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01.30.19 | blog

Customer Experience Benchmarks for the Utilities Industry

Historically, the utility industry hasn’t been known for its concentration on excellent customer experience; however, as utility options evolve and society's expectation of levels of service follow, utility companies have come onboard to recognize CX as an important component to the overall health of their organization.

Benchmarking the various areas of customer experience allows the opportunity to quickly assess where improvements can be made. With better data reporting, assessment of key performance indicators, and robust options in meeting customer needs through technology and outsourcing, U.S. based utility organizations have seen continued improvement on overall customer satisfaction.

Knowing the Market - Today's Consumer and Building Loyalty

The most essential part of building a good customer experience is in understanding the user. Historically, each utility company has serviced a set sector of the population, so customers’ purchases were need-based over product or service driven. As a result, utility companies sometimes pegged a strong customer experience as unnecessary and neglected it to reduce costs.

Today's utility companies need to compete with a growing innovative, customer-savvy field that's offering enhanced options with better service. Consumers are increasingly educated on their utility decisions, with access to the latest information at their fingertips.

Socially-minded consumers need responsiveness and transparency to build trust.

The ability for customers to easily post, tweet, and put a megaphone to their service experience can be a double-edged sword for utility companies. Great transparency, easy to navigate online information, and access to live assistance that can help on the first contact are often experiences that are greeted with great reviews and recommendations. Of course, the areas where your organization falters will be publicized with even more vigor.

Building customer loyalty is more than a matter of good social media presence or excellent PR. Consumers today want real data to make informed choices. Transparency in pricing is key. This means giving your customers excellent independent access to pertinent information about their service and usage.

This doesn't necessarily negate the need for live customer service personnel. Often a key complaint among utility customers is the inability to reach a person to help them navigate the system or answer questions.  Arming passionate customer support agents with clear explanations of utility options is the best way to build the authentic connections with customers that they are so desperate for.

Read More: Arise Customer-Centric Energy and Utility BPO Solutions

Key Performance Indicators to Consider

Utility organizations study a vast number of KPIs to determine their financial stability and projections for future service, including ones directly correlate to the customer experience. These specific benchmarks tie often into the overall health of the organization and financial projections, making CX an important area to study and improve.

Two key KPIs that tie to customer experience are:

Customer experience

This is an obvious measure of overall satisfaction. Though this data alone isn't enough. Often customers will indicate a high level of satisfaction with one area of service while distinct displeasure with another area. For example, customers might be content with the level of service, lack of disruption, or fast turnaround time to restore power in an outage. They may simultaneously be displeased with customer service, website usability, or the billing and payment cycle. Capturing these individual statistics can help build a stronger experience throughout the organization.

Customer Contacts Per Account

You should be measuring the average number of contacts for customers overall and individually. This information might be an indication of engagement, though satisfaction after contact is often more telling. Benchmarks to consider include email open rates, online logins, and phone contacts.

Customer Satisfaction

In the United States, the overall satisfaction rate for the utility industry rose by .4% between 2017 and 2018. While the industry is slower to prioritize customer satisfaction than other sectors, there are positive movements toward a healthier and more fulfilling customer experience.

According to a study by J.D. Power, there are key indicators that can push energy companies over the top in terms of consumer satisfaction. Some of the most highly regarded characteristics of organizations who excel in this area include:

Electronic Billing

According to the survey, there's a 47-point increase in satisfaction for customers who enroll in electronic billing and are able to access their account through a web portal.

Giving Back to the Community

A whopping 75% of those surveyed indicated that a utility company giving back to their community made a big impact on their satisfaction with the company.

Transparency in Savings Plans and Peak Usage 

Consumers are more engaged when their utility company proactively notifies them of peak usage times and offers them educational materials to help them save money or enroll in a savings plan. Having your customer support team armed with the right information helps too.

Building Satisfaction Through Technology and Customer Service

A solid multi-channel approach is the best way to deliver an excellent customer experience in the utility industry. Robust self-service capabilities capable of clearly answering customers questions supported by knowledgeable, passionate agents providing authentic interactions will go along the way to set your organization apart from the competition.

Benchmarks to include in your continued analysis of your customer experience include intake and acceptance rates on digital offerings, such as web portals, electronic bill payment, email, text, and mobile apps usage. But of course, we aren’t forgetting that traditional high-touch agent support metrics matter too. Keeping a focus on CSAT, first contact resolution, the speed of answer and other core contact center metrics is critical to building an exceptional customer experience. Having an agent who can not only address a customer’s concern but be knowledgeable and passionate enough to educate and inform them on their choices to ensure they are making the right ones is truly the benchmark that utility companies should be striving for.

Read More: Energy and Utility Solutions White Paper

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