Embracing Utility Customer Interactions
In my latest blog, “Alexa, Help me to Better Serve My Customers”, the opportunity to enhance the experience of the largest portion of our utility customer base was discussed. Millennials demand streamlined interactions, often centered around technology. Machine Learning, chatbots and predictive algorithms can make self-service channels more effective and Call Center agents look like rock stars to even the most difficult customers.
Despite all these advancements in serving our customer base, I often hear from utilities that ‘the best customer interaction is the one which doesn’t need to take place’. After all, who really wants to interact with their utility? And certainly a younger, more technological savvy generation would fit this mold, right?
Leave it to millennials to buck another stereotype. In a recent study titled ‘Consumers Buy Experiences’ commissioned by SAP, IDC Research dove into this paradigm and the effect on Energy providers around the world. The results were surprising. In summary, the study found that Millennials contact their utility more frequently than other age group and are twice as likely to contact their energy supplier every three months. These interactions are not only more frequent but also last longer than interactions with other generations of utility customers.
On the surface, this sounds like bad news for the utility industry, especially as pressures to reduce Opex spend escalate. A growing demographic with a higher contract rate and longer Average Handling Time sounds like a step in the wrong direction for our contact center KPI’s.
There is a silver lining, however. As utilities shift from the business of selling electrons, BTU’s and ft2 of water to focusing on selling products and services, this demographic’s desire to interact more frequently could provide promise to an evolving industry.
Making these interactions effective instead of avoiding the interaction will provide yet another fundamental shift for utility contact centers. Proactive communication, shopping cart experiences and context sensitive marketing will all make interactions more recurrent, satisfying for the customer and more profitable for the utility. Offering relevant products and services to the infamous ‘Segment of One’ will provide additional revenue streams for the utilities that master this challenge. Perhaps this will transform “the best customer interaction” from one which never happens to one which happens frequently and effectively.
For more information on how SAP Hybris is helping utilities embrace the new energy economy, please visit http://www.hybris.com/en/solutions/industries/utilities.
Chad Leonard serves as an SAP Utilities Industry Advisor, assisting utilities across North America with digital transformation planning, execution and value realization.