Utilities struggle to provide customers a comprehensive mobile app experience to their own peril.
- Aug 18, 2022 4:03 am GMT
Well, it happened, millennials have officially taken the crown from baby boomers as the largest living adult population in the U.S. This was theorized in 2019 but confirmed after the 2020 census results came through.
What does this have to do with utilities? It has to do with utilities as much as it has to do with any business or industry to values a strong customer experience. Millennials are the first digital native generation, which means we grew up on the computers. Smartphones aren't some new technology to us, they've become as integral to daily life as a radio, television set, telephone, or newspaper for generations past. This means from this point forward, strong customer experience will mean a focus on what can be delivered through the smartphone and accompanying apps.
This should come as a wake up call to utilities. While the electric industry has put all of its chips behind a renewable energy transition and upgraded infrastructure, equal attention needs to be placed in building a better, more comprehensive customer experience through the smartphone through apps and mobile websites. The days of even just email communication, or paper mailers, or phone calls should be seen as firmly in the past. Of course, not all customers are millennials, but utilities need to be planning to eventually decommission those forms of customer engagement in the name of the smartphone.
Utilities haven't been great at this. A JD Power report from earlier this year showed that one-third of power utilities surveyed do not have a smartphone app, despite the evidence that smartphone apps have "consistently outperformed other customer engagement channels." Not only that, but the digital experience for customers within the electric utility has fallen in customer rating while almost every other industry has surged in this area.
The 2022 JD Power study showed little improvement from the same study the year before, in which utilities were found to struggle on providing a sound digital and mobile experience for customers, with nearly half saying they were unable to navigate their utility's website.
It's becoming increasingly clear that business sustainability and customer satisfaction (often tied in other industries but maybe less so in the electric utility's monopolistic structure) are linked to how businesses (utilities) deliver in the digital and mobile realm. Utility tech managers are likely tied to issues such as cybersecurity and smart metering, but it would do utilities well to put some emphasis on the customer experience.
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