Adapting to new circumstances is one of the things humans do best. We see where we lack and make improvements accordingly through ingenuity, hard work, or dumb luck. These are adaptations and changes we think utilities need to make this year to create better circumstances for all.
Truly Better Customer Service
Every company says they have a commitment to their customers’ experiences. Every company says they’re passionate about customer service. Every company wants to give their customers what they want.
The altruism is commendable, but utility companies need to practice what they preach. Give people shorter lines, solve their problems faster, and collect enough information to make sure issues aren’t repeating themselves. When we start listening to our customers with a keen ear and an open mind, we can make minor improvements that save money for both the company and the customer in the long run.
One of the best ways to achieve this level of customer service is through a robust, intuitive customer platform that allows them to find the information they need quickly and easily. This digital footprint takes the burden off customer service operators, who should be reserved for large, more complex issues.
While customer platforms will never fully replace a call center, it becomes imperative for utilities to look at call centers differently aside from just having a “key accounts” process and a setup for addressing commercial customer calls. It’s crucial also to have assigned account advocates who know and cater to customers on a first-name basis and are familiar with customers’ accounts and details to enhance the user experience beyond what is commonly offered these days.
While utilities need to be mindful of losing revenue, especially coming out of Covid, where everyone has suffered, it would do them good to offer customized programs for customers in need and in debt by running programs like installment plans or offering extended grace periods to pay their bills. These minor tweaks show that the utilities do care.
Let Go of Paper
Following the digital trajectory, it’s time to move away from paper. This is a difficult line to straddle, as we believe that it’s essential to meet your customers where they are when they need you (i.e., email, mobile, interactive voice response, etc.). Still, we understand the challenges of bill collection via snail mail that create higher DSOs on the tail end.
Moving away from paper reduces costs and increases bill collection efficiency, a win if we’ve ever heard one. But it also gives customers peace of mind, allowing them control of their utility accounts through digital access.
Focusing on reducing grid losses should be one of the most critical targets for utilities this year. We need to start getting more out of our investments in smart meters, reducing electricity theft, and repairing our aging infrastructure to prevent dumb losses that negatively impact the bottom line.
Adopt Digital Currency
We absolutely believe mainstream adoption is on the horizon. It’d be wise for utility companies to consider what this means when it comes to accepting digital currency as payment to service customers and reduce payment processing overhead as an overall savings method. Our Founder and CTO, Ali Saberi, talks at great length about this in his blog series about the adoption of bitcoin as a payment method in the industry.
As technology marches forward, it’s crucial utility companies adapt to create attractive situations for customers and companies alike.