By: Nick Kelly, Account Director at Smart Communications

It’s no secret that customer expectations continue to evolve at a rapid pace. One-click, mobile shopping experiences, ridesharing services and online banking, among others, have revolutionized the way customers interact with their favorite brands – and companies across industries and verticals are navigating how to adapt their businesses to meet customers’ changing needs.

Utility companies in particular face new challenges when it comes to delivering customer value. Many of the changes shaping the industry’s future center around evolving service delivery models and emerging technologies, which could significantly impact how customers interact with utility suppliers in the long run. But there’s one thing utility providers can do right now to build better relationships with their customers, and that’s re-thinking how they communicate.

Typically, utility companies rely on traditional methods of communication, such as email, phone calls and direct mail. But today’s digital-savvy population expects more. They want the same level of personalization and convenience they get with other industries, from entertainment to banking. This means shifting customer communications management strategies and engaging in real two-way conversations.

Legacy interactions are no longer enough

Today, most traditional utility customer communications involve the simple distribution of information— mailing or emailing bills and notices about things like upcoming scheduled maintenance or equipment upgrades and automated phone calls or website updates when there’s been an outage. Even if this information is sent out electronically, it’s still a one-way street — leaving customers unable to engage in conversations with their utility providers.

For the most part, utility companies only interact with and collect information from customers when they open a new account or when there’s an issue that needs to be resolved. This kind of static communication leaves little room for engagement. And without a two-way conversation where customers feel heard and utility providers can ensure an optimal customer experience, it’s virtually impossible to learn customer preferences or sell new services and solutions.

Building on a key advantage: customer trust

When it comes to customer relationships, utility companies have a head start. As an essential service that consumers rely on to literally power their lives and livelihoods, utility services have already been invited inside. The connection to people’s homes is key and can be built upon to strengthen customer relationships, while also making life smarter, simpler and safer for them.

Sophisticated technology platforms can provide dynamic, two-way conversations as the next generation of customer communications management. Smart Communications allows companies to move beyond just sending communications and, instead, engage in SMARTER conversations that are personalized throughout the entire customer lifecycle, and at massive scale.

The power of SMARTER conversations

Beginning with the onboarding process, companies can better understand customer preferences and behaviors and continue the conversation throughout the customer’s tenure with them. Beyond collecting information and checking boxes, they can understand customers on an individual level to uncover new ways to meet their needs and provide additional value. This could mean having conversations about things like energy efficiency, smart homes and solar power. Or, it could be about lowering their bill, maintaining equipment or upgrading services. In addition to letting the company identify relevant solutions, involving customers helps them become more engaged in managing their account and energy use, which increases customer loyalty and makes them less likely to switch providers.

Personalizing everything from bills to legal notices helps strengthen the customer relationship and build trust. And by staying connected, companies can gauge the market for new service models and emerging technologies that may add real value to their customers’ lives.

The future of utility CX starts now

Digital transformation has changed the way consumers do everything from getting a ride and booking a holiday to paying bills and managing their money. It’s time for utility suppliers to catch up – and the time to act is now. Adopting the best processes and technologies to really drive change will set utility companies up for future success. Smart Communications is ready to help.

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To learn more about where the utility industry is headed, check out the recent Future of Utilities Roundtable 2020 recap from Nick Kelly, account director at Smart Communications, and Gavin Geekie, regional vice president of energy & utilities EMEA at Salesforce Industries.