In deregulating markets, customers are rising to top of the list of utility business drivers. In the past, customers have been a captive audience. Now, with the power to choose, customers will expect more from utilities. Utilities must deliver not only traditional service, but also customer service. Utilities must recognize the call to customer service and take action. This month’s Customer Systems section is a Spotlight on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) presenting approaches to utility CRM from experts in areas including consulting, information technology and change management, software systems, and Web development.
Robert Welch and Jon Chang of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, separate customer information systems and customer relationship management. In their article, “What do utlities really know about customers?” they say that utilities have a head start in CRM because they have significant amounts of customer data. However, surveys show utilities do not see CRM as critical and few have refined and incorporated CRM into strategies, added budget or envisioned a considerable return on investment.
While CRM is an element of enterprise strategy, Syntegra’s Matt Kramer shows a tactical feature of CRM in “Personalization bears fruit in satisfied customers.” Kramer holds that customer satisfaction goes up as indifferent service goes down. Utilities have a wealth of customer information they can use to enhance customers’ service experience. This information sharing gives service a personal touch and makes a difference.
While customers may seek that personal touch, they can rely on receiving a utility bill each month-unsolicited. Beth Formby of Peace Software sees the customer utility bill in a new light, as the primary customer touch vehicle. In “Companies: Visualize billing as a slice of customer service,” more than a necessary evil, bills evolve into a communication tool for utilities to convey product information, new services, and corporate news.