Utility companies face a unique Customer Experience challenge. For the average customer, electricity is like air; they expect it to be available all the time and only notice it when it’s absent. The pinnacle of utility service is when customers don’t notice it at all—only when issues like billing errors or power outages occur, do they even think about their utility provider.
Delivering satisfying customer experiences in this context is challenging. When every touchpoint is expected to be flawless, dissatisfaction is bound to occur when issues arise. It’s no wonder, then, that utility providers underperform on customer satisfaction in cross-industry comparisons.
Level5 recently supported a multi-national utility company to identify opportunities to deliver a better customer experience at a critical customer moment: the power outage. The challenge was clear: how can we transform a typically frustrating experience into one that enhances customer satisfaction?
To tackle this challenge, we leveraged our deep expertise in research, customer journey mapping, and customer experience design. The research conducted as part of this process uncovered several important insights that utility companies should keep in mind when designing improvements to the power outage experience.
Mere communication during outages is insufficient.
Readily available information is a table stake. We instead found that quality of information is a key driver of satisfaction. Utility companies must strive to deliver critical information such as restoration timelines and outage maps rapidly and accurately to satisfy customers. Furthermore, customers don’t want to be bombarded with information—they want to receive only the most important updates when available.
Quality service, including proactivity and responsiveness, is highly valued by customers during outages.
They signal to the communities that the utility company is looking out for them and is responsive to their needs. For an even stronger proof point to validate proactivity, investments in year-round preventative maintenance, like tree trimming and line improvements, showcase a commitment to the community.
Text messaging is in many ways the ideal channel for communicating information about power outages.
This form of communication is accessible when it matters most, and it is cost-effective for mass communication. However, many utilities still underutilize this channel, leaving room for improvement in reliability and customer outreach.
Experiencing a power outage can be emotionally taxing, disconnecting customers from their daily lives and, in some cases, critical devices. Satisfying the rational benefits outlined evokes emotional benefits that improve customer experiences and brand perception.
Ensure customers are informed—don’t leave them in the dark.
Customers know that the repair process is bound to take some time. Therefore, the highest impact target that utility companies can anchor on is focusing on helping them feel informed. In these moments, utility providers must rise to the occasion and deliver on the key rational drivers mentioned above – proactive, accurate and timely information. With this information, customers can make sense of the situation and determine how to react.
Customers who felt cared for during their most recent outage were among the most satisfied.
Power outages can be a stressful and inconvenient departure from everyday routine. Customers also want to feel cared for, reassured, and safe. Utility companies can deliver these emotional benefits by making promises and consistently keeping them. For example, when a utility provides a timeline for power restoration, holding to that promise builds customer trust and helps them feel reassured and safe. In addition, calling in and speaking to a helpful service provider can mean a lot and can help to turn the experience into a positive one.
What Comes Next
After developing a fact-base of strategic insights, Level5 leverages our research to help clients develop an actionable roadmap towards an improved customer experience. Using insight into what drives satisfaction and where the current-state customer experience falls short of the ideal one, we help our clients ideate and prioritize initiatives to close the gap. In this case, our client was able to generate a series of high-impact initiatives and a roadmap towards a vastly improved customer experience.
Does your organization need a tangible, actionable plan to drive customer experience initiatives forward? Contact Joseph Smith.