By Will Adams, Manager of Research Services –
We have a gray pole in our office atop which sits two street signs: Best Practices Way and Knowledge Drive. Naturally, Chartwell takes great pride in being intently focused on the intersection of these two streets for 365 days a year. But on December 23, we take off the signs, albeit temporarily, to strip the pole of all decorations in homage to Seinfeld and the hilarious satire that is Festivus.
Of the many traditions celebrated during Festivus, perhaps none is as universally enjoyable as the Airing of Grievances, a time for everyone to gripe, nag and critique any unresolved or recurring problems you (and others) may be experiencing. To honor this tradition, I shall air grievances in what I hope will bring greater attention, focus and consideration to a few specific utility customer experience concepts.
Make doing business easier! – Only 26% of utilities now offer mobile start/stop transactions via apps or websites. In Chartwell’s annual consumer attitudes and behaviors study, customers were less satisfied with the ease of doing business with their utility than they were last year, a 2.5-point drop from 2014. Optimizing the customer journey during the onboarding process for start service requests could potentially improve the ease of doing business and have a greater ripple effect with overall satisfaction.
Content is king! – Twenty years ago Bill Gates uttered the oft-quoted phrase in reference to the potential of internet marketing and advertising. The same is true for utilities and the new programs, products and services they want to market to customers. Yet, respondents to Chartwell’s survey on marketing and communications reported placing less focus on content marketing than on public relations or brand marketing.
Take a cue from online retailers! – Compared to 2014, a larger percentage of utility customers reported being less satisfied with their utility than online retailers in 2015, which means utilities can learn from Amazon or eBay and others to enhance the web experience. Creating a seamless, simple and effortless experience has the potential to negate drivers of low satisfaction such as pricing or rates.
Focus on making inherently painful experiences less painful! – For years, the only two experiences customers had with their utility were inherently negative: dealing with outages and paying their bills. Giving customers the proactive tools, notifications and information to effectively deal with an outage can create a less stressful situation for the customer, and even generate positive customer feedback. In addition, many customers – especially low income – are solely reliant on their mobile device. For some, it’s their one link to potential employment and the device they use to stay connected and even pay the rest of their bills. Yet only 44% of utilities reported offering customers the ability to pay via their mobile device, according to Chartwell’s recent Billing and Payment Survey.
Next week, we’ll focus on the Feats of Strength (which traditionally follows the Airing of Grievances) by outlining a few exceptionally strong utility customer experience examples from 2015.