Utility Industry Looks to Omnichannel Support in Light of Changing Technology, Consumer Expectations - Alorica - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Utility Industry Looks to Omnichannel Support in Light of Changing Technology, Consumer Expectations
Since the 1990s, ongoing legislative changes in the utility sector have produced a gradual shift from strict government regulation to the impact of market forces on the pricing and delivery of electricity. Natural gas and other energy products like green solutions including Solar and Wind power have also come under review. Non-utilities now have direct retail access to residential consumers in 18 jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and Canada, representing more than 39 million residential accounts. Of those, 44 percent receive services from a retail energy provider (REP), as of year-end 2014. Although the legislative environment is still very much in flux, utility companies increasingly recognize the need to restructure their approach to service delivery and customer support, as new technologies and an increasingly emboldened user base demand greater attention to the consumer relationship.
In a highly controlled industry, demand from utility providers, REPs and consumers to provide more immediate and flexible options for customer care and access to new service models has placed pressure on regulators to redefine the rules of engagement for interacting with consumers. Currently, Utilities and Energy Suppliers must adhere to strict protocols related to the frequency and channels for communicating with customers on issues related to service and payment, such as disconnect notifications, penalties and fees, and late payment arrangements. Many companies have moved to unsilo their Care and First Party collections teams and combine them to a cohesive and unified operation for several reasons: Consistency; Focus on Customer Experience; Improved Revenue Recovery. Expert Global Solutions (EGS) a contact center outsourcing leader in the Energy Utility sector has introduced Financial Care to help meet the growing shift in service mix in the industry that focuses on Care, Collection and omnichannel flexibility. These services help Utilities bridge the gap between regulators and the Millennial Generation, who prefer Web-based self-service options and appreciate the sense of empowerment that comes from different delivery models, such as prepaid energy.
As they consider how to better support the stakeholders at all levels, utility regulators and electricity providers should consider the following market trends:
- Consumers are increasingly mobile. Smartphone technology and cloud-based systems have made it possible for people to manage their utilities anywhere, anytime, turning devices on and off, reprogramming their thermostat settings or making a payment through their mobile device. In light of continual advancements, consumers will look for further innovation from utility providers related to mobile platforms.
- Consumers want more control over costs. The idea of prepaid electric service based on previous consumption rates has already gained traction with consumers, some of whom who are seeing energy savings between 5.5 and 14 percent. However, the model brings with it new challenges to protect customers who may underestimate their usage, particularly because utility companies have more leeway in terns of shutting off service.
- Smart meters mean more programs. Smart meters, which can measure actual energy usage in increments as small as every 15 minutes, have opened up opportunities for time-based rate programs. Rather than being billed based on flat or tiered rates, consumers can benefit from the variability over time in the cost to produce electricity and see a cost saving through dynamic rates. Energy companies potentially can capture a greater market share if they can explain the pricing models effectively and provide tools for customers to self-check meter readings.
New developments in technology combined with the removal by regulators of barriers to entry for retail choices means that utility providers must address changing consumer preferences, or be left behind with antiquated systems and processes. From innovative pricing models and payment plans to self-service options and mobile-friendly tools, electric companies that take an omnichannel approach to customer care and support have the opportunity to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market and foster further positive change for the industry as a whole.
When you consider this industry shift and the cost and timing associated with implementing change, many Utilities and Energy Marketers have shifted more responsibility and accountability to outsourced customer contact center relationships. Companies like Expert Global Solutions (EGS) have the depth of experience, resources and PCI compliant technology to seamlessly extend the existing platforms and capabilities that exist within the in-house Utility contact center while blending omnichannel solutions – eliminating significant CAPEX, time delay and HR challenges. With outsourcing, Utilities are introducing new services today which in turn helps to bolster better customer experience and satisfaction ratings.
Publish Date: August 12, 2015 5:00 AM
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