Customer Service is Part of the Customer Experience

Alterian at Utility Week Live 2017

I attended Utility Week Live as a guest to further understand the utilities sector, its challenges, and exactly where brands seem to be focusing their efforts to improve. As expected, there was a strong focus on customer experience—and, as a more specific subset of that, customer service.

IN THE CLOUD

Claire Thomas from Hitachi spoke about cloud technologies, discussing the benefits they bring and why she believes they should be adopted by utilities companies. Her primary reason for this? Cloud technologies can help with customer service! As she discussed social media, cloud-hosted CRMs, and more, I reflected that the idea of “the cloud” in and of itself has brought a new challenge to utilities companies. Across their organizations, from marketing, to IT, to support, these companies need a tool that adapts to this variety of channels at the same speed their consumers may be switching between them. Modern consumers demand a seamless customer experience, no matter where or when they interact with a brand.

Utility Week Live 2017

Along this line of thought, Thomas went on to mention the need adapt from reactive operations and maintenance handling to be more proactive. For example, if a consumer may encounter an issue with their energy/water supply, an essential part of providing a great customer experience is effectively communicating this with a customer through their preferred channel. Yes, it’s bad news, but when a brand is proactive with communication and understanding of customer behavior, the news will be better received and far preferable to no advance alert at all.

WATER LAGS BEHIND

Claire Maher from Water2Business spoke about putting customer service at the heart of water companies. Similar to what Thomas was saying, Maher stressed the need to transform network data into maintenance information to minimize service disruptions. Combining data from operational control systems with data from enterprise IT systems into a single place and enabling real-time informed decision making can drastically improve customer service, and, by extension, overall customer experience.

Mobilizing this centralized data would also impact operational performance and maintain regulatory compliance—an excellent follow-up from from what Thomas talked about. One thing I’ve learned since working with the utility sector is that, from a customer service point of view, utility companies are way behind the times. Water companies in particular need to improve, and this is why CX is such a focus now (and has been for about 12-18 months).

Maher spoke of the need to serve business customers in the new, open market. She highlighted a stat that immediately stood out to me: According to Forrester, 72% of companies say customer experience is their top priority. To be clear, she wasn’t just talking about utility companies, she was talking about brands in any sector. Nowadays, customers don’t compare CX between companies in the same sector, they compare it to any brand experience in any sector. This is why utility companies desperately need to adapt to current trends; they are way down on customer satisfaction, and in today’s world, consumers won’t stand for it.

MANAGING DATA

Another talk that stuck out in my mind, “Managing Data in an Information-Driven World,” centered on brands needing to use the data they have on customers in the right way. Utility brands must ensure they have analytical talent in their businesses to bring purpose and action to data collection. They also need to integrate data cleansing activities into business as usual and allow customers to manage their own data through self-serve portals. The personalization of services supported by data analytics is the top trend that will change the call center in the next five years as self-service becomes more and more important.

EVERY CUSTOMER MATTERS

Utility Week Live 2017 proved to be an excellent two days, presenting some innovative concepts from connected drones to new poles made from less wood and only four different sizes to improve the network we all get our energy from. The core takeaway from the conference, though, is the need for brands to better interact with customers, often through customer service efforts, and the importance of using data to support overall customer experience. I’m looking forward to continuing discussions I have with utility companies in understanding what they want to do and how Alterian can help them, as we did for ScottishPower, organize and act upon their data to provide the best possible CX.

Ben Jeffs, CEO at MOSL said, “In a competitive market, every customer matters.” We think so too, Ben. That’s why we’re here to help traditional marketers become Adaptive Marketers.

Simon James headshot

Simon James, Inside Sales

Simon has a long history working within business development, predominantly for software companies. He understands the delicate balance between a business’s goals and customers’ needs to help companies fully utilize software solutions to improve their customer experience and boost their bottom line. He works within the EMEA sales team at Alterian talking to retail, travel, and utility companies to understand their customer experience challenges and the effects these have on their brand. 

Outside of work, Simon enjoys keeping fit, plays football (supports Bristol City and Liverpool), and is a car enthusiast.