Transforming CX in utilities – personalisation at speed.

As consumer behaviours shift and personalisation becomes expected, we look at how utility companies can transform the customer experience

Customer satisfaction is notoriously tricky for utility companies to excel in, but as consumers demand better and more personalised service across the board the sector is under increased pressure to improve the customer experience. Add to that the need for businesses to adapt to new and unpredictable consumer behaviour and the pressure is on. 

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns led to a huge acceleration in digitisation and changed the way customers behave and interact with their utility providers. There was a marked increase in the use of digital and self-serve channels and a greater propensity for customers to communicate via social media. Watch our webinar on this topic to hear Tim North and other industry experts explore this topic.

During the webinar, Nicola Sawford, managing director of Customer Whisperer, says the rapid acceleration of digitisation opened opportunities for “more meaningful interactions” and deliver personalised customer service. However, multi-channels give rise to numerous issues for the customer journey, making it harder to keep them satisfied as well as to predict behaviour. Add to this the fallout of the pandemic, including extreme debt, and new disruptive competitors and utility companies certainly face some challenges around customer satisfaction. 

So, how can digital solutions help these businesses respond to their customers’ individual needs more efficiently, with greater empathy and enhance their overall experience?

Consolidating all customer engagement channels in the cloud is key. Tim North, head of Connect’s contact centre go-to market, says many utility companies have begun transformations to build stronger relationships with customers and provide better service. But the landscape they operate in can be a barrier to innovation and working at speed.

“The willingness is there but regulators could do a lot more to encourage innovation,” Tim says. “If regulators understood what enabled that innovation, they would probably move really quickly. COVID-19 has been such a perfect example of this. We found the organisations that had moved to the cloud before the pandemic just continued and their platforms were actually more utilised. They were feeding innovation in an agile way because they had a cloud platform,” he says. 

Nicola agrees, innovation in customer experience can be hampered because of regulations. “The focus around innovative investment is on infrastructure and big capital projects rather than customer experience, which is where it needs to be,” she says.

Richard McCrossan, global digital AI sales lead for Genesys, says the move to shift customer service to the cloud and rapid digitisation at the start of the pandemic saw innovation “take a bit of a back step” for some companies as they focused on maintaining operations. 

“However, it’s made many organisations realise that this shift wasn’t as scary as they thought it might be,” he says. “By bringing everything together they’re able to deliver a better overall customer experience. Now it’s about moving beyond the core technology to focus on innovation and how they deliver value to the customer side and personalise. How do they innovate to take their brand above and beyond the competition? There’s a great opportunity for everybody to really build on what’s happened over the past year and take the customer experience forward.”

Agility with AI

That’s when utility companies can leverage AI technologies to build more powerful, relevant and optimised customer experiences that will give them a competitive advantage.

“When it comes to the volume of interactions along a customer’s journey, it’s just not humanly possible to be able to spot the right moment to engage with them. That’s a key area where AI can really help when you have all your customer engagement channels in one place. AI can easily see the events that are happening and make determinations in real-time for the customer at the right moment and in the right way,” says Richard. 

He points out that AI is not about automating and removing humans from the equation. “AI fires that real-time customer engagement and enables a sales team member to engage there and then,” he says.

Nicola says companies seeking to engage on a more meaningful and personalised level with customers firstly need to look at how their customers are interacting and how they want to interact. Then they need to look at what other sectors are doing in the space. 

“Cross-sector collaboration is more important now than ever,” she says. As is an element of risk taking and openness to learn. 

“Be bolder and be prepared to test and learn. Look at doing smaller test-and-learn projects with the acceptance that they might fail but you’ll learn from it,” she says.

Tim agrees. “First of all, you’ve got to put yourself in your customers shoes. Move to the cloud and provide the business tools and support around them to transform processes and how you interact with customers. Combine these and you’ve got a powerful and agile way forward that can then be measured and tested,” he says.