How do you set about improving customer engagement when switching providers is super easy, and brand loyalty is flailing in the quest to find a better deal?

Changing consumer habits and increased competition have left utilities battling to keep customers happy, which in many cases has contributed to falling customer retention.

In this article, we’ll outline how a software-led approach to improving your customer’s experience at every interaction has the potential to help retain customers.

 

Differentiating commodities through choice

Utilities are  perceived as basic commodities. Some commentators put worsening customer engagement down to changes in consumer perception and purchasing habits. While price is an obvious focus for some, others are concerned about how the environmental impact of non-renewables is being tackled, or how the company will fair from a customer service or complaints perspective when things go wrong. Given how similar utility provision is from one supplier to the next, the customer can pick the most appealing provider on enhance grounds of choice.

 

Quality customer interactions and service

While energy providers may not have much room to self-differentiate on product offerings, how they manage the customer experience at every interaction is something that can set them apart.

As 2021 energy satisfaction survey from Which reveals, challenges are still present for the largest energy providers in customer service and complaints handling, knocking 28% off the score from the highest ranking (Outfox the Market), to the lowest ranking (Npower). When taking in additional factors including how quickly they respond to customers, how quickly they resolve complaints and others, that pushed Octopus and Pure Planet into the top two spots.

Clearly, customer interactions provide a rare chance for energy providers to set themselves apart. It is an area where the largest energy providers have an opportunity to reimagine and win back their customers.

 

Easier sharing of customer information

A long-standing problem with customer interactions has been the lack of pertinent information at sales/customer service agents’ disposal. With multiple communication channels involved, and almost certainly multiple team members too, keeping track of the moments that matter to customers has been an insurmountable task.

According to an Accenture report ‘Customer-centricity: Must-Have or a Waste of Energy?’, communication time between utility suppliers and customers averages out at a mere 10 minutes per year. If your support agent in the field or your sales agent at the call centre does not have up-to-date information on the company’s relationship with the customer, they’re likely to spend much of that crucial contact time repeating steps and frustrating the customer.

This information deficit creates essentially transactional relationships that discourage brand loyalty.  The providers who are excelling at this have the advantage of being digital-first, being about to create or procure systems and tools to create great end to end customer experiences that delivers what the customer expects at every stage of their journey, in a simple and intuitive way, and has the information readily available to solve their problems when they arise.

By leveraging better-informed communications to facilitate better-engaged customer relationships, you can build trust and positive impressions. This can be achieved using software that pulls customer information and interactions into a central, digital location, which can be accessed by the team members who need it in the moment.

Not only can this approach enhance B2C communications, but it can also support cross-departmental communication to solve customer cases. With this approach, we no longer have a fragmented team coaxing the same information out of the customer again and again. Instead, we have a well-integrated team that has consistently listened and logged any customer details which could have longer-term relevance.

 

Omnichannel and a single customer view (SCV)

Now we’ve touched on how software can help improve B2C communications (and therefore customer engagement), let’s get to grips with the central concepts behind the required technology.

Above all, using software to improve communications to energy customers will rely upon the capability to create a single customer view (SCV), by bringing together every channel of communication – including telephone, email and SMS – into a single system. This allows the sales agent who is responding to a customer’s query to look back through their interaction history and learn more about the case, for example.

Alongside communication logs, the SCV might also include account details including live data from the customer’s smart meter, which may cut the time it takes to handle customer problems.

For larger energy companies this has historically been a challenge with disconnected systems and processes meaning data can be siloed in different departments. With stretched internal technical resources this can take years to resolve, however you can utilise tools and platforms from partners to extend the business capabilities and hone the right experience for your customers, while this is being mapped and built in the background.

 

How rich customer interaction data can help de-escalate complaints

The thing about omnichannel customer interactions in a single channel view is that providers stand to get more out of it over time, thanks to the gradual accrual of actionable customer data.

For example, some energy providers can predict when a customer will next make a complaint, by looking at their previous interactions and challenges certain time period. Such insights make it possible to proactively intervene sensitively in customer interactions, effectively defusing them before they escalate to a more serious level.

If you are reviewing how you can better deliver for your customers and would like to discuss how we are enabling the transformation of customer experience for our customers, schedule a 20 minute call with our team now.