Improving the customer journey for energy and utility customers

Energy companies in the past have not wanted a true two-way relationship with their customers, either down to not having the staff bandwidth to respond to a Customer in a personalised and positive way or just through the sheer volume of calls that need to be acted upon.

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Energy and Utility company customers have always found engaging with their energy company a challenge. According to Ofgem the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) score across the energy sector for all British suppliers is minus-6 (2019, Ofgem). This means that there are more people who are unhappy with their supplier versus those that are happy.

As more digital channels continue to develop, customer expectations of how they want to engage with businesses are constantly evolving. For example, it is now routine to expect to be able to get the answers that you require from almost any established company through smartphone apps and whilst many have embraced this new channel of communication, some providers have a long way to go. With new touch points, customers are more engaged than ever before, despite technology making it easier to do business with anywhere and everywhere.

However these new digital channels have added complexity to a customer’s journey for the businesses to cope with as a customer may start their journey on a laptop via a company’s website, then by phone and then even via a smartphone text message or email,  a true omnichannel of communications with all responses needing to be recorded in one place so staff in call-centres are able to pick up all the threads of a conversation and understand where the customer is in their current Customer Journey. This has driven companies to take a more proactive stance, looking for ways to communicate with customers regularly about their current issues, energy usage, behaviours and ways to save on their utilities costs. Call-centre staff are also in need of being able to review multiple communications into one omnichannel enabled CRM log and act on them with workflows off to relevant departments for issue resolution especially.

How Does the Current Customer Journey Look

The current customer journey for many is about as frustrating as it gets. Customers must hunt down their utility company on social media, email or in-person to figure out how much they’re spending on energy. A customer’s only communication may be a bill once a quarter, which doesn’t tell them how much money they’re actually spending unless they log onto a website. Some people have never registered themselves with that website and remembering your password for limited eyeball time seems irrelevant for many.  At most companies, customers must guess their usage in an effort to save money by conserving energy at home and reducing costs. In reality, providers are charged with delivering safe, reliable services – not determining how their customers use it so there is a conflict of interest unless Governments set targets that relate both to the customer and the supplier, a good example is to install smart meters.

Many of these outdated methods aren’t sustainable – nor efficient for utilities or consumers – in an increasingly digital world that values digital automation at every turn. The Utilities are rarely at the forefront of a trend, like for instance to get the Microsoft authentication App/programme to work on their websites to increase Consumer usage and security of personal information. But now with Net-Zero companies need to be on the front foot, what can energy and utility companies do about this?

Engage Better with Customers

When customers engage with their utility companies, they want to be able to find what they need easily. But some utility companies have changed their websites in recent years so that they don’t present customers with all their options on one page, which is not only confusing, but also forces customers to backtrack through multiple pages to get to what they want. Companies should make it as easy as possible for a customer to find what they need in a reasonable amount of time without getting lost in sub-menus or forgotten pages. Water utility companies should also be open to new technology, so for instance if someone sees a water leak then they should be able to photograph it and upload it to their website or App with geospatial data.

Not only will doing so increase engagement, but it will also reduce calls coming into customer service centres due to misinformation or mistakes made during searches online.

There are a few ways in which technology firms such as Birlasoft are helping companies to achieve this. Primarily the introduction of AI chatbots which can reduce call centre queries, easing the pressure on operatives having to answer more calls in a single day. Secondly, with smartphones being a staple in today’s society it is crucial for companies to create mobile apps to support their customers, giving them updates, advice and information on demand.

While customers have always found it difficult to engage with their provider, change is coming. Companies that actively listen to their customers and solve problems can build brand loyalty by making them feel like they’re part of a two-way relationship with their energy company. The diagram below shows the ways in which customers expect to be able to get the information they need in a timely manner: Call Centre, AI Chatbot, and Mobile App. The combination of these three elements could vastly increase the Net Promoter Score as has been seen in other industries such as insurance.

On the flip side Utility companies have to embrace the latest breed of Cloud based Customer eXperience (CX) and CRM solutions that makes the life of their internal staff easier and faster while responding to customers and having to deal with the next generation of communication friendly customers.

Image: Birlasoft UK Ltd

The customer journey encompasses both pre-sales (getting your attention) through to post-sales (reducing churn and building loyalty). There is a lot of data available to energy companies when it comes to customers, their households, their usage, their habits. If energy companies can use that data effectively at each step in your customer journey, they’ll be able to make recommendations at each stage. These recommendations will provide help through all areas of a person’s life: home, work or study. Once energy companies are able to provide service like that and truly show they want a two-way relationship with their customers, customers won’t feel like they have to look elsewhere. The diagram below shows the data exchange that should be happening between customers and providers: the customer sends data about their usage, habits, likes and dislikes and in return the provider relays information about outages, engineering works, bills and tools and tips for lowering your environmental impact.

Image: Birlasoft UK Ltd

Today’s customers expect a more personalized experience. Rather than impersonal touchpoints, they expect meaningful interactions with companies, especially when it comes to their energy. Traditional methods of customer service don’t foster that relationship, which is why utilities need to develop a customer-centric strategy that starts with a thorough understanding of their customer’s journey. To read more about how utilities can provide better service to their customers, contact us today.

Contact and sales details

For more information please reach out to the Birlasoft team.

Website: https://www.birlasoft.com/

Energy: https://www.birlasoft.com/industries/energy-and-resources

Utilities: https://www.birlasoft.com/industries/utilities

Sales Contact Email: [email protected]

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/birlasoft/

Office: London Office, 4th Floor, 53-54 Grosvenor Street, London – W1K 3HU

Phone: +44 7554011096

Email: [email protected]

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