The year ahead in the Utilities sector
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Hayley Monks, Utilities MD for Gobeyond Partners, highlights four key trends affecting the Utilities sector in 2022.
The past year hasn’t been easy in the Utilities sector with mounting pressure to reduce costs, improve customer service and lead the net zero agenda.
2022 will be no easier, and to ensure success in electric, gas, power and water, companies will need tangible and deliverable improvement plans in place. Operating model and customer journey transformation conversations need to be top of the agenda, with the customer placed at the core of any key decisions.
1. Getting the customer journey right – convenience versus conversation
Taking the energy sector as an example, we've seen a lot of smaller companies go into the Supplier of Last Resort process (SoLR) in the second half of 2021. With the more established companies having to take on significant numbers of customers at relatively short notice, the ability to quickly mobilise a team that can flex in-line with this demand will be key. There's a need to strike the right balance of digital, self-serve technologies with the development of deeper, more human relationships, delivering the best possible CX at what can be a difficult time for affected customers.
2. Digital Transformation – implementing fully digitalised end-to-end processes
Digital transformation has a major role to play in the Utilities sector, with capability to reduce both operational and customer costs, alongside the opportunity to leverage actionable data and insights to ensure the customer gets the best possible experience, no matter where their journey started.
But it needs to be a customer-led revolution. Today’s customers, more than ever, are empowered by digital technology, with Salesforce reporting that 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate their digital initiatives because of the ongoing pandemic. Customers are continuing to expect ever more personalised products and services, to self-serve if they choose, and to talk to an experienced advisor if they need to.
Dissatisfaction can occur, easily and in any channel, if customers feel they can’t achieve what they need, and unnecessary, often unplanned barriers can be placed in the customer’s way. Fully understanding digitalised end-to-end journeys, and the associated user experience, will be crucial in ensuring transformative digital channel design.
3. Utilisation of data and analytics – getting the right data and making use of machine learning and AI
There’s never been more data customer data available within the Utilities sector, from speech analytics to customer account data, customer feedback and much more. Understanding how to analyse and interpret this data, and creating actionable insights from it, should be a key strategic goal for the sector in 2022.
To provide an example, the pandemic has placed greater strain on vulnerable customers, with government intervention required to alleviate this pressure. From a Utilities sector perspective, being able to identify those customers who are in some way vulnerable and provide them with solutions, such as fast tracking to a skilled front line advisor, will form a key part of delivering a supportive, empathetic customer experience.
4. Developing capability
The final challenge facing utility companies is capability. With the increase in digital journeys, people capability needs to be developed to manage more complex situations, where human contact and connection is needed to ensure a satisfactory customer experience. This requires a ruthless focus on investing in and developing the capability of the service teams that are interacting with customers every day.
As the number of customers choosing digital first journeys increase, customer service advisors will be managing ever more complex and sensitive conversations. They will need to be highly skilled and knowledgeable, understanding how to resolve issues, to support customers, and to signpost where additional help can be provided.
Hayley Monks is Gobeyond Partners’ Managing Director for the Utilities sector.
Hayley previously held a wide range of senior executive roles in British Gas, before founding Think, Inspire & Create (TICL) in 2015, a business process improvement consultancy with a unique visual approach to helping clients to re-engineer and re-shape their organisations. Hayley is also co-founder of the Women’s Utilities Network and is passionate about connecting, supporting and developing women in the sector.