Gero Decker, chief executive, Signavio Company strategy, Customers, Energy networks, Innovation, Skills, Strategy & management, Water, Opinion, Gero Decker, switching, Uswitch

With record numbers of customers switching supplier, utilities need to rethink customer service, says Gero Decker

According to the Uswitch annual customer satisfaction survey, overall satisfaction with energy suppliers has fallen for the second year running, due to increasing prices and the collapse of nine energy firms.

In 2018, more energy customers switched than ever before, often choosing smaller suppliers over the bigger companies. Today’s brand-agnostic consumers are looking for a personalised and seamless customer experience from their service providers, and are willing to switch to ensure they  get  the best value for money.

In the utilities industry, efficiency is king. Consumers have high expectations and they trust utility providers to supply clean and affordable energy. This means providers need to achieve operational efficiencies that can be passed on to the public in the form of reliable and enhanced customer services. But how can this be done?

The first step is to understand and map the customer journeys, including sign up and onboarding, all the way through to being serviced and handling incidents or escalations. Capturing each touch-point along the way allows businesses to better understand customers’ motivations and frustrations at each of those points.

A customer journey map gives utility providers a new perspective, and it allows them to see their organisation from the outside in. Instead of focusing on internal operations, it looks at the results of those operations from the customer’s viewpoint. The maps help businesses to streamline processes and eliminate customer pain-points as a second step, resulting in a better experience overall.

A good customer journey map is built using insights garnered from multiple strands of market research, including both internal and customer research.

The internal perspective should be developed by engaging a cross-departmental workforce of employees who actually interact with customers. This will provide unparalleled insider insight into how customers relate to the organisation, as well as helping to identify issues, and opportunities for improvement. For a truly representative map, you also need to hear the facts directly from the people you are trying to reach. This requires input and feedback from customers who closely reflect the different personas developed.

In the current economic climate, organisations need to provide superb customer service alongside their products and services in order to thrive. Without taking an outside-in approach to business operations, the customer can never be fully understood.

There are other benefits too. Customer journey mapping helps the workforce in an organisation align behind a shared goal: making the customer happy. It also allows utility providers to more closely consider the supporting processes behind their complex operations. Seeing the entirety of the journey, from both internal and external perspectives, allows businesses to not only provide a better customer experience, but also equip their employees with the flexibility needed to innovate on solutions – maybe even come up with the next big idea.

In the current high-pressure environment, utility companies need to respond to developments more rapidly, and more efficiently, than ever before. If organisations work towards making their processes more efficient, they also become more effective, which leads to better decision-making, improved execution of necessary tasks, and enriched customer experiences. In the long run, this will enable utility companies to provide the seamless experience demanded by customers, and reap the rewards of customer loyalty.

Gero Decker is chief executive of software solutions provider Signavio

What to read next