Self-service solutions aren’t a terribly new idea. Think of the last time you put fuel in your vehicle. Unless you live in certain states, you pumped your own gas. ATMs are commonplace all over the world because people hate waiting in line to deposit or withdraw cash from a human teller.
This trend has extended to the utilities world, with many utilities offering online self-service options from bill notification and payment, to usage reports, service requests, and more.
While many utilities currently offer some form of self-service solution, a great number of small and midsize utilities are missing out on key functionality with outdated self-service solutions. In order to stay competitive, small and medium utilities must offer modern self-service options to their customers. Here are just some of the many reasons why:
1. Your customers may not want to talk to you
Every year more and more customers, when surveyed, say that they’d rather not deal directly with your customer service staff. One of the biggest reasons why is because (in most cases) your customer service team is only available to talk to during regular business hours. For a customer who works during business hours (which includes many of us) this can be incredibly inconvenient for them.
Another big reason is waiting. Everyone hates to wait. When your customers call to ask a question about their bill or to request connection, the last thing they want to do is to wait on the phone for the next available representative. You may tell them that their call is very important to you (which it is) but if they’re on hold, they certainly won’t agree with you. A robust self-service solution solves both of these problems. You utility becomes available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Customers can get answers to common questions about billing, pay their bills, check usage habits, request service, report outages, and a whole lot more whenever they feel like it—and without waiting to speak to anyone.
2. Technology is changing—fast
People today are faced with rapidly changing technologies. Consider the smartphone. In early 2007, the concept of a smartphone basically didn’t even exist. Then, Apple changed the mobile market forever when it introduced the iPhone, the world’s first true “smartphone”. Now, just a decade later, smartphones are ubiquitous and your customers want to use them to access your services. That means utilities need to have websites that are mobile-responsive, and their self-service portals must also allow users to interact with them via their smartphone or tablet. According to a report that we released in 2016, 68.8% of customers currently under the age of 24 prefer to use a mix of online forms, email, and SMS messaging to interact with their utility provider.
3. Your finance department will thank you
Having a robust self-service solution will free up customer service staff to perform more high-value tasks, allow customers to receive answers to simple questions without needing to talk to a representative, and will empower customers to quickly and easily pay their bills online at any time. When your self-service solution can help integrate your CIS, billing, and other legacy systems, everyone wins—including your customers. When your staff is free to do their jobs and your customers are satisfied and paying their bills, your bottom line improves too.
If your self-service solution leaves a lot to be desired with a lack of functionality, hard-to-understand interfaces, or missing integrations, why not schedule a free consultation with SilverBlaze?
The SilverBlaze Customer Portal for Utilities is purpose-built for public, private, and municipal utility providers. We would love to talk to you about how you can use self-service solutions to better serve your customers. To get started, click here.