Disruptive technology is everywhere, but the energy and utilities industry has been slow to act. And customers are noticing – it’s currently rated second worst when it comes to customer experience (CX).
The industry is at a crossroads, with macro-economic and political forces also contributing to a climate of reform. A recent survey of 35 senior individuals indicates that, while digital transformation is underway, clearly-defined strategies are lacking.
This means there are enormous opportunities for those working strategically. In this blog, I’ll explore the benefits of digital transformation for the energy and utilities sector and give you tips on overcoming barriers to reach your customer engagement potential.
Switching is easy – so how do you keep your customers?
Lack of choice is a thing of the past. Thanks to government initiatives such as the Green Deal, barriers to entry for small firms have been lifted. What’s more, advances in technology mean it’s easier than ever before to switch. As a result, more than 5.5 million UK customers switched electricity supplier in 2017.
Today’s discerning consumer wants more control, be that in the form of smart meters, thermostats, real-time information or pricing transparency. Self-service is key. Perhaps most significantly, today’s savvy consumer just isn’t going to stand for unhelpful or time-consuming customer service.
It’s estimated that – in the US alone – businesses lose out on $1.6 trillion every year due to customers switching provider because of poor service or experience. In other words, customers aren’t going to hang around for you to get your act together, digitally speaking. If you’re not taking steps to give them what they’re looking for (and fast), you can forget about customer loyalty.
Rethink your approach to the customer experience
The first step to retaining customers – and attracting new ones – is to change the way you think about the customer experience. And remember this: digital transformation can help you reduce operational costs as well as improving retention and sales.
When thinking about CX, don’t just consider customer service or complaints handling. Instead, as emphasised by Ofwat’s CEO Rachel Fletcher, you need to take a holistic approach, considering how every aspect of your service impacts your customers.
Cross-channel communications are crucial to seamless CX
To earn customer loyalty, you need to deliver personalised, tailored experiences. But to do that, you need to identify and understand your customers’ requirements.
Gathering feedback is essential to this process. Automated follow-up emails and SMS questionnaires are a fantastic way of collating insights so that you can continue to evolve with customers’ ever-changing demands.
Ultimately, though, to deliver an outstanding and memorable CX, you need to embrace cross-channel communications. This involves connecting interactions across every channel, including online, mobile and call centre – giving customers a consistent and continuing experience, whichever method of communication they select.
Orchestrate your data to deliver a cohesive experience
The importance of cross-channel communication means you need to ensure there’s a seamless experience. Digital transformation therefore needs to break down siloes and join up data. This is data orchestration.
To drive operational excellence, you need technology that brings your internal teams and systems together. For example, United Utilities have invested in an app that allows customers to make payments, view their payment history and submit meter readings.
When you digitally manage your data across individual sites and entire systems, you’re able to deliver a unified experience. This means that you can automatically produce a 360°view in real time, so you can trigger meaningful communications and interactions.
Embrace NLP-powered technology to boost efficiency and reduce costs
Your customers want it all, and they want it now!
And for many – 80%, according to ForeSee’s 2018 Utilities CX Insight report – an effective online experience is preferable to a call centre one.
Natural language processing (NLP) and AI technologies have evolved. Chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR) systems help you give customers the information they need more easily. Self-service not only facilitates effective resolution, but it also reduces inbound call volumes.
With this approach, you relieve frustrated customers by improving speed of response – and lower your costs by increasing operational efficiency. (And, of course, you’ll become more environmentally friendly.)
Drive operational excellence and profitable growth with Engage Hub
Simply put, the opportunities generated by digital transformation greatly outweigh the risks and costs of change. Indeed, companies that have embraced digital transformation – for example, those in the retail and financial services sectors – are living proof that the benefits are often greater than predicted.
Standing on the brink of digital transformation, you’re poised to see the benefits in everything from revenue and productivity to customer satisfaction, acquisition and retention.
Engage Hub’s solutions are designed to align with your CMS/CRM systems and business needs, giving your customers complete control. With the capacity to handle millions of simultaneous communications, our technology helps you deliver personalised self-service and the right message on the most appropriate channel. As a result, you’ll reduce your need for expensive customer call centres, even during peak times.