A seamless customer experience is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s compulsory, regardless of the channel. Whether you’re ordering coffee to your front door or purchasing the latest release of trainers from your phone on your commute, the less friction the better. The characteristics of a coffee retailer’s customer journey may differ from that of a Utilities customer, but the foundations of a great customer experience are the same; make engagement easy, allow your customer to feel in control and heard, validate their emotions, minimize friction in their journey, and solve issues efficiently when they arise. Simple, right?
As patience for loading screens, hold music, and clunky apps wear thin, it has become more important than ever for customers to be able to carry out tasks efficiently, whether self-serving or speaking with an agent in a contact center.
If a customer’s cappuccino doesn’t arrive, a missed caffeine hit might inconvenience their morning, but their negative experience can likely be solved with an apology and a discount on a future purchase. However, when issues arise relating to something as essential as water, gas, and electricity, the situation is sensitive and needs to be handled with care. If the lights go out with no explanation, or the boiler breaks mid-winter, a discount code is unlikely to have the desired effect.
Outages and disruption to service can often be unavoidable, however with regulators and customers to please, it is vital that customer care in those moments is of the highest standard, as it can make or break the experience. As a Utilities business, here are four steps you can take to start creating better customer experiences and ensure your customers feel like they’re being heard:
1. Customer journey mapping
To understand the experience your customers receive when interacting with you, as a priority you need to walk a mile in their shoes to see how straightforward the process is to complete a task. How easy is it to register as a new customer? Can a customer manage bills without having to speak to your call center? Can they change their address online or within an app? Taking a customer view and identifying the various touchpoints they use to interact with your organization helps to highlight friction in their journey, improve efficiencies, and make cost savings.
A Customer Data Platform can unify these touchpoints to make it easier for you to understand the journey and analyze the progression or aversion of your customers at various touchpoints in their journeys.
Not all customers are created equal. While this doesn’t mean you neglect certain customers over others, it does mean their experience and requirements will differ depending on the stage of their journey. For example, you will have new customers with less brand loyalty and high expectations. You will also have long-standing customers who may have an affinity with you, but who will also move to a new provider if your service isn’t maintained at the standard they expect. Mapping the intricacies of each journey is crucial to predict each outcome and manage it effectively across all your customers.
Your prospective customer journey is likely to be marketing-led, with promotions, advertising, and initiatives to encourage them to choose you as a provider. This will require less interaction with your frontline agents than an existing customer who has experienced an outage or poor service during a repair. Each journey will have specific attributes; therefore, you need to monitor metrics such as call-center volume, web page visits, app views, etc. to help you understand which touchpoints are most popular and shape your journeys accordingly.
Whether your customer wants to manage their account, has a question about billing, usage, or property management, their journeys require varying levels of input from you. If you break down each journey and its outcome, identify touch points, and test the user experience, then misleading contact pages, slow apps, and confusing bills can become a thing of the past, making for a smoother and more enjoyable customer experience.
2. Putting the power in your customer’s hands with self-service
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Utilities provider that doesn’t offer their customers a login to an online portal or the option of an app to manage their account. By providing self-serve options such as access to bills, instructional content, the ability to download invoices, look at usage, and FAQs, customers can avoid lengthy call center queues. Now self-service options are commonplace, differentiating from the competition is a challenge, which means you need to be adding value to your customers when they use self-service options. Despite the importance of running water and heating in the home, your customer’s desire to check in with their utility app on a regular basis is likely to be low compared to that of their favorite retailer. Can you remember the last time you checked yours?
There are lessons to be learned from the retail sector though. With many retail mobile apps offering in-app points and rewards that can be redeemed against future purchases, Utilities can follow suit by creating unique experiences with a personal app that enables your customers to access information about their bills and services on-the-fly. An app provides the chance to promote loyalty schemes, rewards (for efficient energy usage perhaps), and discounts on future bills generated by using self-serve options. This not only promotes and drives traffic to self-service platforms, but it also helps to free up the resource of frontline agents so they can focus on more intricate customer issues before they become complaints.
Your self-serve function is a customer touchpoint that needs to be considered carefully. After all, the purpose of an online account or mobile app should be to make a customer’s life easier, whether you’re providing information such as “your bill is due on [x] date”, “your usage is at [x] this quarter”, or “you need to speak with an agent on this number”. Navigation should be clear, each step needs to serve a purpose, and the outcomes should result in the customer receiving clear action and their next steps.
3. Omnichannel delivery
Companies with strong omnichannel efforts retain 89% of their customers, while companies with weaker omnichannel efforts retain as little as 33%. In a mobile-first world, where convenience is key, you need to meet your customers on their preferred channel, whether that’s in-app, on social media, or in their email inbox. Taking a manageable approach by slowly increasing your channel presence is vital. Creating a social media account and expecting all your customers to take their queries there is destined to create friction in their journey. First you need to understand your customer preferences and set up your channels accordingly. It’s not good enough to just have a presence on each channel, you need to be engaged, therefore doing too much too quickly can leave you spread thin and unable to meet the expected standards.
If a customer interacts with you through social media and decides to carry on their conversation later using a chat functionality, the experience needs to be consistent. If your customer finds they’re having to repeat their query every time they interact with you, it’s likely to cause frustration. With Voice of Customer (VoC) software such as Rant & Rave, your frontline agents will have sight of previous interactions, enabling them to pick up the conversation regardless of channel, thus providing a seamless cross-channel experience. Furthermore, Rant & Rave’s frontline dashboard provides a central and transparent real-time view of customer feedback, giving teams the insight needed to follow up immediately. By giving your agents access to the information to serve customer queries in real-time, not only do your customers receive a more positive experience, but your employees feel empowered to make decisions that directly impact your customers.
4. Proactive comms
A seamless customer journey shouldn’t always rely on your customers coming to you. A successful relationship is built on two-way communication. Many areas of friction can be easily addressed by proactively communicating. Due to its efficiency, ease, and accessibility, SMS is the ideal channel for keeping your customers informed, and Upland’s Mobile Messaging product is used in many practical ways to improve experiences, such as:
- Provide notifications if energy usage is higher than normal and encourage customers to monitor their device usage and turn off lights.
- If there is an outage and an engineer is required, a simple text to notify of their arrival time will keep your customer from feeling like they’re being left in the dark.
- Send reminders in the run up to paying a bill, an upcoming rate change, or the option to move to paperless billing.
- Send payment confirmations, or notification of resolution to an issue.
Proactively communicating reduces the volume of inbound requests, allowing your team to focus on more urgent issues.
Creating a seamless customer journey is a marathon, not a sprint. As you make gradual improvements to the customer experience, keep your customers and employees informed, especially when it’s based on their feedback – good or bad! Using recovery loops to identify mistakes, issues and negative feedback and generate positive outcomes can lead to better relationships with both internal stakeholders and your customers.
If you’re looking to transform customer engagement, capture feedback with ease, and deliver outstanding experiences, then speak to a member of our team today.