Utility companies continue to build more robust metering infrastructure, revamp internal processes, adopt new technologies that help improve how grids operate, and more. Despite all of this innovation to outperform the competition and modernize the industry, one area that’s lacking is utility customer satisfaction. A study by GP Strategies found that “customer satisfaction in utilities was below the UK average for 18 out of 21 months to December 2018.” Customers aren’t happy, so they keeping switching from one utility provider to another.
One way to improve satisfaction is to reduce the effort it takes for utility customers to manage their accounts. Customers don’t want to call support every time they have a question. It’s time-consuming and often very frustrating. Self-service lets customers complete tasks—at any time of day—that are important to them. If customers want to pay their bills, make changes to their accounts, install a meter, report an issue, or book an appointment, they can — without having to call in.
By reducing the amount of effort needed to solve problems, you improve the customer experience, which boosts satisfaction levels. Here’s a look at why you should consider adding a self-service option to your business.
Self-Service Gives Customers Autonomy to Manage Their Account
One of the easiest ways to jeopardize utility customer satisfaction is during a support call. If you leave customers on hold for too long and then transfer them between reps when they finally get a person on the line, you frustrate them and damage their experience. That is why most customers avoid calling into customer service: They want to skip the hassle.
Self-service is the perfect fix for lagging utility customer satisfaction, but a basic platform that doesn’t let customers solve the problems they’re experiencing isn’t going to cut it. Customers need flexibility to manage their accounts as desired, and they need an opportunity to learn more about their service provider in the process.
The good news is that customers are open to learning more about their utility service. The more they know, the easier it is for them to find information. This contributes to a low customer effort score since they’ve learned more about how self-service works.
What you can do
To educate customers, use data from inbound call logs to determine what types of questions customers ask the support team. Use this information to create relevant options within your self-serve platform or mobile messaging strategy.
For example, if you find that customers call into support to set up service appointments but are upset with the amount of time it takes to do so, give customers the option to book service times through your self-service platform. Go one step further and send rich media messages (RMM) or SMS a few days before scheduled appointments to remind customers and to give them the option to make changes. Booking and confirming now take a matter of seconds to complete.
This approach makes self-service platforms and mobile messages unique to each utility company because the messages are personalized for customer needs.
Learn more about mobile messaging trends in the utility sector: 4 Customer Experience Trends in the Utilities Industry
Self-Service Creates an Interactive Customer Experience
Despite the bottleneck caused by placing customers on hold, inbound calls are the most popular contact method customers choose. Compared with an email or a social media comment, phone calls let customers get specific information about their accounts. However, there isn’t much interaction beyond asking a question and getting an answer.
To improve utility customer satisfaction, self-service gives customers another communication method that is more interactive and minimizes the number of inbound calls customer service receives.
What you can do
To make the customer experience more interactive and personal, use interactive voice messaging (IVM). These are voice messages that are delivered through mobile devices. Similar to MMS messages that let users send media, such as images and GIFs, IVM lets users record information to share with their audience. It’s an innovative way to grab customers’ attention and interact with them. You can use IVM to:
- send welcome messages to new customers,
- notify customers of service outages,
- introduce new programs, and
- make company announcements.
Segment customers so that messages are relevant and specific. For example, if only a segment of customers needs a service upgrade, send them a message and give them the option to accept or decline the new agreement. Again, they don’t have to call in to update their accounts. You notify them, they decide what to do, and they make the change — with the help of mobile messaging.
IVM also directs customers to the right rep if more help is needed. Let’s say you send a customer an IVM as a late-payment reminder. Send a follow-up RMM with the number of your Accounts Receivable team. This gives the customers the opportunity to follow-up with more details without having to go online or find an old invoice to find the number to call.
Including additional contact information with your IVM also minimizes the number of incoming calls to customer service. This frees up time for customer service reps to speak with customers who call in. This is especially helpful for difficult calls that require more time to resolve.
Find out how customer service teams can incorporate IVM: Outbound Interactive Voice Messaging For Contact Centres
Self-Service Improves Customer Engagement
Between getting their bill and paying it or reaching out to customer service with a question, customers aren’t highly engaged with their utility provider. This lack of engagement does little to improve utility customer satisfaction since it doesn’t help create a stronger customer experience. Customers perform the bare minimum and don’t see the potential to manage their accounts the way they want to.
To improve customer experience and satisfaction, find ways to encourage customers to engage more frequently. The more reasons for positive engagement, the more likely that customers will have a satisfactory experience.
What you can do
To encourage users to rely on your self-serve option, give them multiple opportunities to use it. Just because customers know there’s a self-serve option, that doesn’t mean they’ll start using it immediately. They need a reason to use it and explore its features.
For example, combine self-service with RMM to trigger an action. You can send for the following reasons:
- When a customer submits a service ticket, send a follow-up survey afterward. Use this information to continue to make changes to your products and services to improve utility customer satisfaction.
- When a customer accesses new program information, send a promotions message. Summarize details about the programs they clicked on while in self-service. Include a link to your website with more information, and include an option for customers to apply the promotion to their accounts.
- When customers check their invoice, send a message asking whether they’d like to receive notifications. Let customers set the frequency and relevancy so they personalize the service.
All of these options require low customer effort, keep customers engaged, and offer relevant information.
Other ways to use self-service to boost engagement is to give customers the option to report service outages and sign up for updates. These options helps with utility customer satisfaction because customers have the ability to be proactive and they can receive up-to-the-minute updates vs. waiting hours without any news.
Utility Customer Satisfaction Is on the Mend
Use your self-service platform or mobile messaging strategy to create a one-stop shop for customers to manage their account. Give them access to complete tasks, such as view their latest bill, make payments, check service levels, and book appointments. Customize your self-service strategy so that it meets the unique needs of your customers. As their needs change, update the self-service options you offer.
Also, use push notifications to keep customers engaged. These mini reminders help customers create a habit of using self-service to get what they need quickly.
Remember, the goal with self-service is to minimize the amount of effort customers spend finding answers to their questions. The easier it is for them, the better the chances of improving utility customer satisfaction.
To learn more about customer effort score, download our custom template.
Published on: 23rd September 2019