  Whilst of all these, Process efficiency and Compatibility are just to be focused right now when it comes to the better customer experience.

Utility industry has been shifting and in the spotlight of adopting emerging technologies and transforming digitally right from the energy production, service, delivery, maintaining customer accounts to fostering high level of engagement. So, how can utilities attain customer delight? The following forward thinking ideas provide a good touch base for utility communication with customers by staying digitally connected more often than usual on demand basis.

The Need for Customer Centric Digital Engagement

Do Utility Customers face significant problem connecting to their energy providers? Isn’t it imperative to keep your consumers in loop like other industry does? 44 percent of energy consumers say that they have no interest in interacting at all with energy providers. Is this not an alarming situation, where utilities seem to be losing their customers’ interest? According to New Energy Consumer Research, 2017 report https://www.accenture.com/in-en/insight-utilities-new-energy-consumer-2017, consumers simply want the lowest price for the best value, minimal touch points with their utility and desire automation for a quick, seamless experience.

Utilities are seen by most consumers as a commodity for the basic needs, therefore customer centric digital engagement together with the rise of mobile connectivity and social media have now become essential platforms that support high technology such as IoT, Artificial Intelligence and big data analytics, etc., which too helps utilities to do personalized interactions and enable ‘’Digital Customer Engagement’’ to address customer specific requirements.

Make Customer’s Life Easy via Accessible Information

Customers would spend limited time on trying to approach for help and it is important to figure out the easiest way to solve the problem and this is being strictly followed by every industry business. But, how should the utility industry transform its customer experience? What are the approaches they can model digitally to support such experience? Can high technology or automation match the conventional forms, email and phone medium engagement? So one of the ways is ‘’integrating various features, compiled as one’’ to make customer’s life easy to solve their problems as quickly as possible.

Social Media to Accelerate Customer Engagement

Customers tend to prefer communication over social media compared to email. Social media can do a lot for customers from billing to building relationships, educating about energy through blogs and infographics, marketing campaigns and quick guidelines tips, precaution announcement, query resolving through community, etc. Social media channels are the swift ways to introduce any new service and tariff plans. Integrating CRM with social media pages can accelerate the engagement through email as well as improve the communication.

Traceable Communication and Transparency

Utilities should try not only developing new services but also must create other strategic digital programs to keep customers engaged by providing insights. Apart from bill payment and complaints, customers can be encouraged to digitally interact with energy focused ideas, improvising of technology based on the apparent idea of the customer itself. The traceable communication and transparency can get improved with the enablement of limitless platform and multi channels for vast interaction and satisfaction.

The data analytics report on usage and other factors for every user can help customers engage educationally. Customized and personalization of solution by means of Machine learning & Networks transform the digital utility to such an extent that it results in customer loyalty and retention.

Operational Dashboards to Attain Customer Delight

One of the most important digital strategies, which leads to the ultimate satisfaction for customers, the user experience and a responsive design, where customer interacts, is the key beginning for best breed of technologies such as Geo-enabled applications (web mapping, mobile GIS, sensors and operations dashboard) powered with advanced spatial analysis, and process innovations for solving utility’s problems through providing access, query, communications and display functionalities via web map of real-time outage status and economic loss information associated with outages in the county scale.

Image courtesy: www.rmsi.com

Two-Way Digital Customer Engagement

Communication is the source which persuades any customer. Organizations must work on hurdle-free processes to build a bond with stakeholders. A novel strategy must be developed that allies with the goals of the company and the expectations of the customer. Listening to your customers is one of the best ways to value your customers. When you don’t provide a platform for your customers to talk, then you will not be able comprehend their needs or problems. This opportunity opens up the way to adopt new customers. The best decision makers are your customers, so request and receive, implement their ideas to compliment them.

One of the examples is by Kaihen, who have created exclusive group for utility customers to share their ideas, problems and also solutions faced during outage events that can be adopted by utility companies. They have developed the Outage Management System which supports to overcome the difficulties and to create better interaction experience for the customers. The integration framework between customer window (website/social media pages/call center) connected to other utility systems such as customer information system, Geographic information system, data acquisition, workforce management system and other communication systems will affect other functionalities, transmits the outage information to the customer.

Image courtesy: http://kaihen.ca/benchmarking-study/

Fewer other utility companies have started building their pioneering approach of sales force integration and cloud computing technology to accelerate customer operations and to provide endless satisfaction.

Conclusion

Globally, major utilities are successfully adopting the above technologies, while some are experimenting with the existing resources. Utilities will keep revolutionizing by taking advantage of the exponential growth in inventive technologies and that leads the systems, business process, operations strategies to roll out in a new form.

Analytics & automation is going to disrupt all the older processes and the term “customer value” will take a new meaning. It takes challenges and risks to adopt new technologies concurrently but the transformation will pay the price in the end. If the utilities are able to perform deep research, capable of investing at the right resource, it’s proposed to invest in the right customer centric platform which suits the ultimate goal of the company.

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Rahul Krishna Pandey's picture

Thank Rahul Krishna for the Post!

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