Utility companies aren’t usually known for providing amazing customer experiences. In fact, until recently most utility companies didn’t prioritize customer satisfaction or experience because customers often didn’t have a choice of which utility company to use. A study by J.D. Power found that utilities are one of the lowest-performing industries for digital customer experience. However, as customers come to expect personalization and convenience in all areas of their lives, utility companies have started to see the positive impact of customer experience. Many companies have begun transformations to build stronger relationships with customers and provide better service.
Here are five utility companies made major efforts to invest in customer experience through technology and innovative solutions.
Houston Public Works Streamlines Internal Processes
The Houston Public Works and Engineering Department provides water for 500,000 customers and streamlines its processes to lower costs and simplify bills—both of which create major benefits for customers. The city uses a combination of cellular system smart meters and meters connected to a fixed network system. Instead of having to be checked manually, the meters can be read from a central location, which saves the company time and money of sending employees into the field. Customers can also access information about their own meter and can receive instant alerts about swings in usage, which almost always signify a leak that needs to be taken care of right away. The new approach to customer experience utilizes technology both internally and externally to help customers better understand their water use.
Central Hudson Gas & Electric Creates Self-Service Platform
New York’s Central Hudson Gas & Electric was ahead of its time when it invested in a mobile customer engagement program in 2017. The self-service platform, available online and through an app called CenHub, allows customers to easily make payments and track their accounts. Previously, customers had to call an agent for simple actions. In the first year of the platform, eBill payments increased 12% and mobile app downloads increased 25%. Customers crave self-service options, and being able to have all the information they need conveniently in one location goes a long way to improve experience.
PG&E Enhances Employee Experience To Serve Customers
We are going to presently ignore how PG&E handled the forced power outage last week in Northern California to focus on something positive they have done recently with their digital footprint for field technicians. California’s Pacific Gas & Energy services more than 5 million households. In 2017, it created a digital center of excellence called Digital Catalyst, which assists both employees and customers. Digital specialists shadowed hundreds of employees in the field to find digital solutions to improve their workloads. The result was a mobile app that helps field crews work safely and more efficiently while also providing customer information so they can serve customers in the moment. Instead of wasting time on inefficiencies, the system helps all employees communicate better to solve gas and energy issues and solve customers’ issues.
Alabama Power Simplifies Billing
The highest-ranking utility company for customer experience by J.D. Power, Alabama Power is constantly updating its offerings to best serve customers. It recently re-vamped its website and mobile app, including simplifying account information so customers can easily see how much power they use and how they can lower their bill. By listening to customers, the company learned the importance of creating a cohesive experience, and its digital tools work together on tablets, phones and desktops. These resources empower customers and help them understand where their money goes.
Xcel Energy Invests In Smart Meters
A large part of the customer experience for utility companies is helping customers lower their bills and increase their energy efficiency. Over the next five years, Xcel Energy will add smart meters across its service areas in eight states. The IoT-connected distributed intelligence sensors will improve reliability, efficiency and security while also allowing customers to take advantage of dynamic pricing and lower their bills by using energy at non-peak times. Aside from being more energy efficient, the smart meters give more power to customers so they can control and better understand how much electricity and natural gas they use.
Utility companies are just beginning to see the benefits of investing in customer experience. Simplifying communication and finding convenient digital solutions can not only help increase customer satisfaction but also lower internal costs and accelerate growth.
Blake Morgan is a keynote speaker, customer experience futurist and the author of two books including her new “The Customer Of The Future.” Stay in touch with her weekly on her newsletter.