January 11, 2017

The magic formula for winning energy customers

Olof Ferenius

Head of Energy Utilities, Tieto

Energy utilities today are facing unprecedented competitive difficulties. Energy prices have reached rock bottom, competition is fiercer than ever, and new regulations are continually reshaping market conditions. When competing on price or services is no longer possible, one of the most powerful ways to differentiate your business — and to win energy customers — is through excellent customer support. To address this focus, energy companies should streamline their operations to address seven key factors that enhance customer-centricity.

E-market studies show that almost 50 percent of customer evaluations of their utility supplier are based on the quality of the services they receive. In order to stay competitive, energy suppliers must forge intimate bonds with customers.

This may sound easy in theory, but it is a rather difficult objective in practice. Overcoming this challenge requires implementing the necessary changes to customer support. Modern suppliers must ensure a complete customer journey process. This means reaching customers by using the right message, at the right time and through the right channels. Exceeding expectations and gaining trust is the only guaranteed path to full customer loyalty.  

Energy companies must create more interactions

Are customer complaints the majority of your company’s customer engagement? Sadly, this has become far too common, and it comes at a cost.

Today’s limited interactions with customers yield few chances to demonstrate value to customers and thus develop deeper loyalty. The moments of interaction need to be valued, utilized and developed.

Accordingly, energy companies should broaden the presently limited interactions beyond contract renewal and complaints. Push the boundaries using your vast customer data and expand customer engagement to include many more occasions ranging from celebrating anniversaries and assisting with relocations to recognizing changes in households, extreme weather conditions and unsuspected high monthly consumption.

This list could go on and on — there is always a good reason to connect with important stakeholders.

Smart utilities are using digital tools to be number one

Once the new moments of interaction are set, the focus can shift to differentiating yourself from competitors and showing off excellent customer support. These key encounters between customers and utility employees are how an entire organization is judged — so be well prepared.

Companies should strive to secure a complete and successful customer journey process that proactively utilizes digital solutions. To achieve this, the following seven factors should be in place:  

  1. Instant access to all customer data
    The customer care unit needs to have full and instant access to all customer engagements as well as offers, consumption data and other relevant statistics. Systems need to be interlinked and seamlessly updated so all information is available in real time to all customer service and sales personnel.
  2. Dynamic segmentation is key
    Sales and marketing personnel need to be encouraged to dynamically segment the customer base across all relevant parameters. Remember that customers want to be treated as individuals with relevant communication content tailored to them and their specific needs.
  3. Let the customer decide on the way to communicate
    There must be fully integrated omni-channel support for customer services and sales representatives to facilitate communication with each customer based on their individual preferences.
  4. Full automation is essential
    Systems need to automatically initiate proactive communication with customers regarding planned outages, abnormal consumption patterns and unexpectedly high bills.
  5. Use intuitive self-service to empower customers
    Fully integrated, simple and intuitive self-services must be available 24/7 through all interfaces — including online portals and mobile apps
  6. Make the most of data through analytics
    Utility suppliers need to understand customer behaviour by analyzing customer data.
  7. Empower customer careprofessionals
    Fully interactive systems should be developed to empower customer care personnel. This is the main point of contact for most customers, so these personnel should be able to instantly act and serve customers without authorization from bureaucratic management.

Finally, it takes more than the right supporting tools and systems to stand out from the crowd. Utility suppliers also need to be dedicated to service and quality. This starts with the management and leadership team cultivating the ability to listen and developing the capability to tailor services for specific customer segments.

This customer-centric approach is the magic formula for winning future utility customers. However, the right supporting tools and systems are a fundamental prerequisite for excellent professional customer support that can truly accelerate growth.

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