Several factors are making customer service and customer experience management for water utilities a strategic priority. These include competition with other suppliers, new technologies, and the proliferation of communication channels, particularly mobile. In a complex market, which is becoming increasingly crowded, customer expectations are also growing and diversifying.
Thanks to digital tools, consumers have never been able to participate in the conversation with companies in a more decisive way.
The need to support more sophisticated interactions goes hand in hand with the need to improve the customer experience, all toward building ongoing loyalty. To achieve this goal today, there are two prerequisites that, if implemented in practice, provide greater guarantees of success: The involvement of marketing in all moments of building dialog with the customer and the development of personalized digital solutions.
But let’s take a step back and frame the theme of customer experience management for water utilities in a broader context.
Digitization and customer experience management for water utilities
Until recently, the quality of CX was not high on the list of priorities for utility companies. Customers did not have many alternatives for the choice of providers, and the modes of interaction established for digital users were limited in functionality, difficult to use, and unsatisfactory in terms of the user experience. Today, the situation has changed considerably and the centrality of the customer experience management for water utilities is no longer a detail but an essential condition.
Decisive steps forward have been taken in the direction of an advanced personalization of the service, especially thanks to digitalization, on the two dimensions of asset management and service and articulated in the sense of dematerialization and document experience.
The benefits of digital transformation: Metrics and low customer churn
Digital transformation has enabled companies engaged in the energy, waste management, gas, and water sectors to:
- Make structural changes in governance and ways of working
- Develop a system capable of putting a value on customer feedback, giving coordinated responses that are shared by both individual employees and the organization as a whole
To achieve better business results, companies need to move beyond purely organizational aspects and instead redesign policies and processes in depth. Accustomed to the customer care standards of other markets, people now expect their shopping experience to be seamless, at the click of a button. Utility companies then have an urgent need to develop a structure that is truly customer-centric, where the improvement of the customer experience management for water utilities is quantifiable and assessable on an ongoing basis.
The solution? Use metrics that fit into a larger system of measurement, and that account for each department’s contribution to customer loyalty; only then can energy and utility companies develop a clear understanding of the factors that underlie a satisfying customer experience, and then implement the most appropriate actions to achieve it (source: bain.com).
Data analysis at the heart of customer loyalty strategies
A detailed analysis of customer interactions is fundamental to the implementation of all the initiatives necessary for a successful CX. It is the necessary step that puts the company in a position to act promptly on the causes that can push a customer to change supplier. Thanks to accurately profiled knowledge of the customer situation, it is possible to implement targeted intervention plans with the dual objective of reducing customer attrition and customer churn and improving loyalty strategies.
A loyal customer becomes the first marketing vehicle for a company. As we explained in a previous post, gaining new customers is expensive and complex, involves significant investments of time and resources, and requires painstaking work on all the possible leads in the sales funnel; often the actual results are more disappointing than expected. Developing methods and tools for a positive customer experience, working on loyalty and customer retention, is instead a more controllable and less costly strategy that contributes concretely to keeping customer churn under control.
The customer experience in the water sector: A communication problem
We’ve seen how improving the customer experience is an absolute necessity for companies in the utility and energy sectors. If we shift the focus to the water sector, the situation becomes even more complicated due to a problem that involves two inherent communication phenomena: Misinformation and brand reputation.
A study by J.D. Power on Customer Satisfaction in the water sector published in May of last year – in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency – reported statistical evidence full of implications. In the face of a consistent increase in water consumption, there continued to be strong misinformation among American families. If 36% of the customers interviewed claimed to consume more water than in the past, a considerable 41% expressed strong concern about the transmission of the virus, considering the supply of drinking water unsafe, despite the reassurances provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
The correlation between growth in water consumption and persistence of misinformation becomes even more significant if we consider another statistic: Only 5% of water utility customers surveyed recalled receiving four or more communications from their supplier, while just under a third (30%) said they had received only one.
Proactive communications, if conducted in a transparent and respectful manner, have an unquestionably positive impact on the quality of customer relationships and brand reputation. But even today, few utilities offer them in a systematic way.
Therefore, it’s clear that a marketing plan where all initiatives for the correct, timely, and accurate management of conversations with the consumer is important. Improving the customer experience management for water utilities means, first of all, solving a communication problem that risks compromising the customer’s overall experience with the company. To address these critical issues, digital solutions are available to marketing teams.
Interactive digital solutions for consumer empowerment
In terms of the digital promises to bridge the communication gap we described above, J.D Power says that, in the case of electricity, gas, and water services, customer satisfaction improves significantly when customers use their utility’s mobile apps and websites (source: jdpower.com).
