One of the online panels at this year’s ‘Future of Utilities Summit’ focused on the shape of things to come for customer experiences, and I was pleased to be invited to discuss this with Eileen Brown (Customer Experience Director at Northern Gas Networks), Mark Royle (Chief Executive Officer at Zebra Power) and our moderator Sarah Lockett.
Customer-centricity is all-important to the modern utilities industry and it’s recognised that it requires a shift in approach, to match evolving customer needs with internal resources. From our panel discussion, I’ve summarised four key considerations:
Break down any barriers for your customers and your teams
You’re aiming for a frictionless, positive experience that benefits anyone approaching your organisation and everyone working within it. The organisations that are getting it right are focused on two core things.
- The first is the design of the customer journey. They’re considering every point of contact and the emotional push behind it – are customers calling for a quote, are they calling with a concern? In this way, they can design successful experiences that truly put the customer first.
- The second, and complementary, core action is to ensure departments are working fluidly together and that valuable customer information isn’t being trapped in silos. A disconnect between the teams that look after mobile solutions and those that sit within contact centres, for example, can lead to customers falling between the gaps.
“Successful organisations are creating a joined-up, holistic experience and it’s a continuous journey from the customer perspective.”
Be authentically personal without being intrusive
Customer-centricity requires knowing your customers a whole lot better. But get it wrong and you can find yourself stepping where you’re not wanted. It’s essential to understand your different customer personas, how they typically interact with you, and where their pain points are so that you can serve them best. Is a letter better than an email for paper-billing customers? Will a policy change notification in your app reach the right eyes? Putting the right systems in place to advise your agents can tremendously boost your customer experience ratings. And it’s essential that these systems continue to monitor changes in habits, so your customer interactions remain authentic, timely and of value.
Get your customer data working for you
It’s staggering to think how much data still sits untapped in your contact centres – it’s a real goldmine. Accessing that data, and making sense of it all, is now more cost-effective than ever with the rise in AI and machine learning technologies. It means a real leap in perspective, from simply evaluating heritage customer behaviours to now predicting responses such as how different customers will react to new services or charges. This investment in data and analytics is paying long-term dividends in retaining customers year on year.
Maintain the human touch in the move to digital
Through the pandemic, there has been a rise in the demand for voice and video services. It’s to be expected. At emotive times, customers often want to speak to other humans to resolve any concerns. But the flip side is that there are other customers who would rather not talk to anyone as it can slow down what they’re trying to achieve that day, such as renewing a policy – they just want to get in and out. The art is to distinguish between the two needs – to identify which issues are emotive and may need escalating, and which are very simple and transactional. This is where virtual assistants come into their own, maintaining a human, conversational touch when needed while enabling a fully automated approach where preferable. The best of both worlds.
I hope you’ve found this summary of our panel discussion of interest, and don’t hesitate to get in touch at [email protected] if you’d like to continue this conversation further.