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4 Keys to Retaining Clients in the Utilities Industry

(Original post in Spanish)

Organizations that are within the public services sector are facing the challenge of retaining clients and increasing their satisfaction. This is the case because—despite there not being many providers to choose from—users are becoming less and less loyal and will not hesitate to move from one to the other if they feel their expectations aren't being met.

The demands of users are becoming increasingly higher, as they compare their utilities service to their experiences with brands in other industries. In this sense, utilities consumers are the most dissatisfied compared to other industries, according to an SAP survey revealed at its Utility Week 2020 event, giving these organizations a significant opportunity for improvement.

To avoid not only lawsuits, fines and reputational problems, but also to retain customers, utilities can implement some technological solutions as allies.

Some ideas are:

  1. Provide different information to the user: There are 3 main things users want to know: How much are they consuming on average during a certain period? What is their current consumption in real time, so that they can make changes quickly? What can they do to decrease the invoice amount? To advance in this realm, companies can launch mobile applications and websites that allow customers to control, manage and monitor energy use in real time. Alerts can also be offered when consumption is higher than usual, with notifications being sent in the event of service interruption and restoration. By providing clear information and management tools, customers can take control of their consumption and be more inclined to stay loyal to the provider.

  2. Customer service: The organization can improve interactions through a self-service system so that users themselves can manage their queries and procedures through a website or mobile application. The data collected through these digital products is of great value to companies because it enables them to better understand the customer. For example, data can be assessed in real time, such as reason for consultation, frequent problems, common procedures, amongst other insights. Additionally, all the information collected can be integrated with the CRM so that the company can access a more complete history of the relationship between each user and the brand, which can be useful to detect trends, patterns and make business decisions based on concrete information.

  3. Investigate and optimize the customer journey: The customer journey is the process a customer goes through to complete a task, such as opening an account or making a claim. For example, the customer journey to request a new service may involve points of contact in multiple channels (web research, phone calls, a visit from a technician, etc.). It can even take several weeks from the initial consultation until the first invoice is received.

    The advantage of analyzing complete trips is that, unlike when you focus on specific contact points, the entire customer experience can be analyzed. Even if one contact point gets high satisfaction scores—perhaps due to a particularly courteous or helpful care agent—that doesn’t mean the whole journey was wonderful. By examining the customer journey from start to finish, companies can identify interruptions in the process that are dissatisfying to customers or creating unnecessary costs.

  1. Memorable surprises: Recent research by utilities-based consulting firm, McKinsey, shows that offering experiences that go above and beyond customer expectations can lead to substantially higher satisfaction. This is key data since, as mentioned previously, utilities companies are behind on this point compared to other industries. To identify possible “surprise moments” for customers, a good idea is to look for inspiration by examining recent complaints and arriving on time with the “surprise” through social listening solutions.

    Since customer expectations are constantly evolving based on their experiences with companies in other industries, utilities has no choice but to work on databases to build a customer-centric culture and launch effective action. An interesting case in this regard is from Argentina’s Ecogas, who through a series of surveys conducted through digital channels observed that their clients expressed their agreement with the digital channels provided by the firm during the pandemic. In fact, 71.1% of those surveyed stated that their concerns were resolved in their first contact point with the company. Regarding the wait time to obtain a response or solution to their requests, 76.3% stated that the response time was fast or very fast. This company has a self-service portal for prospective and current clients.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel

Although it’s a great challenge to face, the good news is that there are technological solutions and experts in utilities that can help these organizations learn more about their users in order to offer them a better experience. And now more than ever, a better customer experience translates to better business results.

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