Engaging utility customers in the digital age

By Russ Henderson, Research Manager, and Rebecca Harris, Research Analyst

The utility industry has not yet seen truly disruptive, fast-moving competitors shatter old paradigms.

At least not in the same way that companies like Casper and Harry’s have wreaked havoc, respectively, on the formerly stable mattress and disposable razor industries.

It can be safely said, however, that such disruption is coming. And utilities are already facing a great deal of disruption from changing customer expectations. In this increasingly competitive environment, it is more important than ever for utilities to understand how to engage their customers and ensure their loyalty.

Chartwell’s newest report, Engaging Utility Customers in the Digital Age, leverages Chartwell’s 2018 Residential Consumer Survey to identify opportunities for utilities to better compete in a changing market by pinpointing important factors affecting customer loyalty and satisfaction, including awareness of self-service options, awareness of utility programs, use of mobile apps, use of credit cards and enrollment in pricing programs.

Key opportunities identified in the report include:

• Update self-service options. High-demand transactions should be well-marketed, easy to find on the website and mobile app, and easy to complete. Customers who are more aware of self-service options are more satisfied.
• Avoid transaction fees. Customers who can pay their utility bill with a credit card without incurring a fee are more satisfied and more loyal to their utility.
• Give customers more choices. Offering more payment options improves both satisfaction and loyalty. Customers enrolled in pricing programs have higher satisfaction and loyalty than customers not enrolled.
• Make enrollment low-effort.

The razor industry provides an instructive example of disruption. The invention of the disposable razor was a major technological development for its time. Following that initial innovation, however, the razor industry changed very little in the following century until few years ago, when companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s disrupted the industry by offering cheaper blades on a subscription basis.

Established leaders like Gillette and Schick lost a significant portion of their market share before they could adapt by launching products that imitated their competitors.

Utilities have enjoyed insulation from much competition since they are predominantly regulated monopolies. But now, disruption threatens the industry from many directions, including new companies vying to gain control of the customer relationship, even within regulated markets. If utilities do not make the customer experience easy, or if they otherwise fail to market their own programs and services effectively, competitors may come along who are able to essentially profit from offering utilities’ own programs and services to customers.

This report provides insight into the areas utilities can focus on to improve satisfaction and loyalty.

Download your copy of the report today by logging into Chartwell’s Insight Center.

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