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It’s High Time the Energy Sector Truly Commits to Customer Experience

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The oil and gas customer base is highly niche. The industry has always been more personalized, so the concept of customer experience usually is applied on a case-by-case basis. The experience is present, but it can't always be scaled — or sometimes it slips through the cracks altogether.

Upstream oil and gas operators, for instance, are sometimes their own customers. Or they may have investing partners that want to focus on earnings over experience. On top of that, major capital expenditure opportunities often focus less on experience and more on mitigating risk and reducing ancillary expenses.

As a result, the energy sector typically lags behind other industries in creating a memorable customer experience. In a recent McKinsey survey, only 33% of customers felt their experiences with companies in the utility industry were especially positive.

Despite being slow to evolve, the industry is leveraging the digital revolution to catch up exponentially. Many companies now offer everything from online, 24-hour help centers to opportunities for direct face-to-face interactions, additional reporting functionalities, and more — all to increase the customer experience.

Listening to Customers' Needs

Digital communication has shaped customer expectations in most industries. As a result, customers want more out of the companies they interact with. Being good enough is no longer enough. The oil and gas sector — especially — needs to start listening to its customers if it wants to keep pace with expectations.

Enertia Software, for example, recently created a customer solutions team after researching our customers' experiences. The team's main goal is to advocate for Enertia's customers and improve overall customer experience. Central Hudson Gas & Electric has also found a new way to give its customers what they want. It created an online platform, CenHub, where customers can more easily make payments. Other solutions are becoming increasingly popular among upstream oil and gas operators, like providing customers with fully integrated, cloud-based interfaces.

By capitalizing on the digital revolution and listening to customers, organizations can successfully implement companywide commitments to customer experience — and position themselves more competitively in the market. The following tips will get you started:

1. Focus resources on building relationships.

Building and maintaining relationships is the best way to improve the customer experience. This requires open communication and coordinated strategy development. Companies should focus on tracking how customers interact with them in order to understand their concerns and provide personalized information, updates, offers, and recommendations.

Customers expect companies to provide the same experience no matter how and where they interact, so invest in technologies that will offer that. For example, create self-service portals similar to CenHub. Customers will more often choose to work with companies that provide a convenient self-service platform than companies that don’t. And when customers see their needs being met, the relationship grows.

2. Be an advocate for customers.

Customers expect great service from every company, and 54% of them make purchasing decisions based on those experiences. Another 68% of consumers say they would happily pay more for products and services if great customer service were part of the package.

That said, everyone who interacts or communicates with customers should be an advocate for those customers. Bring customers’ expectations to the cross-functional teams that can deliver on them. Customers will notice their specific concerns being addressed, and companies can solidify their relationships with them.

3. Understand the customer experience.

As more employees learn to advocate for and build relationships with customers, it becomes easier for the company as a whole to understand its customers' experiences. Focus on boosting that understanding as much as possible; learn what touchpoints are strongest and should be boosted — and which ones need to be improved.

For example, you can use data to track how customers use your self-service portal and where they seem to have trouble. Additionally, use surveys to ask customers about their concerns and implement strategies to address the most common pain points. Only through understanding the experience can companies truly tailor it to meet their customers’ needs.

4. Keep improving experience.

The customer experience doesn't end once a purchase has been made. Therefore, neither should your efforts to improve it. Conduct short, post-project surveys and track relevant metrics to measure the customer experience objectively. You should also prepare internal reviews on all client projects and practices to further ensure efficiencies.

Constantly improving the customer experience has been proven to pay off. Acquiring a new customer costs five times more than retaining an existing one. Consequently, it's far more cost-effective for businesses to create loyal customers by enhancing the customer experience. What's more, loyal customers are more likely to repurchase, forgive a company's mistakes, refer other customers, and try new products.

Markets within the oil and gas industry are in a class of their own. Still, customers expect the same level of experience and convenience that they receive from other sectors. To position your organization for success, make sure you don't let customer experience slip through the cracks.

Vince Dawkins's picture

Thank Vince for the Post!

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