Creating a 21st Century Utilities Industry Through Digital Transformation

The utilities industry in the United States occupies a unique space in our corporate landscape. As providers of basic necessities like heat, electricity and water, utility companies come in two categories.

Tue May 16 11:07:00 EDT 2017

The utilities industry in the United States occupies a unique space in our corporate landscape. As providers of basic necessities like heat, electricity and water, utility companies come in two categories. 

On the one hand, you have utility providers that operate in very deregulated and, consequently, competitive markets. In these areas, utilities work like any other brand in how they message their products and services, constantly trying to one-up the competition through innovative new offerings like smart meters that help them stand out from the pack and attract customers.

On the other hand, you have utilities that effectively function as monopolies in their areas, governed by a standard set of regulations and facing little, if any, local competition.

So, it’s a little hard to diagnose the utilities industry and their messaging needs as a whole when not all providers are starting out from the same place. But, what remains true among all other brands is also true for utility companies: good business depends on satisfied and engaged customers. Why that matters for those other brands is largely why it matters for utilities as well: happier customers mean more stable customer relationships, and fewer inquiries (and associated costs) to call centers by frustrated users.

Whether it’s in explaining the particulars of invoices or informing residents of power outages, the utilities industry’s customer engagement game could stand to use some updating. Digital transformation holds the key to what a 21st century utilities industry should look like. Here are two ways to achieve it.

Omnichannel Communications

Digital transformation doesn’t mean replacing your traditional physical communications (e.g. paper invoices) entirely with digital ones. Instead, it means introducing digital communications to work in tandem with the physical ones – in other words, omnichannel communications. This allows the utility provider to leverage new channels like mobile and social media to provide the customer with more choices for communications. Whether it’s e-bills or emails about new energy choices available or social media alerts about power outages in a given area, digital communications open a new world for utility providers to talk to customers in their preferred channels. 

Interactive Personalized Video

One of the most promising digital outlets for utility companies to reach out to customers is through Interactive Personalized Video. While some providers may have shied away from video in the past, or not even considered it at all, Interactive Personalized Video is quickly rising as one of the most effective customer engagement solutions for offering flexible and easily understandable communications.

For one, it’s an experience driven entirely by the customer: their wants, their needs, their interests and their past relationship with your company determine what they see and get out of the video. That channel can be leveraged by the utility provider to do everything from explaining particular charges on a customer’s bill to walking customers through new energy source plans that may be available to them (e.g. renewables), all derived from analyzing the company’s communications history with that customer. 

Video offers a new way for providers to learn more about their customers. Not only do providers have a direct of way of communicating information to their customers, Interactive Personalized Video allows utility companies to glean data-driven insights about customer interests and trends based on actions taken by the customer (e.g. clicks). 

Through Interactive Personalized Video and digital communications, digital transformation is changing the way utility companies talk to their customers, and vice versa. For the customers, these tools are providing customers with real-time messages and notifications of, for example, unusual usage patterns, based on smart meter readings.  For the providers, they’re reducing call center call volumes, bringing down costs and leaving customers happier than ever with their providers.

Pitney Bowes is an industry-leading provider of digital transformation and Interactive Personalized Video solutions. We’ll be proving just how transformative these tools can be for the utilities industry with EngageOne Video, which we’ll be demonstrating at CS Week 2017, running from May 22-26 at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas. 

If you’d like to get a firsthand look at how EngageOne Video is a game changer for the utilities industry, come join us at booth 1322.