The Journey from Transaction to Relationship

October 16, 2017 | Blog

If utilities are going to prosper in the rapidly evolving utility landscape, they are going to have to move from a transactional model of serving customers to one that builds relationships; relationships that vary with the type of customer being served. This isn’t a new revelation but the rapid changes in technology and the expectations of consumers are increasing its urgency.

An especially challenging segment to serve is the low income customer. Many times I hear the phrase that low income customers are hard to reach. I want to challenge that assertion. These customers typically contact their utility 3 – 4 times each month. They are not hard to reach, they are hard to serve.

There are numerous factors impacting this service challenge. Those include how they prefer to get information, the level of trust they have in utilities, preconceived ideas within utilities about their technological aptitude, and how their frequency of getting paid relates to the way utilities bill them for service.

Traditional utility communication approaches are not necessarily the best for this customer. Since most customers do not seek information until they have a need, program roll out announcements, bill stuffers, phone calls, social media posts, and traditional communication methods will likely present useful detail before needed.

What does work in this market is to integrate trusted organizations within these communities into the communication strategy. These include nonprofit organizations (NPOs), community action agencies (CAAs), religious organizations, program implementation trade allies, and schools. Communication must be multi-channel including email, sms/text, mobile and social media. The result of this strategy is that the customer perceives they are more in control of their utility relationship.

By integrating these channels and keeping them current with program details and status, any gaps in traditional communication efforts can be filled. This approach greatly extends the reach of traditional utility methods and can serve to reduce the amount (and related cost) of inbound contacts.

The community groups recruit, the trade allies deliver, and then the utilities reinforce and educate. Satisfaction increases as bills become more manageable and the customer begins to feel in control of this aspect of their lives. The journey from transaction to relationship has begun.

Customer engagement that leads to the relationship model requires the mastery of analytical and data management tools. Fortunately, such tools abound and include journey mapping, matching the Voice of the Customer with the Voice of Utility Operations, targeting via GIS, housing, and demographic data, campaign management tools, and so forth.

Within this mix of solutions, Apogee’s EPIC can automate and tailor the education and ongoing communication process with low income (and other) customers. Blending seamlessly with existing Apogee solutions or acting stand alone, it can enable utilities to build on what they learn using the array of analytics available.

Would you like access to this presentation? Contact Karen Morris email to kmorris@apogee.net or call 678-684-6801

 

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