“Utility customer satisfaction” has almost reached buzzword status in the industry. All over North America, utilities are engaged in a race to see who can improve customer satisfaction and deliver the best customer experience—but, according to some recent data, many utilities have a long way to go in their quest to achieve high utility customer satisfaction.
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, energy utilities are facing very real customer satisfaction challenges. The ACSI has recorded a drop in customer satisfaction in this sector for three straight years (as of 2016). In 2016 alone, the utilities sector saw a drop in their customer satisfaction score of 3.2 percentage points, down to 71.9 out of 100. Municipal utilities were hit particularly hard. They saw a 6.8 percentage point drop in their customer satisfaction scores from 20151. This puts municipal utilities near the bottom of the list in terms of customer satisfaction, alongside internet service providers and subscription television services. The benchmarks used for customer satisfaction included the ability to provide reliable electric service, website satisfaction, information provided on energy-saving ideas, and courtesy and helpfulness of staff or representatives.
Obviously, then, there is room for improvement when it comes to utility customer satisfaction—so, where should you start? By looking at the benchmarks mentioned in the ACSI report, we can see where utilities need to improve the most: website satisfaction, information provided on energy-saving ideas, and courtesy and helpfulness of staff.
More and more, customers are demanding access to your utility from many different channels, not just via call centers and office business hours. They also want to access utilities online through your website (including access to web services via their mobile phone or tablet) and social media. It’s clear, then, that utilities must meet these evolving customer demands in any way they can to improve customer satisfaction scores. The first step is providing these digital interaction avenues in the first place. Customers must not only be able to pay their bills online, but they should be able to request services, report outages, and receive efficiency tips based on their own usage habits. By anticipating your customers’ needs and reacting quickly, you can make a lasting impression that will leave customers smiling after every interaction.
In a recent report on utility customer satisfaction, PricewaterhouseCoopers recommended a three-step approach for utilities to work towards improving customer satisfaction.
- Define a customer experience that is aligned with your brand promise,
- Coordinate all projects, programs, and committees that are working to improve customer satisfaction, and
- Foster a corporate culture where employees are focused on customer experience and are prepared to do what it takes to improve customer satisfaction.2
Your customers’ demands and expectations are growing by the year, and your utility is going to have to keep up with those demands if you want to stay competitive and profitable in 2017 and beyond.
(1) ACSI Utilities, Shipping And Health Care Report 2016
(2) Beyond the hype: What is the value of customer satisfaction to a regulated utility?