When it comes to customer engagement, companies like Domino’s Pizza, Zappos, Uber, Lyft and Amazon are the rising tide that lifts all boats. Their innovative strategies can filter down to other industries that aren’t traditionally associated with top-notch customer service—industries like banking or healthcare…or utilities.
That’s the plus side. The negative side is that if companies don’t improve their customer engagement, their customers will notice. According to Salesforce.com’s 2019 State of the Connected Consumer report, a whopping 73 percent of consumers say that when one company gives them extraordinary customer service, that raises their expectations for other companies.
As a result, 54 percent of the more than 8,000 consumers and business buyers surveyed for the report believe that companies need to fundamentally change how they engage with their customers.
Think about that. More than half of the people who pay for goods or services from a company think that company is doing such a poor job of connecting with them that it should overhaul its entire customer-engagement strategy. Not just tweak a few things, but fundamentally change.
This is a key point when you consider what comes next. A stunning 84 percent of customers surveyed in the Salesforce.com report say the experiences a company offers are just as important as the products or services the company sells.
So for utilities, that means that even if you’re providing good energy-saving programs and lucrative rebates on energy-saving products, if you still have poor customer service, the rest doesn’t really matter. If our customers feel unwanted or unneeded, they’re unhappy—no matter how well the utility may perform in other areas.
The top 3 consumer expectations
Of course, it’s easy for people outside the industry to say utilities should improve their customer engagement. The hard thing is to determine exactly how.
One way to start is to understand what customers want from the businesses they engage with. The Salesforce.com report lists three top consumer expectations:
A surprising 73 percent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and desires—before they ask.
For utilities, that could mean everything from proactively alerting a customer about increased usage in time to prevent higher bills, to using past participation and preference data to more effectively recommend products on e-commerce sites.
Seventy-five percent of consumers expect companies to use technology to improve customer engagement. Specifically, customers want to communicate with a company in ways they prefer—not in ways the company prefers.
For utilities, that means making it a priority to connect with customers online, through an app, via voice assistants like Alexa, with text messages or even through appliances or other smart-home devices. This is particularly important for utilities that have e-commerce sites.
Nearly 80 percent of customers expect anyone at a company to be able to access their information and help them in real time. The days of calling a customer service line and repeatedly stating basic information every time you’re transferred to a different rep are—deservedly—disappearing.
For utilities, this means creating or working with partners to create data systems that allow customer information to be shared across departments—and through your e-commerce site.
It’s time for utilities to embrace this new age of customer expectations and rise with the tide. To learn more about how to do that, download our free e-book: Customer Engagement Lessons from Domino’s (and Lyft, and Zappos, and ...).