By Ben Young, Development Director
If you’re a marketer at an energy or water company, you could be forgiven for thinking customers are only interested in brand utility. The clue is in the sector name, after all.
But even in an industry where function, service and price are front and centre, brands that overlook the growing importance of customer experience could soon suffer a power cut.
For fuel providers that manifests itself in the millions of people who continually switch suppliers. In water, with further deregulation and more customer choice over supply possibly in the pipeline, it means a race to get ahead of rivals.
The whole experience matters. According to the Institute of Customer Service’s most recent, 35% of customers are prepared to pay more to guarantee and excellent experience. Furthermore, only 12% of us would willingly sacrifice top-class service to get the best deal on a product or service.
So, how can utilities companies get closer to their customers and offer an experience that builds loyalty, reduces complaints and stops so many people from switching supplier?
The answer lies in dynamic customer communications. To make this a reality, the industry needs to take a leaf out of the playbook of sectors that have a more cutting-edge approach to marketing strategy.
There’s an endless stream of statistics that make the case for dynamic communications. Take personalisation: almost two thirds (62%) of UK consumers say they are more likely to buy multiple times from brands that treat them like an individual, says. Meanwhile, found that more than half of consumers in the UK expect better engagement from brands they buy.
Both of these things can be achieved if utilities brands overhaul their marketing output. But what do we mean by dynamic communications?
As part of their overall brand experience customers now expect organisations to communicate with them in an interactive manner, through channels they prefer to use.
Being dynamic means creating a two-way dialogue in customer communications. This can be viewed as part of a wider digital transformation strategy. As companies attempt to switch account holders to paperless comms there are new opportunities to include exciting, interactive and useful content that enriches the static content print is somewhat restricted to.
This could be driven by the inclusion of QR codes on transactional material, for example. It’s now much more effective as an approach because code readers are native to most smartphones, with consumers getting used to accessing and responding to information from brands by using the technology.
Driving a customer to the brand website can lead them to personalised content, not just featuring their name but also offers and advice tailored to their preferences and needs. It gives brands the chance to upsell where appropriate and create a two-way dialogue.
This is an approach water companies in particular are keen to embrace, having moved away from functional, quantitative feedback mechanics to more interactive qualitative options like customer experience surveys.
More than ever, consumers want convenience. A poll by Macro4 found more than six in 10 (61%) utilities customers are ready to switch to digital self-service.
Communications that can be tailored, interactive and sent as near to real-time as possible are therefore key to boosting overall customer experience. And that can only happen if brands have the right data at their fingertips.
Despite the huge volumes of data that utilities brands have available to them the sector is often behind the curve when it comes to using all of that information to improve many aspects of their operations, from service to billing – and customer comms.
Data will fuel the future of dynamic communications. For instance, it’s already driving delivery and uptake of one-click tariff acceptance, where a customer simply taps an on-screen button once to approve an offer for fuel.
In the past, this process would have been managed in disparate, siloed systems with the possibility of the customer’s details falling down the cracks. This results in huge customer frustration and operational inefficiency.
Meanwhile, data is still managed to a large extent in legacy systems or shaky tech stacks where kit has been added Jenga-like leaving the whole operation at risk of falling over.
To improve data collection, management and use, smart utilities brands are seeking the support of external experts. They are fully focused on the systems on the market that can supplement – or replace – internal platforms to augment data strategy. One example is the ability to append marketing preferences to service data.
>Often, these companies are tech-agnostic so come without an agenda to sell a specific solution.
Another advantage of outsourcing is the breadth of experience such suppliers bring to the table. Operating across a range of sectors means they can take learnings from one industry that leads the way in a certain discipline and use them as the basis of a solution in another. For instance, implementing governance and security from banking; or customer acquisition expertise from retail.
Outsourcing also removes ongoing operational burden from in-house teams and can save capital expenditure often misspent on buying the wrong technology.
With dynamic communications the way to win customers’ hearts and minds, it’s time for bright spark utilities companies to change the way they interact with consumers.
Want to see how we could improve your marketing performance? Let’s start a dialogue.