The rapid diffusion of mobile devices on a global scale, the spread of 5G and IoT, the growing awareness of climate change that is pushing institutions toward more decisive action, distributed and deregulated energy, the pandemic emergency, and finally to conflict in Ukraine: despite the upheavals—technological, political, social, cultural—of recent years, the ecological transition has not stalled. On the contrary, it has accelerated dramatically.

 

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While facing the challenges posed by climate events, health crises, and events with socioeconomic implications that are still difficult to predict, the most forward-looking and responsive companies have managed to rethink the customer experience in the utility industry. In fact, they are choosing to invest in the customer relationship in a way that makes it useful, more meaningful, and more valuable.

We have already talked about decarbonization and the big changes in the utility sector.

Until recently, utility companies formulated their offerings mainly based on price and set their competitive strategies according to a traditional, and now largely outdated, idea of the end user (conceived in a mostly passive role with limited scope for intervention). The prominence given to issues such as responsibility toward the environment, transparency of information, and attention to the individual customer has produced both ideal and practical change, forcing companies to forever abandon an entrenched but no longer sustainable mindset and to redesign largely inefficient processes.

 

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Meanwhile, digitization has spread rapidly across the energy sector

It is against this backdrop that Doxee’s solutions for the utility sector are designed to foster a radical shift in strategy and business paradigm.

Building on an in-depth and articulate knowledge of both the specific dynamics of the industry and the world of digital communication, Doxee now offers utilities the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a corporate culture based on the correct interpretation of data, where technologies provide the tools that are best suited to respond to market needs and to interact with individual customers in the most effective way possible.

With products in its paperless experience, document experience, and interactive experience lines, Doxee promotes the vision of an active user-consumer, fully participating in the conversation with the brand.

The custom solutions developed by Doxee are integrated, innovative, secure, and easy to use, and they facilitate the use of services and respond in a timely manner to specific requests. Underlying the ability of these solutions to identify and solve users’ problems are two of the three pillars we will discuss in this post: interactivity and personalization, which in turn are enabled  by the first indispensable pillar: data

These three pivotal elements make it possible to bring the customer experience in the energy sector up to the standards that the contemporary consumer expects. 

Managing communication effectively becomes absolutely strategic. Creating tailored messages and addressing customers by name, keeping in mind their history and characteristics basically means offering the best customer care possible: personalized customer care. Thanks to the tools designed and made available by Doxee, companies can significantly improve the customer experience in the energy sector in terms of engagement and loyalty, and significantly decrease the rate of customer churn. 

Digitization for a better customer experience

Before we delve into the three pillars that enable us to update and enhance the consumer experience, it’s important that we highlight the foundational relationship that links customer experience and digitization so that we fully grasp its importance. 

The customer experience today is the result of a series of synergistic actions that connect offline and online and seamlessly involve all of the brand’s digital channels. It is in this sense that digitization is among the  energy sector trends that will characterize the immediate future (although digitization, in itself, is a phenomenon that has been structurally reshaping companies’ processes for some time now). It is thanks to digital tools that utilities can personalize the brand-customer relationship by designing their messages and services on increasingly more accurate user profiles in order to meet the educational, informational, and operational needs of target audiences. 

Digitization, in its most pervasive form to date, also plays a crucial role in decarbonizing economies and helping to advance the energy transition. Indeed, it produces important benefits in terms of both service quality and operationally by optimizing processes in such a way as to reduce CO2 emissions. Thanks to the latest technologies, utilities can collect and analyze huge amounts of data and update plants and infrastructure remotely.

Finally, digitization makes it possible to reevaluate the human, and therefore the unique and distinctive elements in the relationship with customers, who go from being numbers back to being people, so to speak. Each person has needs and expectations that must be investigated, listened to, and met. Digital tools make it possible to deepen this knowledge and offer the services and products that users really need. To meet these goals, Doxee has developed technology to transform user data into personalized videos and dynamic, responsive micro-websites for an effective and engaging customer experience.

Prioritizing the customer experience in the utility industry: data, interactivity, personalization

Now that we have clarified how utility companies can operate between digitization, decarbonization, and the energy transition, let’s address the three basic elements of customer experience in the utility industry.

Here, a satisfactory and profitable customer experience requires that all departments take action to collect data on the target audience: on consumption habits, on preferences, on critical issues. This data—granular usage data, data that comes from smart-metering, data that comes from the various touch points scattered along the funnel—will then be used strategically to enrich the customer experience with interactive features. In turn, interactivity enables contact after contact to advance the knowledge of the individual user.

