In a crowded utilities market the customer experience is everything

The modern utilities consumer has higher customer service expectations than ever before. How can providers meet these expectations while controlling costs? In this post, I’ll show you three ways that IT teams can help.

Rising energy prices, Government price caps and the upcoming EU 2020 Energy Strategy regulations are putting pressure on utilities providers to find cost efficiencies. A number of smaller energy suppliers have stopped trading over the past year. 

In the last week small energy supplier One Select has stopped trading – the third to do so in just three weeks. According to an article in The Times, one third of the 75 reviews on the ratings site Trustpilot gave Oneselect one star in October.

When customers are unhappy they turn to public forums to express their frustration. They will also readily switch providers to find a better deal if they’re not satisfied.

When it comes to customer service, silence is not golden.

Speed of response is a key driver of satisfaction, even if it’s a holding statement to say that someone is looking into your issue or query. Very few people have the patience to sit and wait on the phone for over half an hour to speak to a customer service agent. It’s not how the world works these days.

The customer service experience in sectors such as retail and banking has become the new norm. Some brands are responding to customer service enquiries in under five minutes.

In a crowded and competitive market, utility providers need to follow suit in order to set themselves apart. There are a number of ways IT can support.

Data

The availability of data has grown exponentially – do you know how to get the most from it to drive customer satisfaction?

Smart meters and connected devices will give utility providers more information than ever before about their customers’ energy consumption and behaviour. This data:

  • Provides more accurate bills to customers
  • Provides more reliable forecasts and outage alerts
  • Improves operations and restores power more quickly in the event of an outage
  • Helps to identify theft or fraud more quickly
  • Offers tailored consumer programmes to improve efficiency and save energy
  • Puts customers in control of their energy usage and account

Utility providers need to be ready to process huge volumes of unstructured data and convert it into a format they can use to make agile business decisions.

In order to be prepared, ask yourself the following:

  • How do I store all the data in a way that is useful and scalable?
  • What dashboards do managers and executives need in order to monitor performance and what reports need to be generated from the data sets?
  • What skills do I need in the team?
  • How can I communicate on a more personal level with customers?

The best time to make these preparation is, of course, in advance of the data becoming available. If you’re unsure where to begin, feel free to get in touch [link to LinkedIn].

Self-service support

Is information readily available online to encourage self-service?

Customer service expectations are high and are going to get increasingly demanding with the next generation of mobile-first users.

Customers will expect to be able to reach their providers through multiple channels and are unlikely to use traditional methods such as contact forms, email and phone in the future.

If information is available in a format that’s easy to access and easily understood, it will relieve pressure on contact centre staff.

Modern contact centre technology

Do you take a multi-channel approach to running your contact centre – supported by efficient back office processes?

You can lighten the load on contact centres by introducing chat bots, automated call lines and speech analytics (through natural language tools) to answer some of the more basic questions, such as how to replace a lost top up card. But there is more to it than this.

You need to take a look at the entire complaints handling process. Once you have delved into the internal processes, looked at them from the point of view of the customer, then you can start developing a streamlined complaints process from the moment the customer makes contact.

An enhanced customer experience is a key differentiator between suppliers which may be quite similar in terms of price. Using automation to reduce call waiting and handling times is more viable than ever.

Windows 10 upgrade

Is the IT infrastructure stable and reliable enough to support digital transformation?

We’ve written extensively on the topic in previous posts, but if you haven’t started making plans for Windows 7 end of support [link when available] or Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R2 end of support, then the time to do so is now.

How we helped Utilita with their digital transformation

Through digitising labour-intensive processes, Utilita freed up time to focus on delivering a better customer service and a more streamlined service. Introducing end-to-end operations from the perspective of the customer helped them to respond more quickly to issues and meet customer service expectations in a data-driven world.

By reshaping the customer relationship and delivering a personalised service, you can increase loyalty and satisfaction, reducing the odds of having to cut costs in order to stay competitive.

If you’d like to discuss anything in this article in more detail, please connect with me on LinkedIn. Or if you’d like to learn more about how you can optimise your IT estate, download our copy of the Optimal Office report.

Gary Olive
Gary Olive
Gary.olive@ricoh.co.uk

Business Consultant at Ricoh ITS

Read all articles by Gary Olive