Three Ways Utilities Can Meet Consumer Demand for High Service Levels

Opinions vary on whether or not there is value in paying more to receive better service. Customer expectations for service have grown especially when that service involves a key utility, like electricity. And, whether it’s fair or not, utilities are expected to always be available, especially when the power may not be. Will customers actually pay more to get a higher level of service?

Our recent study, “Customer Service Experience Research Study” (see page 20) found that the majority of customers (74%) expect good service, and are not willing to pay a fee to receive a higher level of service. Whereas, GE released an article that says millions of Americans are willing to pay more for more reliable service.  So as someone managing a utility, what are you to do?

Russ Henderson, Senior Research Analyst, Chartwell said in his blog, “U.S. Customers Willing to Pay More to Prevent Outages, “ that an important lesson utility companies have learned through their own surveying and experience is that it’s just as important to communicate with customers as it is to restore their power.

So, how can you offer better service without raising consumer costs? Here are three tips:

  1. Set expectations as accurately as possible – estimated time to restoration (ETRs) are not always accurate or are non-existent. Be honest and share what you know as soon as you know it – even to the point of over communicating. Customers will appreciate that you are on top of the situation.
  2. Transparency in the service process. Outage maps are a nice touch and can be a vehicle to help communicate “reasons why.” Make the information timely, relevant and as honest as possible. Customers would rather have the correct information, even if it is not as positive as the utility would like it to be. Honesty is always the best policy.
  3. Have the communication methods your customers want. Not sure what this may be? Ask them what their preferences are via surveys or initiate an outbound campaign to gather this data – be proactive! Based on the response you get, give them the tools to choose self-service options, whether it be through an IVR, web portal, mobile app, kiosks or any other method available.

At the end of the day, customers want to be treated with respect and be communicated to frequently and in the method they desire. What creative ways have you come up with to better service your customers?