Today, customers are always expecting high-quality customer service offerings from all of the companies that they do business with. A superior customer experience (CX) is now crucial to customer satisfaction.
Research from McKinsey’s Journey Pulse survey in utilities shows that delivering stand-out moments that go above and beyond customers’ expectations can lead to dramatically higher satisfaction.
Yet, utilities typically lag behind other industries in creating these “wow” moments, with just 33 percent of utility customers experiencing one of these experiences in the past year as compared with 58 percent for airlines, for example.
There are many ways that utilities can improve the service they provide their customers, but the most effective way is to implement a self-service customer portal - such as the SilverBlaze Customer Portal for Utilities.
Choosing which customer portal is right for your utility as well as the customers you serve is an important decision. The customer portal that you choose will have a direct impact on the benefits that both your utility and customers realize from its implementation.
What is a self-service customer portal?
A utility customer portal is a way for you to safely send and receive information directly to and from consumers, acting as a self-service mechanism for your customers to manage their entire utility account from either a web browser or mobile application.
A self-service customer portal allows your customers to access information, such as billing and payments, account information, utility usage analytics and outage reports, in addition to receiving notifications and alerts directly from your utility.
Choosing an effective customer portal platform
There are five features that make for a good utility self-service customer portal; in this blog, SilverBlaze will go through each of these features in more detail.
#1 - Functionality
A customer portal is a self-service tool that is specifically developed to reduce customer effort, improve the customer experience, reduce customer service friction and, ultimately, build more satisfied customers. As a result, this customer interface must be a one-stop-shop for your consumer’s every need.
When using a customer portal, customers should only phone into your customer service department when they have a highly-complicated query that they need resolved. All other queries should and can be resolved on their own.
Effective customer portals should include functionalities such as:
- Energy usage data
- Account information changes
- Conservation and demand management tools
- Outage information
- Direct notifications and alerts straight to a customer’s device
- Improved two-way communication via Smart Forms
#2 - Superior Communication
We’ve touched on the importance of communication in the functionality section, but it’s important to address just how two-way interaction through the use of a customer portal platform can benefit both your utility and your customers.
Communication with your customers through notifications and alerts will ensure you provide a superior customer experience. Enhancing the CX includes alerting customers to bills that need paying or outages as they are occurring; while communication tools, such as smart forms, allow your utility to conveniently collect real-time data from customers which ultimately automates your manual processes - saving you time and money.
#3 - Ease-of-use
The most important aspect of any utility customer portal is the usability. Customers must be able to log in and immediately understand how to perform specific tasks without any friction, otherwise they’ll be frustrated and end up phoning your customer service team anyway.
The key to a successful customer portal is a clean interface that logically lays out the specific actions that your customers are looking for. Customers should be able to navigate to your utility customer portal and find exactly what they need. Some of the top customer portals enable customization and additional add-ons so you can create a platform that is perfectly suited for your customers’ requirements.
#4 - Personalization
Utility customers want personalization, and customer portals should be able to deliver that. Additionally, notifications and alerts should be personalized to each customer's specific needs, whether it be paying a bill,an outage in their area or closing in on a set energy usage threshold
Usage analytics is a great way to offer personalized interaction. With the help of notifications and alerts, in addition to usage monitoring and analytical data, you can help each individual customer achieve their specific usage goals - whether that’s trying to save money or reducing their carbon footprint.
#5 - Practicality
Most of all, customer portals should be practical for your utility to implement into your current operational processes. It’s not solely about improving the customer experience, it’s also about helping your business save time and money; after all, a customer portal won’t get invested in if it is deemed unprofitable financially and logistically.
An effective customer portal should be able to
- reduce strain on your customer support team
- help you automate time-consuming manual processes
- save your utility money
- integrate with other platforms, and much more
Are you interested in learning more about utility customer portals and the benefits they provide? Contact SilverBlaze today. Our award-winning software provides utilities with a value-focused and highly-customized self-service portal.