Smart Grid

February 19, 2013

Customers' Utility Complaints Are 'Off the Hook'

Electric customers want to get through to their utility in one call and have their problems resolved quickly and competently—without having to initiate multiple interactions to address an issue.

Seventy-six percent of energy and utility customers say that speed—the ability to get information quickly and accurately—is a very important factor in how they perceive service quality, according to the  report, “Market Trends: Customer Experiences in Energy & Utilities Organizations, 2013"  released this week by global software provider, Cincom Systems (News - Alert), based in Cincinnati.

"With so many industry advances underway and consumers becoming more actively engaged in managing their energy consumption, it's a real challenge to keep up with the changing customer service demands," said Randy Saunders, Cincom's CEM program director. "Fortunately most retailers are making this a top priority and nearly half are planning major upgrades of their systems within the next 12 months."

Based on the findings of the researchers, utility customers say:

  • Faster means better. Speed was the most important aspect of the customer experience, according to customers. This was closely followed by self-service—the ability to access services via the web.
  • Calling still king. Over 45 percent of customers said it was not important for their suppliers to offer chat as a channel. The phone was still rated the highest in importance for channels being offered. That was followed by web and email.
  • More Web/self-services wanted. Some good news: Out of the services offered online, most companies (66 percent) offered customer bill payment and statements. Over 70 percent of customers stated that they wanted bill payment and statements online. Interestingly, 64 percent of customers wanted energy saving recommendations, but only 24 percent of suppliers offered those services. However, 32 percent of customers did not know what services were being offered by their suppliers online. This could mean that more marketing (up-selling/cross-selling) is needed to promote services.

In response, utilities told the researchers that they planned to do the following:

  • New customer-experience systems are expected. During the next 12 months, almost 48 percent of suppliers will be looking to get a major upgrade or a new customer-service system. This further supports customer experience as a top priority in organizations.
  • Improving operational efficiencies is the goal. The investment in new customer experience systems is based on improving operational efficiencies according to 35 percent of suppliers. Improving quality (6 percent) and customer satisfaction (11.8 percent) were also strategies for customer-experience initiatives.
  • Multi-channel delivery is business-critical. Having the ability to deliver consistent, multi-channel interactions is the most business-critical aspect of the customer experience for most of the suppliers. This is followed by providing on-demand delivery and a single view of the customer

For 57.7 percent of retailers, technology issues were considered to be the biggest obstacle in delivering consistent customer experiences. Ease-of-use of their current systems (15.4 percent), integration with back-end systems (26.9 percent) and the features and functionality of their current systems (15.4 percent) were also issues.

 The researchers surveyed energy and utility retailers and consumers across the United States. To view the full report, click here. . 

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli