Social networks offer substantial communications value, and utilities can no longer ignore them. A successful strategy, however, requires careful management.
Meeting customers’ service expectations in the smart phone era.
Consumers everywhere are using their mobile devices to make life easier, get quick access to information, and manage their day-to-day lifestyle. Smartphone adoption and usage isn’t limited to certain age groups, markets or demographics; from millennials to baby boomers, the smartphone has become the go-to device.
Customers today expect their service providers to offer a useful and rewarding mobile experience, and companies are making it part of their overall brand and customer engagement strategies. For utilities, mobile takes on extra relevance in times of crisis. During times like these, mobile has the opportunity to become the most direct lifeline from utility companies to their customers.
The problem however, is that utility companies are late to the mobile game. Only 22 percent have created optimized mobile websites and only 7 percent have a native app.
Learning from Sandy
The devastation of Superstorm Sandy will never be forgotten – cited as potentially the most damaging hurricane recorded in U.S. history. 1 On top of the flooding and neighborhood destruction, CNN reported that the two-day storm in October 2012 caused more than 7.5 million power outages.
During a catastrophe such as Sandy – with rampant outages, wireless Internet connectivity impossible to find, and downed landlines – individuals immediately turn to their mobile phones as a resource for information and aid.
Customers of New York utility Con Edison, for example, used the utility company’s mobile site to report local outages, monitor repairs and receive real-time information and updates. Throughout Sandy, the mobile traffic for Con Edison and other utilities like Connecticut Light & Power and the Long Island Power Authority skyrocketed 16,000 percent 2 – with mobile activity continuing at a steady high throughout the weeks following the storm. Having a reliable mobile web presence enabled ConEd and others to provide consumers with a lifeline to crucial information about their power situation during this challenging period.
Strategic Thinking on Mobile
When it comes to the mobile Internet, consumer behavior has changed dramatically and is unlikely to change back. In fact, Accenture reports that 70 percent of consumers would happily opt for an online-only service plan for a 10 percent decrease on their electricity bill. Moreover, Forrester Research estimates that utility companies can save an average of $20 to $35 per customer annually if they offer a self-service channel for online billing and payments.
The signs all point to mobile accessibility being of primary importance for utility companies. Here are four tips for its easy integration into a utility company’s overall customer engagement strategy:
First, mobile should be considered essential to the customer experience.
Utilities can expect that most of their future engagement with customers will be digital. Mobile has become part of the way brands now differentiate themselves and engage with customers. But it doesn’t stop there as mobile moves beyond engagement and into an operational effect on how customer service is delivered.
Gartner predicts 3 mobile increasingly will be an integral component to customer