Many energy and utility companies have considered the foundational element of their customer acquisition strategy to be price. However, any customer who has had an issue and wanted to reach someone for assistance will tell you they would consider paying more if the customer service was there. The energy industry is no different than other industries in that customers expect to be treated with respect, and they expect to communicate via multiple channels. There are many components that drive the need to focus on customer experience in the energy and utility industries including:
The Customer Focus
Deregulation plays a large part in the need to alter how energy and utility companies handle customer service. Customer retention has become a critical metric within these industries simply because it has become so simple to make a plan change. The internet provides a multitude of “comparison” sites geared toward giving customers information based on price points. When price is the only attribute considered, customer retention becomes significantly more difficult. However, by changing the focus to customer experience, retention becomes easier.
By tracking a series of metrics geared toward customer experience, such as customer satisfaction, average handle time, first transaction resolution and Net Promoter Score, the leadership teams can better understand how a customer is treated, and where there may be issues. Making adjustments to improve customer satisfaction is as simple as hiring stronger agents or partnering with an outsourcing firm that is savvy in the industry. This move will make immediate positive impact to the customer’s experience and solidify the brand in his mind. After all, once a plan is signed the customer is only beginning to experience your brand. If that experience is a poor one, he will simply find another company when the contract is up. If the experience is really bad, he may choose to pay penalties and get out immediately.
Customers Know What They Want
Customers are no longer willing to accept they cannot have a great experience because of the industry. Just because banks have been around a long time does not give them a pass. The same is true for energy and utility companies. Customers want the technology to support them in a single platform, not pieces and parts they have to attempt to navigate. The expectation is that the technology platform provides:
Customers also want to be treated as individuals – hence the focus on customer experience. They don’t want to be treated as a commercial or residential plan, nor do they want to be obligated for paying for someone else’s usage. The power usage patterns and service expectations will vary based on the demographics of the user. For example, young, affluent couples will most likely tolerate a high-priced plan if they can get the service they want versus a retired couple who wants to use the telephone for all transactions and not have upcharges for things like a dedicated customer support team.
To ensure customer retention means understanding the metrics to track by customer type, not plan type, as well as placing the right agents on the front line to tackle the increasing complicated questions from the consumer base. For the energy and utilities industries, it means finding the right agents who are built to deliver great customer experiences.