Water cycle utilities with digital technologies have the opportunity to streamline processes and improve customer service by offering proactive, self-service solutions for more personalized experiences at lower costs. For example, they can find out whether customer satisfaction increases when there is a wider choice of ways to pay the bill, or whether they benefit from accurate knowledge of transactional information, such as due dates, instalments or flat rate billing terms, and so on. Or, they can use systems to simplify payments, reminders, and collections so that calls to the contact center decrease and interruptions in the flow of communication are substantially reduced, directly impacting the customer experience.
Through personalized and interactive digital solutions, customers can act autonomously, both in the search and selection of relevant information and in the execution of transactions. The result is a sort of customer empowerment to which corresponds, on the business side, the possibility for operators to free themselves from the routine of the most repetitive daily tasks to concentrate instead on higher-value activities, such as managing more complex requests, upselling assistance, and acquiring new customers.
At the same time, digitization makes it possible to rationalize and enhance individual touchpoints, which are attended to even more promptly. Even tools for sending notifications and updates via voice or text message, for example, can prove extremely effective if inserted consistently into the funnel, and they can provide the kind of proactive communication that creates customer loyalty and satisfaction.
The role of marketing in the water industry: Managing complex interactions
In the water industry, as in other utilities, marketing is challenged to meet the demand for better customer service while ensuring lower costs. To achieve this goal, it must learn to effectively manage increasingly complex customer interactions.
While this is certainly a challenging goal, thanks to digital technologies, the scope of intervention for marketers has broadened considerably. They can now interpret the data produced by technology tools along the customer journey and enable real-time alignment of all corporate departments on brand values, methodologies and practices. In doing so, they enable:
- Managers to identify and prioritize areas where targeted action can improve the customer experience
- Various professionals involved in operational management to optimize processes and intervene correctly and in a timely manner
Creating a personalized customer experience in the water industry is made possible by two dynamics that marketers must seek to guide and integrate into their strategies:
- Technologies are intensifying competition because they offer consumers more alternative options on rates and usage patterns
- Consumers, who have greater amounts of data from IoT (Internet of Things) enabled devices, are becoming more aware of their consumption and their expectations for service quality are increasing significantly. They have more tools at their disposal to exercise critical judgment. For example, they pay more attention to costs that they perceive as unjustified: Those for a service with long waiting times and interruptions.
We are therefore in the presence of increasingly aware customers who can access new ways of talking and the different communication channels made available by companies. These alternative channels, however, in order to provide answers to concrete needs, must be easy to configure, with simple and immediate user logic, and designed to offer a seamless experience. They must also include specific functionality that can create a dialogic dimension, where customers truly participate in defining their role and their options for action. Put another way: they must be personalized and interactive.
Interactive experience: The technological solution for the water sector
Creating an effective and engaging digital customer experience means investigating, listening to, and truly satisfying the needs and expectations of customers, getting to know them and offering them the services and products they really need. This is the intent behind Doxee’s interactive experience, which transforms communication with customers into real, exclusive conversations. It offers them content, products, and services that are truly useful, encouraging the building of solid, long-lasting relationships.
The interactive experience products, Doxee Pvideo® and Doxee Pweb®, transform customer data into unique, interactive videos and dynamic, responsive micro-websites created and dedicated specifically for each customer.
Doxee Pvideo®: Personalized, interactive, engaging, and immediate videos give customers the information, products, and offers they want, and deliver high conversion rates. With interactive features and built-in analytics, Doxee Pvideo® supports customers along their customer journey, delivering an effective, multichannel experience.
Doxee Pweb®: By navigating through dynamic and interactive personalized microsites, each individual customer is guided to discover the services and products that are most relevant to them, which are continuously updated based on their data. Doxee Pweb® transforms bills, statements, and transactional documents into interactive applications, and is particularly useful for developing upselling and cross-selling programs.
Personalization at the heart of successful consumer relationships
Content personalization and interactive features are critical to the success of any initiative that aims to improve the customer experience in the water industry.
Personalized and interactive digital solutions offers great opportunities to the water industry, in terms of improving the level of quality of customer service and the efficiency of the entire company:
- It helps streamline efforts, with a view toward data security and privacy, scalability, flexibility, and integration with legacy systems
- Thanks to even more accurate customer profiling, it makes costs measurable and increases revenue in the medium and long term
- Optimizes conversions, with very high success rates
- It improves the experience of employees who can spend their time and energy on truly valuable activities
Strategies and methods of personalization and engaging the customer with specific and meaningful content prove extraordinarily effective in creating targeted communications and building and maintaining the success of the relationship over time.
Innovative technologies are transforming organizations operating in the water sector, both in their industrial and organizational structure and in the way they approach their customers.