Traditionally, utility providers haven’t been known for providing an amazing customer experience (CX). With customers typically having no choice in which company they use, utilities in the past haven’t seen the value in prioritizing customer satisfaction or experience.
However, as customers come to expect improved experiences, greater personalization and seamless customer support with all of the organizations they deal with, utility providers are increasingly seeing the customer experience as an opportunity to delight their customers.
To do just that, utility providers are developing omni-channel customer support strategies that focus on self-service.
Research is clear. Today’s consumers want to help themselves. An American Express survey found that more than 60 percent of US consumers say their go-to channel for simple inquiries is a digital self-serve tool such as a website, mobile application or online chat. Meanwhile, a Microsoft study found that 77 percent of customers reported having used a self-service portal.
That’s why today’s best performing utilities in terms of customer satisfaction and experience are using a customer portal solution.
What is a Customer Portal?
A customer portal is a secure customer-facing software interface that is designed to give customers access to all of the services and information they need. Operating as a dedicated hub, a self-service portal gives customers complete visibility into their interactions with a company, as well as the ability to change account details.
A customer portal designed specifically for the utility industry, such as the SilverBlaze Customer Portal for Utilities, should have a number of functionalities that provide a superior customer experience for utility customers - and can be integrated with other systems.
These functionalities could include:
- Customer usage and analytics
- Notifications and alerts
- Smart metering
- Outage integration
- And much more!
What are the Benefits of a Customer Portal?
Traditional customer support channels, such as your utility’s phone lines and email, are still highly important - especially for more complex customer queries. Yet, a customer portal can help your customer seamlessly answer easier queries, while freeing up time for your customer service agents as well.
As a result, a customer portal helps your utility realize a huge number of benefits. Here are a few of the top advantages of using a customer portal solution:
Increased customer satisfaction: A customer portal gives your utility the chance to position itself as a world-class service provider within the utility industry. Deliver on your customer expectations, and go above-and-beyond to truly satisfy and delight the customers you bill.
Better customer support performance: By providing information directly to your customers through a customer portal, you’ll be empowering them to answer their own questions. When customers resolve simple queries on their own, your customer support team will have more time to work on the queries that truly deliver value to your customers.
Increased engagement with customers: Through a customer portal you can provide the communication and interaction to your customers that truly drives up satisfaction levels. Show your customers that you care with usage advice that saves them money, outage updates that keep them in the loop and eBilling notifications that make payments seamless.
How to Nurture Better Customer Relationships Through a Customer Portal
Now your utility knows what a customer portal is and how it can benefit your organization, here are four ways you can proactively use a customer portal to build better relationships with your customers:
#1 - Answer customer queries before they ask you
A customer portal is designed to be a designated hub for all of your customer’s needs. As a result, you can use a customer portal to answer customer queries before they even think about phoning your customer support team with a question.
For example, providing your customers with real-time updates on an outage in their area will save your customer support team from having to answer a huge number of calls if your utility is currently experiencing a service issue. Simply send real-time alerts and push notifications to your customers, notifying them of the most up-to-date information and when they can expect their normal service to resume.
#2 - Proactively help your utility customers achieve their goals
Customers demand more from the organizations they do business with than ever before. They no longer expect to just pay a bill each month and receive a service in return; they want advice and information on how they can better use products, services and even applicable online programs.
Utilities can build better relationships with their customers through education, position themselves as utility partners. For instance, by providing real-time customer usage and analytics in easy-to-read graphs, utility providers can proactively help customers save money and live more environmentally-friendly lifestyles.
#3 - Ask for customer feedback
Customer service isn’t always about answering your customers’ questions, sometimes it’s also about listening to what they have to say.
Whether it’s asking for feedback on how you can improve your customer service strategy or using smart form software to empower customers with the tools they need to report issues directly to your engineering and operations team, listening to your customer not only builds relationships but also helps your utility improve how it operates.
#4 - Provide 24/7 customer support
We live in an on-demand world where customers expect round-the-clock customer support. That doesn’t necessarily mean they want to talk to someone in the early hours of the morning, but they do expect to be able to find the answer to their questions somewhere.
A customer portal transforms your service to a 24/7 model, through information that’s accessible round-the-clock from any preferred electronic device.
Want to learn more about how a customer portal can transform your utility’s customer experience and lead to huge increases in customer satisfaction? Contact SilverBlaze today. The SilverBlaze Customer Portal for Utilities is an award-winning software specifically designed to improve utility customer satisfaction and make utility internal operations more efficient.