For many utilities, customer experience initiatives are dominated by the residential segment, leaving business accounts largely underserved. This creates the potential for negative interactions, inflection points in the customer journey that critically impact satisfaction scores and future revenue opportunities. By leveraging AMI data, however, energy providers can better inform and better influence customer interactions, reshaping these inflection points and positioning themselves as trusted advisors to the businesses customer they serve.
Using data to influence the customer journey in four key steps.
For a regular customer, paying a monthly bill is a nearly automatic task, something most people do without thinking twice. However, there are bound to be times when the routine customer journey strays outside of the ordinary; such as when customers are jolted by an unexpectedly high bill, an unplanned outage, or in deregulated markets, by a retail supplier knocking on their door and promising lower rates. These are just a few examples of inflection points, critical interactions that have an outsized impact on the customer/utility relationship.
For the utility, these unusual moments are the ones that really matter, and they can be the difference between load defection and expanded revenue, or between a satisfied customer and an angry one. Are you doing everything you can to influence the outcome of these inflection points?
If you’re like most North American energy providers, the answer is no, at least when it comes to business accounts. As we’ve pointed out in the past, many utilities focus their customer experience initiatives on residential segments, leaving business accounts largely in the dark. That’s a shame—and a potential liability. After all, business accounts have the time, money, and incentive to look for alternatives when things aren’t going well, and in regulated areas, it’s the business accounts are more likely to contact regulators when they experience a negative interaction.
Energy Providers need to wake up to this danger, and they need to proactively take steps to influence these critical moments. To do this, utilities should leverage AMI data to inform customer interactions.
Smart meters will generate roughly 1.5 trillion data points for North American power companies in 2020. That data offers valuable insights and opportunities to positively impact customer satisfaction. Below are four circumstances where AMI can be used to influence the customer journey.
Inflection Point 1 – Dealing with high bills
Outside temperature, humidity, cost per kWh, plug-load, usage, peak demand, and days in the billing cycle can all impact a customer’s bill. And that’s before we even begin to think about more complex scenarios, such as net metering, that are likely to become more common. In short, energy costs are complex.
Utilities need to implement technology that helps customers understand this, and helps them avoid unwanted surprises. For example, sending a proactive alert to customers during a heatwave can help them realize where the change in their bill is coming from. Likewise, delivering a relevant, consistent, and easy to digest energy report that breaks down billing changes period-to-period will help them begin to understand why their bill fluctuates over time.
Sometimes high bills are unavoidable, but energy data and analytics should be used to mitigate the impact of that surprise.
Inflection Point 2 – Educating the energy curious
Alerting customers to potential changes in their bill is a good first step, but by leveraging AMI data utilities can take that relationship even further. When customers begin to better understand their energy usage they begin to develop a closer relationship with the utility. In general, the more informed a customer is, the happier they are likely to be.
If one of your business customers received a high bill alert and that prompted them to learn more about how they consumed energy, where would they go? The customer actively seeking out energy information is our second major inflection point. This is a time in the customer journey where the utility can really elevate their service, if they have the tools in place to do so.
At Agentis, we’ve developed the industry’s most comprehensive account survey, a set of questions that covers the entirety of a business’s energy profile, from lighting to building type to industry subcategory. By leveraging this information, along with meter data, and load profiles from trusted resources like NREL, Agentis delivers a detailed breakdown of customer usage trends and creates useful comparisons to similar businesses.
When energy providers take the step from simply informing customer to actively educating them they make massive improvements in customer satisfaction.
Inflection Point 3 – Suggesting Ways To Improve
Education isn’t the end of the journey, however, and now that the customer knows more about their energy usage they are a prime target for proactive suggestions. Energy providers can’t afford to be passive with engaged accounts, they need to influence these customers to participate in relevant programs.
Imagine a world where you were able to suggest smart thermostat rebates to a business that had recently viewed their bill and discovered the impact electric heating had on their total amount due. Imagine the boost to program participation you would see if you could estimate the annual lighting spend of an account and calculate how much they would save by upgrading to LED.
Utilities need to take a page from retailers like Apple and leverage personalized suggestions to their most engaged customers. Doing so will begin to turn mere satisfaction into actual brand affinity.
Inflection Point 4 – Turning Suggestions Into Actions
Finally, when a customer reaches the point where they’re considering participation in a utility sponsored program, the onus is on the energy provider to make that action as seamless as possible.
Activating an engaged customer into a program participant isn’t easy, but technology can help. One path forward is enabling “next step” actions in each customer’s digital energy interface. For example, connecting a customer who’s interested in lighting upgrades with local lighting contractors via an interactive project wizard, like Agentis’ contractor connect tool, will accelerate their buying process. Think of this as the energy version of Amazon’s “buy it now” tool for Prime members.
By engaging customers at this inflection point, energy providers can truly transform the customer journey, delivering customers who aren’t just happy, but are actually “raving fans” of your utility.