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Utility companies are investing heavily in catching up with other industries when it comes to digitizing customer journeys. But the cumbersome sign-up processes, address change processes, and forms continue to be an issue, and are no longer sustainable in today’s business environment. Meanwhile, research has found that investing in a digital transformation can help utilities reduce costs, preserve revenues, maximize customer satisfaction, and boost employee engagement.

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Non-Digital Journeys Damage Utility Companies

Many utility companies have existed for a while, offering a name and service that has stood the test of time. This also means that legacy processes tend to be deeply entrenched. Manual work and paperwork still dominate. Printers, copy machines, and fax machines are still rampant.

According to McKinsey’s Journey Pulse survey, just 33% of customers have experienced a “wow” moment with a utilities company in the past year (as compared with 58% for airlines, for example). Lack of innovation and bureaucratic processes prevents customers from feeling satisfied.

In addition, McKinsey’s recent e-care survey indicates that 60% of customers were less than fully satisfied with the channels available for contacting the utility, and almost 45% would prefer to use digital channels as their primary means of interacting with it — though only 22% were actually doing so.

While some utility companies have begun their digitization journey, they tend to adopt point solutions and not go far enough. For example, customers may be able to pay their electricity bill online, but the bill comes in the mail. Or customers may be able to sign up for automatic payments, but requesting a change of address requires showing physical evidence.

This spotty use of technology leads to silos that infuriate customers, leading to frequent calls to the call center, escalation, and complaints. But these broken digital journeys aren’t just bad for customers — they’re bad for business.

On the onboarding side, it’s a struggle to quickly and compliantly get customers signed up.

On the collections side, it’s a struggle to collect outstanding amounts from delinquent accounts.

On the servicing side, it’s a struggle to prevent billing errors and respond to urgent customer issues in a prompt way.

When systems don’t communicate automatically with each other, when agents are forced to rely on manual data entry and decision-making, when digital tools are tacked onto otherwise non-digital processes, a number of KPIs are negatively impacted including:

  • Poor compliance: Paper forms, Terms and Conditions, and signatures can be tampered with or lost. With manual paperwork, processes are prolonged, misunderstandings are rampant, and regulators raise eyebrows.
  • Poor conversion rate: Disjointed sales cycles lead prospects to drop off from the process due to confusion or frustration.
  • Slow turnaround time: Whether it’s signing up for a new service or getting a utility issue sorted out, holes in the digital journey slow everything down.
  • Low NPS: Net Promoter Score (NPS), a measure of customer satisfaction, drops as customers struggle to get basic services such as gas and electricity due to bureaucracy.
  • Agent turnover: Frustrating, lengthy, and manual processes contribute to frequent employee turnover.
  • Inflated costs: Choppy customer journeys drive up costs as customers choke call centers, paperwork needs to get re-done, and agents quit from frustration.

Yet all of this can be remedied by turning to digitization. According to Kearney research, energy companies can increase their short-term earnings by 3-4%, and their long-term earnings by 25% or more by leveraging technological solutions. By focusing on improving customer journeys, utility companies can see a real business impact.

But the time to act is now. A McKinsey study found that the opportunity for traditional companies to get ahead of the pack on digitization can be narrow: by the time industries near the 40% digitization mark, digital leaders have already secured large market shares.

It’s inevitable. The tides of digitization are too powerful, and if a utility company fails to sufficiently digitize, it will be overtaken by digital-direct competitors.

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The Bottom Line: Digitize Now For Fast ROI

Adopting digital capabilities that take the customer through an end-to-end streamlined journey is proven to lead to:

  • 35% higher first-call resolution (FCR)
  • 25% reduction in average handling time (AHT)
  • 15% higher net promoter score (NPS)
  • 100% compliant journeys

The best part is that investing in digital needn’t mean replacing existing back office systems. Companies can simply leverage a digital frontend that allows their customers to glide through customer journeys without overhauling existing backend processes. Business improves all without business interruption — it’s win win.

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