Amidst the ever increasing consumer base of utilities many industrial transformations have led the markets for years. Yet some critical customer satisfaction aspects remain untouched.
Billing Experiences in the Utilities Industry haven’t changed for the last 50 years.
The effect of Grid Modernization and Integrated Utilities has not converted into the cumulative last mile delivery experience as it was expected to.
Paper based communications between customers & providers-distributors has rationalized into a consumer behaviour now. Customers have grown accustomed to ignoring dues notices, overlook payment reminders and not settle balances before switching as a direct outcome of inefficient engagement in billing communications (McKinsey, Dec 2019).
More recently, despite playing a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic by writing off unpaid utility bills, suspension of disconnections and waiver for late fees; the industry has failed to communicate its contribution on a large scale. 3 out of 5 customers in the USA think that the response of their utility provider seemed like business as usual during COVID-19 (Bellomy, April 2020).
How then is the utility industry supposed to enrich & outgrow this stangnancy of customer satisfaction?
Digitization of Billing Experiences is the Key
For customers who wish to buy everything online or on an app, Utility Industry has a lot to cover for meeting the standards of retail experiences.
Consumers who manage to find alternate means of critical usage information like planned outages, efficiency rewards, flexible payments via various meter-to-cash applications are on the lookout for more permanent solutions to their daily consumption needs. Companies must digitalize billing-to-payment journeys to capitalize this willingness of customers to participate.
As billing experiences remain one of the most frequent and well received segments of the utilities sector, perhaps it’s time for companies to transform transactional communications.
The typical one way interaction of commodity transactions between providers, distributors and customers has to become more responsive and thus more anticipative about the user expectations and behaviour patterns.
Customers must be provided with the choice of platform, self-service portals, loyalty benefits, flexible payment windows, to find back their control on usage patterns and feel more in sync with their providers.
Lately, it has been proven that customers who have more control over the transitional phase of utility customer journeys tend to retain their subscriptions and even contribute to community advocacy. More than half of the surveyed utility customers expressed willingness to stay with their provider if provided the option to manage their plan (54%), make flexi-pay arrangements (59%), start/stop a value added service (80.4%) or get additional usage/efficiency/product information (50.4%) in billing experiences (Bain Utilities Customer Experiences Survey 2019, interpretation).
Energy and Other Public Utility Companies have long invested in customer information systems, operational technology and more infrastructure solutions by outsourcing critical customer communication and experience functions. Bringing them back to the in-house integrated workflows may help consumer behaviours stabilize and become more reliable indicators of business efficiency.
Start by Transforming Outbound Billing Experiences
Based on the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) customers are finding non-conventional utility solutions more convincing as compared to the three major conventional utility segments (natural gas, electricity and water).
For them a billing free solar panel is better than a confusing power bill which offers no help in putting the two and twos together.
In the light of consumer preferences shifting sizeably towards billing experiences, utility providers-distributors must find a way to go digital with their transactional communications.
Companies should employ mobility in utilities billing to ensure accuracy in billing communications, and therefore let customers enjoy independent platform engagement. Easy switching between platforms and devices during payments has been found to reduce pre-delinquency in utility bill payments.
As ease of understanding utility bills is at an all time low (76%, ASCI), having integrated communications workflows will allow providers to draw more usage based insights and replicate them on the bills with interactive graphical tools. Textual statements with little or no usage based insights tend to incite user disbelief represented by complaints and service requests (I can’t pay my bill, why is my bill so high, what does that extra charge mean – Report, McKinsey 2020)
Integrating Billing Journeys in Utilities not only allows providers to achieve better acquisitions and collections but also optimizes operational KPIs for them. Digitizing paper-based utility bills, allows faster bill processing, eliminates cost of postage-handling; and even reduces compliance costs for all customer communications.
Finally, Digital Customer Communications for Billing opens up channels for easy Consume and Pay services, Smart Home devices integration and even AI based Usage Driven Pricing for households as well as C&I (Commercial and Industrial) users.
The Fault Line & Solution for Paper-Based Utility BIlling Experiences
Integrated SaaS based Solutions for Customer Communications have the potential to fill the 23% gap in digital adoption and customer satisfaction goals by simply uplifting the billing experiences (J.D. Power Survey, June 2020). FCI has over 15 years of experience and a portfolio of 20+ leading regional and national utility providers who have benefitted from its Integrated CCM Software Solutions. To find out how our CCM as a Service and Professional Services can help you deliver more value driven billing experiences, connect with FCI Utility Experiences experts at email@example.com or directly book a demo of our Utility CCM Solutions at https://bit.ly/3qsoZwy