Utilities are embracing digital channels, and there are more opportunities ahead

By Noah Solomon, Senior Research Analyst –

Often, utility companies are seen as slow, resistant to change and old-fashioned, choosing to rely upon more traditional methods of customer engagement, including phone and traditional mail. Utilities, however, have made great gains in engaging their customers in more digital and, increasingly, mobile channels.

It should come as no surprise that customer engagement is becoming more digital. Nor should it be a shock that digitally engaged customers are more satisfied in their interactions with their utilities – nearly 70% of digital consumers (those who use digital channels) say they are satisfied with their utility, 14 percentage points higher than non-digital customers.

“Digital,” of course, is a wide-ranging term, encompassing everything from desktop websites to mobile apps. Every utility has some form of digital presence, and according to Chartwell’s research mobile-optimized websites are just under that same level of penetration (Chartwell member login required), but not all digital channels are created equal. Satisfaction with customer service delivered via mobile app actually ranks higher than other digital methods, despite the relative lack of mobile app offerings in the industry compared to other digital channels. On average, the happiest customers are those getting customer services from their utility’s mobile app, despite apps being offered in just over half the numbers of mobile websites.

Ultimately, utilities need to work with what their individual customers need or find effective, but there is a clear opportunity for improving customer service by increasing mobile app offerings. Utilities interested in maintaining and improving customer service would do well to continue expanding their digital channels.

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