Personalized initiatives are more likely to be experienced as useful and relevant: content that speaks directly to users, deals with topics they are sure to be interested in, and allows them to perform transactional tasks and make choices among multiple alternatives. Let’s go into more detail.

1. Data: building a prosumer partnership

Today, the successful realization of a positive customer experience depends on the quality of data.

Taken from a wide variety of sources (e.g., smart grid, smart metering,  IoT, and other “smart” devices) utilities can retrieve granular and highly accurate data on individual utilities, customer profiles, third-party customer behavior, and usage patterns. 

The transition to decentralized and distributed energy resources also opens up scenarios that are yet to be explored. 

According to the Harvard Business Review’s recent white paper, Improving the Customer Experience in the Utilities Industry, by gradually building a “prosumer” partnership can take the customer experience to an even more advanced level. In harmony with the processes that utilities govern, customers will be progressively informed and trained to become both conscious producers and careful consumers of energy. 

The emergence of the current generation of digital technologies—in particular smart meters and the Internet of Things (IoT), which allows the “data revolution” to reach a new stage of maturitymake this paradigm shift possible in the near future.

Over the past decade, energy companies have learned to take advantage of their information to transform the very nature of the relationship with users into an accomplished dialog in which to develop concrete possibilities for interaction and to adopt an increasingly consumer-centered business model. 

2. Interactivity: two-way communication

Wytse Kaastra, managing director leading Accenture’s utilities business in Europe has no doubt: “Utilities provide a service rather than a physical product.” This simple observation highlights the importance of interactivity in building an effective customer experience for utility industry customers. 

Because utilities sell something intangible (a service), sales (but also after-sales, customer service, and self-service) experiences are becoming increasingly important. Customers expect the same standards as those offered by banks or telecom providers and digital experiences, such as those designed by content streaming services or offered by ride-sharing companies (such as Bla Bla Car).

To activate a user, they no longer have to go to the store. Although the main communication with customers, whether potential or existing, is still most often through call centers, online and mobile channels are rapidly becoming the main points of contact for administering more advanced services.

After mapping out the perimeter of interaction, energy companies must allow customers to report outages or malfunctions and to close or initiate service via website or mobile device. Users experience a positive customer experience if they can easily and quickly perform a number of tasks on the available channels without having to contact the call center.

Users’ preferences for increasingly interactive modes of communication has much to do with a status shift, one that in some ways is momentous, that has occurred with mass digitization. 

In another post, we described the transition that allowed the new user-consumer to emerge. Here, we will simply mention that the utility customer has high expectations and therefore wants to establish dynamic, two-way communications with suppliers:

  • Transactions must be quick and easy to make, accompanied by information that is correct, complete, and transparent.
  • If the customer needs something, they must be able to communicate directly with an operator and without delay. 
  • There is increasing attention to environmental sustainability and reduced consumption. 
  • The customer is interested in having access to an understandable analysis of his energy consumption and better overall information. 
  • The customer wants to have control over his user status.
  • Several channels must be available to communicate with the supplier, each with its own structure and designed with different functionalities for different stages of the service life cycle.

3. Personalization: the basis for a stronger relationship

Roberta Bigliani, a vice president at IDC, ranks utility company services among industries that are currently at a stage of maturity, at least in terms of skills in using user data. “Yet”, Bigliani says, “one of the typical complaints from customers is that their utility company doesn’t know them or doesn’t know them well enough, and they are frustrated because they know that companies have their data, but they don’t use it to improve the service experience. 

Customers want utility companies to use the information they collect about their energy consumption to provide personalized services that will save them money on their bills and limit their carbon footprint.

Customers want to rely on companies that can guide them through a virtuous path of reducing their carbon footprint, with customized offerings that reflect a deep understanding of their energy habits.

Utilities can strengthen their position in an evolving energy sector by integrating a customer experience that is built from the shrewd use of qualified data into every stage of the journey.

With personalization that is driven by a deeper understanding of customer needs and behaviors, it is now possible to provide targeted deliveries and data-driven offers.

In conclusion, the customer experience in the utility inudstry is complex and nuanced. The ability to provide truly useful information connects customers and utility companies, but the connection is fragile. While people value insights and advice, they don’t necessarily want or need to “look under a microscope” at every piece of data about their energy consumption. 

Information must be organized, embedded in content—videos, blog posts, infographics, mini-sites, podcasts—and distributed in such a way that people do not find it difficult to find and understand. Personalization does not just return data to the customer but makes it accessible, democratizes it, and in doing so, lays the foundation for a stronger, more authentic relationship.