Improvements in technology along with innovative companies such as Apple and Amazon have dramatically shifted how customers expect to engage with a company, and the utility industry is no different.
In a recent interview for PwC Canada’s podcast series Shift, Eileen Campbell, VP of Customer Service for Alectra Utilities, said: “We’re looking at the customer experiences beyond the transaction. So, we’re looking at [the] development of the relationship with our customers so that we understand what their needs are.”
The company’s vision is to provide all of its customers across its service territory - from Penetanguishene to Niagara - with a consistent experience that includes various touchpoints. This means more personalized experiences that connect with consumers through all channels of communications, allowing the customer to choose their preferred means.
According to Campbell, the basics of what a consumer is looking for are still the same. Whether business or residential, customers still want the consistent and reliable delivery of power along with affordable, timely and accurate billing.
Beyond that, Campbell says utility providers are now required to be “accessible.” Driven by the immediate nature of the modern world, consumers now expect utility providers to give them quick and accurate information whenever an issue rises. Whether that be billing queries or outage notifications, they want to easily receive information without spending a lot of time on it.
So, how has Alectra Utilities improved their customer experience?
Modern technology is key when it comes to this, and it’s impossible to keep up with the market without it. Alectra Utilities has made investments into its systems to ensure it provides customers with the best value from the services it provides them.
This has included bringing all of its customer information onto one industry-leading platform. This forms the hub of Alectra’s customer experience, with additional services added on to create one all-encompassing experience that makes life easier for the customer.
Self-serve and automated technologies are playing a huge part in this. Self-serve technologies are giving consumers the choice to fix issues and pay bills on their own terms and on their preferred device, while automated technologies are freeing up customer service representatives to deal with more complex customer issues as well as giving them real-time data to help clients on the spot.
Campbell commented: “The old reality is manual processes, the new reality is these need to be automated processes. We need the pop-up information for our staff so that they have what they need to know about this customer right when they’re talking to them, and then they can serve them and give them that full 360 view of their experience with us.”
Automated technologies take away the boring and time-consuming processes from employees, allowing them to learn more technical skills. No longer are they sitting at their desk manually processing the same transactions, they are learning new skills that help them perform higher quality customer service as well as progress their career. This makes for happier customers and happier employees.
A smart world
Another technology driving the customer experience for utility providers is smart metering, and Alectra has deployed smart meters to all of its end-use customers across Ontario. Smart metering means utility providers no longer have to manually read meters at each address, giving them accurate and real-time usage data. This, in turn, offers a saving to the end user.
Smart meters also sends the usage data to the consumer, giving them the opportunity to predict billing, receive automated notifications for unusual usage, as well as manage their own behaviour to save money or reduce their carbon footprint. A win-win for all involved.
So, what does the future hold for the Alectra and the utilities industry? Campbell said: “I’m expecting and what we’re building towards is, that through artificial intelligence, robotics processing, that we will be able to instantaneously deliver this information, either into the fingertips of a rep who’s dealing with a customer, and/or to an end-user customer if they want to deal with it themselves.”
For more information on how you can improve your customer experience, contact SilverBlaze today.