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By Gustavo Landa

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January 04, 2018

From consumer to customer

A new integrated view to improve efficiency in Utilities

The relationship with customers is changing as technology advances; it is carried out more through social media, mobile technology and service customization. These changes have had a profound impact in the value chain in every sector of the economy. Its effect reaches all sectors geared to B2C, including public services that are less used to focusing their programs on improving customer experience.

Utility companies, in general, are seeking to adapt to these changes in paradigm and have dedicated great investments towards process improvements and the application of new technologies, such as portals, applications, totems, POS solutions, and other channels.

Because this segment is dedicated to public utility services (energy, water, and gas) it has strong regulations regarding the way they relate to their clients. Those responsible for keeping companies accountable are Regulatory Agencies that determine the specific “rules of the game”, such as solution times for services requested by consumers (installing new meters, changing titles, etc.), the requirement to have a determined network of agencies for customer service and current rates, among others.

One of the great challenges for Utilities is operating within the established time frames with efficient operative costs, while managing their customer´s requests. Regulatory alterations have an impact on their customer service processes and demand changes in their commercial systems, CRM, call centers, virtual agencies and other customer relationship channels.

These changes are transformed into complex, multidisciplinary projects, translating into great operative costs following each alteration or new requirement from the Regulator. In this context, the more unified and integrated the commercial platform is with self-service solutions, the more efficient the response will be in terms of time and cost. This results in a diminished impact on the level of service to the consumer, changes in the business, and most importantly, on economic consequences due to regulatory fines.

However, the challenges to Utilities in their customer relationship processes do not end in a simple unified platform. This is the base to generate a cultural change. The challenges are not limited to how to better or more quickly serve clients and operate with fewer costs in spite of regulatory alterations. The problem extends to how to optimize the costs generated in each contact with clients.

When we talk about cultural change, we think it happens as a result of an incident, such as a programmed service cut, where traditionally, the call center manages the claims and the capacity for response is limited and costly. Some companies have made strong investments in improving this channel, automating telephone service, although they have not diminished the high costs of telephone calls. Thousands of hours of telephone service, hundreds of customers waiting to express their inconformity with the service, and low scores in Median Attention Time, generate strong economic consequences in the sector.

Thus, in the new paradigm, service brings innovation not only in terms of channels but also reverts the way the message is emitted. The company must manage active channels to improve efficiency, decreasing the high costs of reactive service. The active models not only decrease the cost per contact considerably, but also reach a desired customer segment and adapt to the new paradigms in B2C service models.

Through these mechanisms, Utility companies can come into contact with customers regarding any contingency or programmed action, assertively informing and using low-cost contact channels such as SMS and wide reaching mobile applications.

When we consider the regulatory factor, the strong impact that results from changes in requirements by the Regulatory Agency in processes and service systems presents a new level of complexity, demanding agility, simplicity and flexibility in the model to avoid incurring in cost increases and fines.

Have you imagined receiving a push message on your Smartphone informing you that your electricity bill is due in two days? What if it offers the option of paying it through a single click? How about if they offer a discount for timely payment? How does this affect the cash flows in Utilities? How does it benefit the general population? Have you thought about alerting customers that maintenance services will be carried out in two weeks in their region? How about a reminder 24 hours prior?

Without a doubt, customer perception of the company will improve. Operational costs will be relieved at receiving fewer telephone calls for claims. The weight of fines will decrease at the rate that response times meet the objectives.

Your customers are ready and waiting. Is your organization ready?

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