If we look at demographic of people who are customers of a utility company we see it covers everyone from generation Y up to centenarian’s, and I am only speaking about people who are account holders and paying the bills, not the actual users. Due to this broad demographic spectrum of their customers, utility companies facing a complex challenge; how can they communicate with these customers ensuring that each individual is targeted the most effective way while at the same time being cost efficient. In a time where we as consumers are overloaded with information from an ever increasing number of sources and thru multiple channels only information that stands out, is provided to us thru our preferred media and specifically aimed at our current needs will find its target. Other information is at risk to be lost in the general noise.
Let’s relate this to a simple but important utility process: the handling of an overdue bill. If the message that a bill is overdue is not received and acted on by the intended receiver it could lead to costly collections and even disconnections. Therefore it is in the interest of both the utility company and the utility user that the message is received and acted on. However expectations on the customer side vary widely on what the best way would be to receive such information.
Generation Y maybe expecting an alert on their mobile apps or thru social medial that they have missed a payment and that their utility bill is now due, a middle age family man would be looking for an email reminder from their utility company, a 65 year old pensioner maybe sees a call from a friendly agent as the best way to remind him, while a 80 year old grand-mother would be best served with a nice letter from the utility company written with a LARGE FONT. As for the grand-mother, maybe an additional alert to her 20 year old nephew would be an alternative?
In my opinion utility companies need to do two things to provide additional service to ensure their customers will stay loyal. First they need to put in place effective communication with their customers around standard processes. This should not be a problem with today’s technology, however it would be good to hear ideas on how utility companies can improve this basic level of communication with their customers using technologies such as call centers, social media and mobile applications. The second thing is harder, they need to figure out how to use communication to bind customers closer their company and creating a stickiness that ensures their utility users turn in to loyal customers for life. An example could be using real-time smart meter information to detect the usage at the 80 year old grand-mother’s house is abnormal high at midnight and use that information to have a call center agent to give her a call to check up on her to see if she is okay, maybe she left the tv on or the fridge door open. How do you see utility companies using communications to provide a world class service to their customers in the future?