Printed ears that can hear. Eyeglasses that can see. Cars that drive themselves. In a few short years, these products are likely to be part of the estimated 25 billion connected devices in the U.S.
What does that mean for utilities? It’s no longer just about connecting our homes, it’s about the people who live in those homes, and what technology enables them to do. It’s about a connected world.
The most successful companies are focused on helping consumers navigate these increasingly complex options and determine which solutions are right for their lifestyles. Utilities are at the center of this fundamental change right now–but it’s going to take a shift in thinking to stay that way.
Utilities are often challenged to lower costs by reducing average call handle time. While efficient call center operation is still critical and relevant, we’re seeing utilities shift their focus to customer education and engagement. It can’t solely be about “cost control” anymore, but how to add real value to every interaction with the customer. Today’s consumer not only wants that but has come to expect it.
Consider people who are moving–they typically contact their utility very early in the process to start or transfer service. After power, the next call is to another service provider, who is going to sell them services that are enabled by the utility’s product, so why not help facilitate that?
There is a real opportunity to connect consumers with all the other products and services they need.
Sure, utilities may save some money by getting customers off the phone quickly, but there is a missed opportunity to impact the customer in a memorable, meaningful and relevant way. Helping customers get everything they need for their move from one source fosters a real relationship. And that will generate revenue for years to come–which far outweighs saving a penny or two now.
Transform Transactions into Interactions
Many utilities have had somewhat of a captive audience for a long time, but that’s changing, too. In the face of shrinking demand, the value of each customer is magnified. A missed opportunity doesn’t just mean lower revenue now; it means lower revenue over the life of that customer. Since that customer also has more options than ever to get what he or she needs, it is pretty urgent for utilities to find new ways to create value through every interaction.
That’s not as hard as it sounds; but utilities can’t view their business as a series of transactions anymore. Each interaction with a customer is actually a stop on what will hopefully be a long and productive journey. Job one is to help customers see that it is a journey and to connect them with products that are relevant to them along the way. Utilities must become the most credible resource a customer knows when it comes to all of the energy-related decisions for their home. These days, that goes way beyond standard electricity.
When a utility uses all the knowledge generated about customers through analytics to pick the right time and the right channel to offer them what they need, magic happens. They become a hero–and also gain new revenue streams to fill in the gaps created by lower usage.
Businesses Also Connect with Each Other
The most successful companies in this brave new connected world don’t go it alone. They partner with companies who have the tools and skills to customize solutions and test minimally viable products in the marketplace until they find the winning formula together.
A utilities primary job is to provide safe, reliable power. There’s simply no need to add the risk and cost of building a sales and marketing platform when the same or better connections with customers can be achieved through smart partnerships instead.
So what’s the bottom line? Look around and look ahead to explore new ways of staying relevant to the people who matter most–the customers–before the connected world leaves you behind.
About the author: Kim Shumway is executive vice president at Atlanta-based Allconnect, where she oversees sales, marketing, client services, and product development for accounts that cover half the major utilities in the US and represent over 50+ million households. Since joining Allconnect in 2006, Shumway has held positions in Business Development and Operations. Prior to Allconnect, Shumway led operations for two start-up telecommunications providers and also spent seven years at MCI.