We need to talk about customer service in the Utility sector.

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Customers increasingly expect you to “get it right first time”. The moment they begin to feel ignored, they lose their trust in you. Solving customers’ problems quickly and across their choice of channels is essential if utility providers want to compete in the modern market.

The best performing utilities providers deliver a consistent level of customer service – handling customer requests smoothly and knowledgeably. This requires investment in systems and technologies which provide everything an advisor needs to deliver excellent customer experiences across any channel.

Delivering Competitive Customer Service

An increasingly competitive market spurred on by emerging technology, means that consumers have a huge degree of choice between potential suppliers and tariffs. Often, disparate and disjointed systems – frequently the result of mergers and acquisitions, or ongoing legacy systems (think on-premise Avaya, Mitel or Cisco platforms) mean the infrastructure used by many providers simply isn’t suitable for today’s agile consumer. They demand a fast, efficient service and they’re more than capable of quickly transitioning to another supplier if they feel their standards aren’t being met.

Couple this with the fundamental shift in the way customers interact with their utility providers (the modern consumer has more choices than ever before and expects availability, personalisation and immediacy across multiple channels when they get in contact with their provider) and it’s no surprise that a customer-centric approach is so crucial. By delivering services that do more and improve user experiences, Utilities can demonstrate their understanding of customers’ priorities and lifestyles – be they financial, technological or environmental.

Moreover, for most businesses in this space, revenues are generated by electricity, gas or water consumption.  The next generation of utility providers will increasingly struggle to distinguish themselves from the rest of the market.

Customer Service as a Differentiator

Investing in a robust customer service strategy has a tangible impact on the bottom line and delivering exceptional customer service is a key differentiator in an increasingly cut-throat landscape. With a renewed focus on developing choice and value, utility providers are increasingly motivated to work harder for their customers.

Evidence proves that organisations committed to developing the relationships they have with customers have seen improvements in consumer trust – resulting in upward trends in customer loyalty and advocacy.

By addressing the root causes of “bad service” – from tardy billing to limited call centre accessibility – companies have been able to take positive action, developing processes and approaches that will improve their customer experiences. Understanding the unique position of their organisation, customer experience decision makers need to explore solutions which will suit their singular challenges and inspire change in accordance with best practice.

No matter the size of the organisation, customer service standards and the required level of commitment to customer satisfaction remains the same. There’s a large discrepancy between the best and worst performing suppliers and how engaged they are with their customer service journey. Ultimately, size is no excuse for poor customer service whether organisations are small or large, they should be committed to improving standards of customer care.

Customer experience has a significant impact on the success of an organisation, and the utilities industry needs to take note of the areas they need to improve, or risk losing customers to the competition.

As the environment continues to evolve, utilities simply can’t afford to remain passive. By adopting a systematic approach to modernising and expanding their service offerings across multiple channels, organisations can ensure strong and profitable relationships with their customer base.