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Utility providers are not converting their customers to paperless processes - here’s why this is a problem

Mia Papanicolaou's picture
Vice President: General Manager, Striata, a Doxim company

Mia Papanicolaou heads up the North, Central and South American operations, providing strategy and direction for both internal teams and clients alike. Papanicolaou is a regular speaker on...

  • Member since 2015
  • 9 items added with 10,744 views
  • Apr 23, 2018

Utility companies aren’t known for being great communicators and they’re equally not  recognized as being digitally-savvy when it comes to communication. For the most part, utility companies only communicate with their customers to send them bills and unsurprisingly, J.D. Power’s 2017 Residential Electric Utility Customer Satisfaction Study found that more than half (57%) of utility customers do not recall receiving  communications from their provider (beyond the bill).

Paperless adoption is stagnating

While some utility providers have made moves to provide limited services through online portals, utilities haven’t progressed as much as other sectors on digitizing customer service processes. However, adoption of paperless processes in this sector isn’t inhibited by security and regulatory concerns, as it has been in many other industries, but ratherby limited digital engagement, which has caused stagnation in digital document growth.

For customers, portal paperless processes are cumbersome and difficult to use. They are unlikely to go through the long process of signing up to a portal, if they are only going to access it once a month to get their bill.

If utilities do not make it easier or offer anything new to entice customers to go paperless, the adoption of paperless processes will continue to stagnate.

Why should utility companies care about paperless adoption?

Because it’s costing them money. The high cost of printing and posting paper bills and not maximizing the adoption of paperless processes puts unnecessary pressure on operational costs. Paperless processes, such as email billing, provide opportunities to further streamline other processes - for example, offering a one click payment option directly from within the bill to reduce Days Sales Outstanding (DSO).

Customers want a personalized experience, with customized services and products and are willing to pay more for it. Not responding to this demand will result in disengaged customers, who  deal with their service provider begrudgingly.

Utilities need to commit to the digital wave in order to maximize paperless adoption. This means making it easy for the customer to engage digitally, which includes how they receive and pay their bill. Merely having a portal from which the customer can access their bill, does not fulfil the requirements of a digital customer looking for ease of use.

What should utility providers be doing to drive digital transformation?

Digital transformation requires the right approach and technology to be seamless and convenient for customers. Utility providers should be investigating digital options that provide the easiest way for customers to not only choose go paperless, but also to receive their bill. Providing more digital options that are easier for the customer will help revive stagnating paperless adoption rates.

According to a recent study, 54% of residential customers prefer digital communication over any other form of communication.

Utilities need to think about using other channels, such as email, for bill delivery. It’s time for utility providers to step up to the digital challenge.

Sonam Jain's picture
Sonam Jain on Dec 21, 2018

Great article, Mia! What channels other than emails, do the customers prefer for receiving bills?

Mia Papanicolaou's picture
Thank Mia for the Post!
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