Other brands could learn a lot from the customer engagement DirecTV exhibited during their difficult and challenging outage of the Viacom programming a few weeks ago (see Part I of this post).
They have created a loyal following of “Raving Fans” due to their commitment to Customer Engagement, providing a reliable product and high quality programming at a reasonable (though not the cheapest, by a long shot) price. These traits of offering a great Customer Experience are applicable across all industries, even within electric, water, and gas utilities.
Yes, I said utilities. Although the services associated with electricity, water, and gas are not as interesting or entertaining as high-definition television, it’s more important for obvious reasons.
Some progressive utilities have demonstrated that customers would engage in a dialogue with utilities even if the benefits to customers are not financially impactful to customers.
Utilities often see these benefits when having engaged customers and stakeholders:
- Communities, stakeholders, regulatory and legislative stakeholders are more cooperative and engaging
- Board of Directors or Commissioners have more confidence in the utility
- Regulatory action (i.e. rate cases, etc.) have a better chance of a positive outcome
- Receive benefit of the doubt from customers during an outage or other negative event
This is even more applicable in competitive markets where Retail Energy Providers struggle for market share, face high churn rates and have difficulty differentiating their brand on anything other than price. This is where building loyalty as a part of the overall Customer Experience can really be beneficial.
The impetus for customers to engage depends on how the brand engages with customers and what the purpose is. With the “how,” it has to be easy, accessible and familiar. That is why mobile technology has taken such a strong foothold in providing customers “apps” to develop deeper dependence on information and thus a deeper relationship. Familiar and trusted social media outlets have also offered a medium that allows customers to engage in a dialogue with the brands they associate with.
The “what” depends on what drives the customer in their relationship with the brand. If it’s access to information, report usage information back to the customer so that they can take more control of their usage and bill. If it’s convenience, offer choices in how they pay for their electricity (i.e. eBill, Pre-Pay, etc.) or when they pay (choosing their payment due date).
A big opportunity with engaging customers comes from outage notifications: offering frequent updates on what crews are doing to restore power, what efforts are being exhausted (show pictures), where to go for help, how to get water and ice, and other valuable information to help them cope with a lengthy outage. Utilities don’t necessarily need to commit to restoration times. They just need to offer an outlet to provide customers information on the situation and ways to cope, much like the way DirecTV did without making a commitment one way or another. This also helps those customers that are most in need like Seniors and low-income customers by providing information to customers and organizations that can provide assistance to those impacted. This information can also help a utility improve internal collaboration during the chaos that occurs during outages.
Some utilities have a long way to go to develop engaging solutions for their customers. Customers’ expectations are changing and they have expressed their willingness to engage in a positive, meaningful dialog. Investments utilities make in this area will continue to increase and will become “table stakes” for utilities if they are to realize the benefits mentioned above.
Our team at West Monroe is passionate about helping utilities deliver an engaging and fulfilling customer experience that does not focus on an individual transaction or moment in time, but emphasizes effortless interactions throughout the entire relationship lifecycle.
Specifically, West Monroe helps in “Bridging the Gap” between customer expectation and operational capabilities by:
- Rethinking customer interactions based on customer needs and business realities
- Integrating multi-channel communication capabilities and demand-side management tools
- Capturing the right metrics to measure status and hopefully improvement
Let us know how we can help you deliver memorable “moments of truth” to your customers.
For more information, visit our Energy & Utilities page.