Now that the sun is out, summer is firmly on its way – bringing with it the annual spike in the number of people moving house in the UK. This year is set to be no different. Figures from the Office of National Statistics found that property transactions were up 7.6 percent in May compared to the previous month. This means that utilities companies will spend the coming months managing a high volume of requests from prospective and existing customers – and the importance of these interactions should not be underestimated.
The experience of moving house frequently tops “stress lists”, with many people finding the experience even more stressful than starting a new job. This combination of more interactions mixed with overly-stressed customers means that it is vital that utilities providers are doing all they can to get their customer service right in the summer months. A stress-free experience could help you gain or retain a long-term customer, while a poor experience can directly impact your bottom line.
So, what customer service strategies should utilities companies adopt to boost their performance during this busy period?
Get to know your customer
The golden rule to delivering a great customer experience is taking the time to understand who your customers are. In the utilities sector, this has less to do with stereotypical segmentation by age and geography. Everyone uses electricity and water – and it is much more valuable for utilities to gain an understanding of their customers’ typical behaviors – which can then be grouped across every stage of the customer lifecycle.
The idea of not only gathering but also understanding and analyzing, these insights can feel overwhelming. But the truth is it doesn’t need to be a complicated process. What is important is to identify the right partner to assist in implementing the processes that can streamline and simplify the tools that are required to identify your customers’ typical behaviors and generate clear, actionable insights from the data.
Plan your processes
The past few years have seen a boom in the number of channels available for customer communication. Online and in-app chat, email and text have all joined the more traditional methods of phone and mail.
This range of channels fits with the wisdom that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a customer journey. A customer’s preference for communication can depend on anything from the weather, to the time of day, or even what sort of mood they happen to be in. And, these nuances in behavior are particularly pertinent when it comes to customers that are moving house. While the fundamentals of the process may remain the same, one customer may begin the process of transferring their account and address with months to spare, others may leave it to the day of the move.
So, while an omnichannel approach can produce powerful outcomes, it has to be planned carefully if it is to satisfy, rather than frustrate, customers. Not planning the customer journey across channels can lead to channel bounce – where a customer is shunted from associate to associate and channel to channel until their problem is solved. For an already stressed customer in the midst of a move, this process could damage their relationship with the company.
A key part of getting your channel mix right is to adopt data capture opportunities at each stage of the customer query or issue. By maintaining a comprehensive record of previous interactions with a customer, associates can ensure that they are solving the problem at hand, rather than adding to its complexity.
Retain the human touch
Digital technology is playing an increasingly powerful role in customer service, but it comes with a warning. It is important that companies do not become over-reliant on technology; customer service associates should still be a central part of any good customer service strategy. When it comes to moving house, for every customer who prefers to use a chat function to get a quick answer, there’s someone with a more complex issue who wants to be able to discuss with a real person.
Don’t assume that phone calls are a dying practice, solely used by over 65s. In our experience, nearly every customer will want to pick up the phone and give you a call at some point. This means that utilities need to invest in quality training for associates, making the most of the insights gathered about a typical customer journey, to prepare them to deal with the full spectrum of moving-house enquiries. It is important that an associate feels confident and comfortable in their knowledge as this is, in turn, reflect in customer interactions, whether intentionally or not. At the end of the day, a happy customer service employee often equals a happy customer.
Learn more: Developing a winning omnichannel strategy
Moving house may be a stressful experience for your customers, but it isn’t something to dread. Utilities companies must see the summer peak as an exciting chance to use a great customer service strategy to both build relationships with existing customers and win over undecided house-movers. Those that do can expect to see their business boom as a result.
Written by Siddharth Parashar, Head – Europe Firstsource. Originally published on Utility Week.
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