Consumer expectations are fluid from one industry to another, and right now, your business customers are getting a much better digital experience from just about everywhere else... That’s a big problem.
Business Accounts Are More Likely To Defect
Your business customers differ from their residential counterparts in a number of ways. Critically though, businesses are much more focused on cutting costs to improve their bottom line. That means they are constantly evaluating each of their outside vendors and looking for better alternatives. For a long time, the lack of cost effective energy alternatives has spared utilities from scrutiny, but that could be changing.
C&I accounts are already adopting self-generation at record rates. How many years will it be until these technologies are cheap enough for the majority of business customers, including small and mid-size companies, to follow suit? As the saying goes, disruption is always far away until it isn’t.
You’re competing with Salesforce and Verizon
Think about the key vendors for a generic mid-sized business. Telecoms, office supplies, shipping and logistics, probably some type of business software like payroll or CRM, and of course you, their energy provider. When you step back and look at it, each of those other industries are lightyears ahead of the average utility in terms of both the digital tools they offer their customer, and more importantly, in terms of the importance they place on providing a positive digital customer experience.
This should scare you. Whether you like it or not, you’re competing with all of the other vendors that your customers interact with. Each one of them is jockeying for mindshare at the businesses they serve, attempting to position themselves as “trusted business advisors” that are irreplaceable when the next quarterly budget review comes around.
Imagine a business reviewing their budget at the end of the year looking to cut vendor costs. Are they going to start shopping around for replacements for the software system they log into five times a day and have all their employees trained on, or are they going to look for alternatives to the energy company that just sends a bill once a month?
Below are a few examples of ways major B2B vendors are improving digital customer experience, and winning the battle for mindshare in the eyes of your business customers.
Banks - Hyper-personalization
Hyper-personalization is a broad term that describes the use of AI technology to identify, curate, and display custom tailored information to each unique customer.
Almost all of your non-residential customers would count their bank among the vendors critical to the success of their business. Banks like JP Morgan Chase now offer lending calculators, financial advice portals, and outbound marketing campaigns that are personalized to each business customer they serve. A local tattoo shop, for example, gets a different suite of digital tools, communication language from a major retail chain.
Hyper-personalization allows banks to deliver a digital customer experience thats comparable to speaking with a private banker, but at a fraction of the cost.
Cell Carriers - Proactive Alerts
Proactive alerts are customer service messages sent via a number of channels including social, SMS, email, direct mail, and phone, that help consumers understand when and why their bill is likely to be higher.
Many non-residential customers rely on wireless providers as a critical vendor for cell and internet service. Verizon has sent proactive usage alerts for data overages for years, and now counts on a number of distinct communication channels to inform their customers of a pending high bill. These alerts help reduce calls to customer support centers, and improve consumer sentiment.
Software Vendors - Value Added Services
Service marketplaces allow business customers to find, compare, and purchase relevant consulting services, or products that could help their business.
Salesforce was one of the first companies in the CRM space to understand the value of up-selling and cross-selling additional products and services through their core platform. Many businesses rely on the salesforce CRM to manage their client database, but many also see the platform as a valuable hub of additional information about services that could add value to their business. Salesforce makes it easy for businesses to shop for relevant products.
Your customers have every right to demand more from their utility
As the energy landscape continues to change, traditional utilities will likely face increased competitive pressures from retail energy providers, DERs and other disruptive technologies. Your customers have already come to expect a higher level of customer experience based on the CX their other critical vendors provide. Utilities need to play catch-up if they want to prevent business accounts from defecting in the future.
Improving the digital customer experience will help energy providers position themselves as partners in the success of the businesses they serve, helping them build lasting customer relationships.