In any industry sector, competition is fierce, with businesses constantly looking for ways to get ahead of their competition. However in the utilities sector, there is little to differentiate between different suppliers’ actual products, meaning that utility providers need to look for alternative ways to win and retain customers.
Customer service and experience is vital for every business – with Gartner predicting that 89% of businesses will compete mainly on customer experience, and that 50% of organisations will be redirecting their investments to customer experience innovations by 2019 (source).
Providing excellent customer service keeps existing customers happy, as well as giving the provider a positive reputation to enable them to win new business. So it’s not surprising that many utilities providers have turned their attention to providing excellent customer service to differentiate themselves from the competition.
66% of consumers aged 18 to 34 say that they have higher expectations for customer service today compared to just one year ago (source).
A pillar of modern customer service is the ability for customers to self-serve. According to Zendesk, 67% of respondents said they preferred self-service over speaking to an agent, but 40% will go on to call a contact centre if they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Whether they’re signing up for a new service, changing their tariff or contact details, or attempting to resolve a problem, 75% of customers expect help within 5 minutes if they can’t serve themselves (source).
Consumers do not want to wait for a letter to arrive, and they certainly do not want to sit on hold waiting to be connected to a customer sales representative.
In the BBC documentary RIP Off Britain, when calling a utility provider for customer support, it took 53 minutes for the user to connect to a customer service representative. And it’s astonishing that they held on for so long: according to a 2019 Google Consumer Survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents were only willing to wait 2 minutes or less before hanging up – and perhaps surprisingly, the older the respondent, the more likely they were to hang up.
So not only can call centres be expensive, employing the workforce to manage the sheer volume of calls, but they can also aggravate and anger customers as well as not being their preferred method of communication.
The solution: effective self-serve communication channels
Interactive voice response (IVR)
IVR is a sophisticated telephony system that allows consumers to use both speech and touch-tone to carry out various tasks, from re-arranging appointments, answering commonly asked questions, satisfaction surveys; they can even pay their outstanding bills.
IVR systems let customers solve their own issues while on the go, without the need to speak to a person or being put on hold.
Mobile web apps (Mobile landing pages or multi-page journeys)
The customer receives an SMS or email which contains a link and sends them to a sequence of mobile web optimised forms. Utility providers are receiving great results from this channel, using them to collect payments, chase debt, collect more information about the customer or problems they are having and customer satisfaction surveys.
Mobile landing pages and journeys are a great way to prompt your customers into an action, while still maintaining the self-serve element of not having a human interaction.
An often quoted Gartner study predicted that by the year 2020, 85% all customer interactions will be managed without a human on the business’s side. We’ll still want to explore our options and get what feels like a personalised response, and that’s where chatbots come in.
With chatbots you can provide a level of instantaneous customer service in answering frequently asked questions, providing information and carrying out tasks, all without the need of a human, reducing the strain of your workforce.
Chatbots can be hosted on rich messaging platforms such as RCS, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
How can Esendex help?
We have a wealth of knowledge in providing the utilities sector with the right tools to provide their customers with the right self-serve communication channels with which to improve their customer experience. If you would like to know more, please get in touch today.