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Why Retail Energy Providers and Utilities need to turn up the heat on customer experience - Neldi Rautenbach - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

Why Retail Energy Providers and Utilities need to turn up the heat on customer experience

Advances in cloud-based technology have cemented the way for comparable businesses to compete regardless of their scale and size. Customer engagement and customer service strategies further energise this battle to retain and acquire new customers.

Industries like retailers, travel operators and bankers are already a decade into their digital transformation, however in the U.S, utilities are only at the start of their multi-channel online journey.

Forced to respond to green energy entrants, deregulation, and evolving consumer demands of mobile apps and social media, both competitive retail and traditionally regulated environments, have admirable digital ambitions. However, these ambitions are not yet met with significant Customer Experience (CX) investment and strategy.

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At the digital utility transformation conference, Dr. Pierre Peladeau, Partner at Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting group, shared the results of interviews with executives of 24 leading utilities from across the world stating, “We found the majority either had no digital team and no formal digital budget or had just a relatively small team and budget. Only a minority were backing ambition with a significant team and budget.”

Utilities in the U.S. that are eager to understand how digital can strengthen relationships with customers and guard against being outsmarted by new competitors, can learn from utilities in Western Europe who have been utilizing the power of online channels for years.

Digitally engaged energy consumers can unleash far more business value for utilities that embrace digital technologies than those that don’t.

In April 2016, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation and according to the U.S. Census Bureau this figure will continue to grow. The now largest demographic in the marketplace, Millennials are disrupting and challenging the corporate world with their technological preferences, whether we like it or not. Therefore, digitizing the customer experience is more important than ever.

Forbes contributor, Micah Solomon explains: Customer service is a key way to differentiate your business with Millennial customers. The customer experience that Millennials, as a rule, are looking for, is a hybrid experience: They want digital, streamlined, mobile-friendly assistance wherever that makes the most sense, and they want the best of the best in human assistance wherever that digital support is lacking, confusing, or not appropriate for the situation.

Complicated processes, long hold times and a lack of communication are only some of the problems that utility customers must contend with. To realize the opportunities that digital channels can offer, utilities must develop a digital transformation strategy that is realistic and scalable both online and in the contact center. For example: Most utilities implement the digital strategy of having a static FAQ section on their website.

But these are often difficult to navigate, frequently resulting in consumers having to call to get an answer to their query. In fact, Forrester found that 73% of customer prefer using a company’s website to answer their questions, but only 52.4% find the information they need online.
Cultivating partnerships with technology vendors will become more important for utilities to deliver on the digital experience as investing in the right customer service technology can simultaneously improve satisfaction and lower costs. Accenture reports that a typical utility could see $1 - 3million in annual savings by adding self-service to their website.

When choosing a technology partner, utilities must look beyond just the cost of implementation. Experienced vendors can offer scale and knowledge beyond what’s possible for any individual utility to replicate, especially in the fragmented retail markets of the U.S. Based on their experiences from working with multiple utilities experienced technology partners offer resources that new entrants into this sector can’t.

How do you engage utility customers?

Kicking off a discussion of the ‘internet of things’ (IoT), Martin Ratcliffe, Senior Manager M2M/IoT Strategy, Innovation & Partnerships, Vodafone Machine-to-Machine said, “The internet of things is everywhere, in every industry. Whether it’s automotive, retail, trade, engineering, products, energy or power, the question is who are the companies that are going to smartly put it together and make money out of it? … I think the big opportunity for utilities is through better and better engagement with partners across the entire value chain, such as hardware providers, communications providers, data processing, analytics, and services providers. Engaging with such partners to come up quickly with good commercial models that are win/win for the parties involved.”

UK based Southern Water, supply services to nearly 4.5 million customers. By adding additional integrated knowledge across digital channels which include their website, live chat and within their contact center, Southern Water has increased efficiency, fist time resolution rates and customer satisfaction. Their FAQ self-service tool has on average 20,000 to 31,000 interactions per month with a staggering resolved query rate constantly reported as being above 97%.

And a contact center knowledge-base assists in helping their 486 contact center agents deal with over 29,500 queries per month. Since deploying live chat, with an average of 3,100 chats per months, 80% of customers said they would use it again.

The analytics behind these integrated services has allowed Southern Water to enhance their service quality, lower costs and improve their OFWAT score with 3.9 points between 2016 -2017.

Conclusion

Texas: Before January 1, 2002, only a few years ago, utility consumers had no option to switch companies. Utilities were able to install any facilities they felt necessary with little input from residents or consumers.

Today, the utility sector in the U.S. has seen a profound change. State legislators & utility regulators are encouraging consumers to choose among a variety of new energy suppliers based on competitive prices & products.

Both IOUs & PUCs have to up their game.

It’s not only in the U.S. that utilities have had to up their game. Utilities worldwide are increasingly struggling to achieve sustainable growth. And although almost all major energy suppliers have invested in digital channels in recent years, some lag in usability and collaboration between online and traditional channels.

Digital transformation might appear daunting with traditional processes and legacy systems a challenge for those with serious online ambitions, but the potential that integrated multi-channel transformation offer, outweighs attending cost and risk many times.
As daunting as digital transformation programs might appear to individual companies, the potential opportunity is worth many times the attending cost and risk. Not investing in a strategy that can increase productivity, revenue, and enhanced customer acquisition and retention, is not an option with mounting pressures to be ready for future market challenges.

As one of the leading suppliers of online customer service and knowledge technology to Western Europe’s utility sector, Synthetix systems support and serve more than 28.4 million utility consumers. On average, utility clients that have implemented self-service technologies report a drop of 25% in inquiries and contact center abandonment rates with agents free to deal with more complex queries.

Synthetix was founded in 2001, and since then has revolutionised online customer service delivery. Our suite of omni-channel customer service software has helped many utilities to enhance their overall customer experience and contact centre efficiency.

Contact us today to find out about our simple fixed rate pricing, straight forward implementation, and ready-populated knowledge-base options. Visit: http://bit.ly/utility_enquiry

Publish Date: January 23, 2018 12:54 PM

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