CX & Insights

Customer experience in the utility industry: the 5 things to know

Customer experience has become increasingly central to utilities, as a result of an increase in competition that is no longer based only on prices.

The most successful utilities have understood this and are trying to combine digital transformation, aimed at improving the operating costs, with online activities, with particular attention to the quality of the customer experience. The objective is not only to attract new customers, but above all to keep those already acquired.

According to a rough estimate, in the utilities’ sector the average cost of customer retention is about one third of the acquisition cost (Source: Cognizant). Hence the need to keep customers loyal.

What customers want in terms of customer experience

"Half of those who had a bad customer experience after a year are no longer customers of the utility"

In a study from some time ago (reported by IBM), Aberdeen Group claims that companies that rank high in terms of customer experience have double customer retention than others. Similarly, an analysis mentioned by Harvard Business Review shows that half of those who have had a bad customer experience after a year are no longer customers of the utility, compared with 78% of those who, having had a positive experience, remain loyal.

If utility companies aim to improve the customer experience, first of all they must be aware of how their customers are changing. Today's consumers are no longer satisfied, as in the past, with relatively stable costs and an uninterrupted product/service. Instead, they want greater responsiveness and personalized services, they expect a utility to act as a partner and offer services capable of helping them achieve their objective not only in terms of costs, but also of intelligent use of the resources.

The new generation customers have customer experience models borrowed from other consumer sectors (such as Amazon, Airbnb, Google, Netflix etc.), which present personalized and curated information just for them based on their needs, and conveyed on the channels they normally use and prefer.

Things to know to ensure an adequate customer experience in the utility industry

For these reasons, it is useful for every company in the utility sector to know and consider the expectations of their customers when planning a quality customer experience.

  1. First of all, it is essential to understand the customer's current life cycle and all its points of contact with your company. A network of sellers? Chatbot or contact form on the site? Social campaigns? Customer Service? Remember: you can test all the digital touchpoints by involving real users of your service (how? We'll get to that shortly).

  2. By analyzing different sectors that have focused on the customer experience (banks, retail, airlines, tourism, etc.), it can be verified that mobile access and, more generally, multi-channels play a central role. 

  3. It should be remembered that the behaviors and, consequently, the preferred access device, differ in the different phases of the customer's life cycle: acquisition phase, contract refinement, customer management phase, post-sales services. You will have to interact with the customer and respond to his needs through the preferred and most suitable channel for the stage. Again, you might think about asking your real customer for feedback. In the last paragraph we will explain you how to do it.

  4. The customer wants to solve the problem at the first contact and avoid the repetitive request for information for the different channels. For this reason we need a holistic vision and a consistent integration of communication channels within the company, to allow a perfect customer experience.
  5. Utilities should evaluate their social media presence and app release to make two-way communication easier and more flexible and the ability to answer customer questions where they are. This also allows the collection of useful information for a continuous adaptation to the customer's needs.

Speaking of this last point, we worked at the forefront of the testing phase of the Enel app. How did it go? Enel had already recognized the smartphones, and consequently the apps, as the core of the Customer Experience. Therefore the mobile app test was a central part of the digital strategy to ensure a mobile friendly site and app. Together with the Enel team we worked on the Mobile UX, always keeping our attention fixed on the end-user.

Innovation and customer experience are two sides of the same coin. In the design of the customer experience and in its continuous updating, the utilities will have to identify its pain points, retracing the customer journey. Identifying easy, quick and inexpensive tools for verifying the journey and individual points of contact is strategic to ensure an exceptional customer experience.

How to involve the end user of the utility service

In the previous paragraphs we promised to explain how to involve the end-user to test the effectiveness of the customer experience.

It is actually very simple: we are talking about the crowdtesting which can be a formidable ally. It is in fact a methodology that allows you to optimize apps, sites, IoT devices and any other digital product by involving the end user.

The community of testers, within which the required target is selected, is able to quickly highlight end-to-end usability problems and detect software design and development errors that could affect the quality of the customer experience in the utility industry. These reports are then analyzed by our network of UX experts and cognitive psychologists who provide extremely useful and practical suggestions for improvement. All the material (bugs, usability clutches and advice) are collected by the Quality Leaders which makes the whole process extremely fluid and agile.


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