By: Nick Umney, Technical Director at Salesforce
We are in a fascinating time in which customer expectations are continually rising. In a recent survey from Salesforce Research, we learned that 62% of customers expect companies to adapt based on their actions and behaviour, and 54% of customers think that companies need to fundamentally transform how they engage*. Customers assume digital ease of use, expect great service, information on demand, and on any channel. The challenge for Utility companies is how to truly understand their customers, and their expectations.
As a result of COVID-19 customer demands, unsurprisingly, continue to evolve. Customers are increasingly gravitating towards companies and products that are purpose and values driven. They are no longer satisfied with disconnected and inefficient experiences and are expecting integrated processes that bring together the entire journey – from awareness to engagement and advocacy.
As customer demands increase, the market is responding as companies compete in this race for relevance. Traditionally, large companies beat out the smaller ones by controlling messaging and the supply chain. In the UK, we saw the rise of the ‘Big 6 energy suppliers.’ Today there’s been an explosion of fast moving, market entrants who are figuring out new ways to grab market share quickly, attracting customers with a combination of price, sustainability credentials and customer service. The larger companies are reacting though, creating start-up businesses of their own in an effort to leverage the benefits of scale and agility needed to quickly meet the demands of today’s digital-savvy customer.
Digital tools can certainly power a new level of customer experience, and help organisations connect with their customers in a whole new way, across each stage of the customer lifecycle. Understanding customer behaviours has been a core tenet for organisations for some time, now a true 360° customer view is a reality. With technological advances, we are now able to understand customers with more detail, more clarity, and more granularity. We are able to collate and understand customers product holdings, consumption and usage, even micro-signals from web browsing and app usage into this single customer view. Based on this understanding and leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), we’re able to provide both intelligent recommendations to our customers (and service agents) and predictions that help us make better decisions.
As we understand more about our customers, the context that they’re operating in, and what they’re trying to achieve, we’re able to use technology to create differentiated experiences that feel incredibly relevant. In addition to customer acquisition, AI is now playing a huge part in the full customer lifecycle. For example, through machine learning organisations can predict causes of customer attrition, take proactive steps, and communicate with the customer in a timely manner with relevant information to help resolve their issue.
By leveraging this data, we can attract, engage, and retain customers through personalised journeys that include both targeted outreach, and contextual interactions when they’re interacting with our brand across numerous communication touch points.
Finally, from an employee perspective being able to continue to serve customers from wherever, in a seamless way is key. Customer experience is directly linked to employee experience, and according to Forbes Insights Research, it’s an intricate relationship in which one depends on the other to gain maximum results. All employees need a clear line of sight as to how their roles play a part in enhancing customer experiences. We need customer service technology to almost be invisible – to enable the agent to connect with the customer, understand their issues and queries without the technology getting in the way. Gone is the need for customer service agents to alt-tab between multiple systems to resolve a customer issue.
So yes, customer expectations are rising but the latest technical innovations, such as SmartCOMMTM and the Energy and Utilities Cloud, (along with people and processes) enable Utility companies to meet and hopefully exceed them.
Nick Umney, is a Technical Director at Salesforce who brings a depth knowledge of Cloud technologies and broad industry insight. Nick has a demonstrable record of innovative solution delivery across enterprise scale customers – delivering business value with strategic vision. To hear more from Nick, watch this webinar, Redefining the Utilities Customer Experience, or download the full event recap here.