Energize your customer communications

The following is a guest post by Matt Swain, Managing Director and Practice Lead for Broadridge Communications Consulting

EMACS 2018 is now in the books. In addition to meeting new people and discussing industry-leading topics – from digital transformation to exploring new revenue sources – I had the opportunity to speak on a subject that is critical to many utility providers, Reimagining Customer Connections in an Evolving Digital Marketplace. More than 300 utility leaders were in attendance at the event, and many of them filled the room to hear the latest research and insights on the print-to-digital journey and the importance of a customer feedback loop.

This post captures the top questions and challenges posed to me after my presentation; you may find the answers you are looking for, too.

The Print-to-Digital Journey
Last year, utility companies mailed 2.36 billion bills to American households via the U.S. Postal Service, according to the USPS Household Diary Study. With this astounding figure in mind, it’s understandable that there is a strong desire to move beyond the current industry average of 35% for paperless adoption.

One of the historical reasons customers haven’t gone paperless is that they have been faced with a sub-par digital experience. A digital communications and experience assessment can reveal areas of improvement, which may include adding or enhancing interactive elements, pushing content directly to customers by email, and leveraging content syndication.

Until you can offer an optimal digital experience, be careful about pushing customers to paperless, because you might inadvertently shut down a key touchpoint. Since many customers still prefer paper, it’s important to invest in your print communications, which may include adding data-driven information and offers, simplifying the content, and smart use of color.

When creating your print-to-digital strategy, start with the end in mind. What are you trying to achieve or resolve? For example, some utility providers want to improve the customer experience, increase paperless adoption, reduce the number of calls to the call center, and reduce days sales outstanding for payments.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to paper and digital. A multi-page printed bill can be redesigned to a single page that includes just the key pieces of information, like amount owed and the payment due date, and additional information can be provided online. That’s just one way digital and print can work together; it’s about creating a convenient omni-channel experience that meets customers’ needs.

The Importance of a Customer Feedback Loop
Customer expectations for what serves as a poor, good or great communications experience with their providers continue to evolve. With that in mind, it is important to regularly solicit feedback from customers and to periodically invest in benchmarking against industry peers and broader best practices in customer communications.

Since bills act as a monthly opportunity to connect with customers about the services and products they receive from you, as well as pique their interest about new services and products, my Communications Consulting team asked utility customers, “How can your utility providers improve the communications they send you?” Their answers included:

  • “The amount due could be in bold font.”
  • “It’d be nice to see the due date and billing period dates displayed a little more noticeably.”
  • “I think I would prefer they emphasize the usage a little more or at least [use] different colors beyond gray and black to make it stand out.”

Customer feedback can help you make more informed decisions – from developing your communications strategy to allocating your resources – while improving the overall experience.

If you want to learn more about energizing your customer communications, please join me and Chartwell’s Scott Johnson and Noah Solomon at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Dec. 6 for an interactive webinar, Improving the Digital Customer Experience. We will discuss the latest utilities research and communications trends, the state of the customer experience for the utility market, and three things all utilities must consider when it comes to the customer journey.

Matt Swain is a recognized Customer Communications industry thought leader. Hundreds of well-known companies have relied on Matt’s expertise and research for their current and future omni-channel communication initiatives. As Managing Director and Practice Lead for Broadridge Communications Consulting, Matt brings invaluable market research and consulting expertise to clients relative to benchmarking, customer experience optimization and digital transformation. Prior to joining Broadridge, Matt spent more than a decade at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends, where he was a member of the senior management team with global responsibility for Business Development and Customer Communications advisory services. Matt is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology and holds a master’s degree in print media.

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