We’re in the midst of the Age of the Customer, when it has never been easier for consumers to research their own options and compare prices.
In the traditionally cost-led utility space, this fork is double-pronged; news of inflated prices, customers being overcharged, and generally poor service is shared and spread at a faster rate than ever before.
It also means that consumers are taking to ever-more convenient means of communication. Based on the urgency of their request, they might use a chatbot, make a video call, send an email, or pick up the phone. Their inability to use the most convenient channel or to move between them seamlessly can damage customer experience (CX) at a time when your ability to attract and retain new customers depends almost singularly on your level of service.
In 2019, a utility company’s success will be determined by how well it treats its customers.
This was the challenge that leading UK utility provider Northumbrian Water recognised when it reviewed its systems in 2017. At the same time, it noticed that the way its customers were choosing to communicate was changeable, whether they were making a payment, reporting a leak, or updating their requirements.
For utility companies facing similar challenges, here are the three key steps Northumbrian Water took to implement a customer experience strategy that delivered an efficient and seamless interaction every time.
1. Implementing an omnichannel communication strategy
To address your customers’ communication preferences, you should review the way their customers are interacting with you and which channels they are using for their different requirements. Could you optimise your website to provide a live chat function at key touchpoints, or implement Contact Centre chatbot facilities to best manage surges in enquiries?
Utility companies should review how their customers are choosing to interact with them and develop an all-encompassing network that connects these channels.
To match its customers’ preferences, Northumbrian Water redesigned and integrated their new website into their Contact Centre to facilitate live chat. They introduced a brand-new knowledge management system in addition to enhanced self-service capabilities and complemented their new omnichannel model by utilising the Genesys Customer Experience Platform.
Replacing legacy customer service systems — regardless of whether customers get in touch via chatbot, email, or phone — will equip staff with the tools to provide the right solution quickly and efficiently. This transformation has allowed Northumbrian Water to deliver cost efficiencies that will be increasingly valuable as the utility market grows in competitiveness.
Related read: How to Improve Customer Satisfaction with Self-Service
2. Introducing workforce management software to improve visibility
Uniting contact centres under a single network enables staff to benefit from enhanced reporting. By implementing new reporting and analytics tools, utility companies could transform customer feedback into data that can be used to mine new insights, optimise the customer journey, and improve customer satisfaction.
To further enhance the customer experience, Northumbrian Water introduced all-new workforce management software to improve demand visibility and decrease customer wait times. By gaining greater visibility across the business and its customers, Northumbrian Water has since been able to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to delivering a first-class customer experience, whatever their customers’ requirements.
3. Embracing cloud technology to ensure flexibility and security
Deploying a private hosted cloud solution can benefit utility providers by bringing multiple technologies together. Having a highly tailored technology environment would enable utility companies to maintain competitiveness and exceed customers’ expectations by delivering a unique and efficient service.
Integrating their Oracle CRM solution (billing system) into the Genesys platform and linking the customer knowledge base has increased the accuracy and accessibility of Northumbrian Water’s billing information — both from the agent’s screen and through automation to the customer. Northumbrian Water is now not only GDPR PCI compliant, but it has been able to offer more services, including automated payments and meter readings, to provide a more seamless customer experience, the results of which can be seen in their CSAT scores.
Related read: Should Your Contact Centre Join the Cloud?
The key takeaway for enhancing the customer experience
Driving Northumbrian Water’s customer experience success was the understanding that an omnichannel communication strategy alone was not a solution. In fact, channels such as live chat can actually have the effect of lowering customer experience if implemented without the agent support necessary to immediately answer customer queries and field interactions. Further frustration can be caused if your customers find they have to repeat themselves every time they switch channels.
To address these challenges and ensure a smooth CX transformation, Northumbrian Water partnered with the team at Connect Managed to map its customers’ journeys.
The customer journey map revealed exactly how its customers prefer to interact ‘in the moment’ and highlighted how Northumbrian Water could evolve its Contact Centre environment to best satisfy them.
Whether they depend on drainage systems, gas pipes, or the National Grid, utility providers understand better than most the importance of a clearly mapped network for delivering a service. Customer service is no exception, highlighting the importance of Contact Centre environments mapped closely to the customer journey.
Northumbrian Water has since become empowered to make more informed, data-driven decisions that enhance the customer experience across every channel. Can your company say the same?
For a step-by-step guide to enhancing the customer experience across your Contact Centres, download our free guide, 'How to Successfully Map Your Contact Centre Environment to the Customer Journey'.