My first blog post in this series gave an overview of why energy and utilities firms like Siemens are undergoing digital transformation to remain competitive. One common digital initiative for energy and utility providers is improving customer satisfaction; conditioned by other high-tech industries, consumers increasingly expect personalized, omnichannel experiences — leading utilities to tap into new technologies.
The case for customer-centricity
A central pillar of the world’s most successful companies and organizations includes some version of “the customer comes first.” This customer-centric philosophy has completely transformed what it means to provide customer service in the last decade. The energy and utilities industries is no exception to this philosophy as customer and stakeholder expectations are rapidly evolving. Customers expect to be heard, understood, and served with phenomenal speed and personalized service.
For example, within the utilities industry, customer satisfaction has taken a much more powerful role in the success of the entire organization compared to years before. According to a Deloitte study, customers have a growing appetite and expectation for higher engagement with their utilities providers. In turn, high customer satisfaction gives utilities the upper hand in rate case negotiations, eliminates the possibility of fines, reduces the threat of deregulation, and builds goodwill among both regulators and consumers. As a result of these changing expectations, leadership has placed increasing pressure on IT to improve the customer journey through easier data access, personalized services, and higher engagement.
Improving customer satisfaction through digital capabilities
So what are some real examples of how utilities are delivering such engagement?
- Sending outage alerts to keep customers updated on restoration time for repairs and planned maintenance.
- Delivering omnichannel experiences where customers can log in through a mobile application or a single sign-on web portal and immediately have access to personalized dashboards and tools to manage and view their data.
- Enabling consumers to handle billing, monitor consumption, and control usage online.
Not only does the digital experience drastically improve the customer journey, but it also leads to a reduction of costs through paperless billing, reduced average handling time, and fewer field maintenance calls.
Similar to utilities providers, forward-leaning energy providers have embraced digital transformation as a means of improving the experiences of the constituents that they serve — from customers to regulators to suppliers and distributors. Examples include:
- Allowing a midstream partner transparency to distributor inventory levels through a mobile application, optimizing delivery schedules to ensure a continuous supply of resources.
- Providing digital loyalty programs or in-app payments for customers.
As organizations within the industry expand, so do their network of stakeholders, raising the value of such investments in digital capabilities. Increasingly, such digital investments are also used to improve customer engagement within downstream lines of business. In an industry with low switching costs and lack of brand affinity, digital capabilities enable differentiation outside of price.