Innovative ideas for every utility

On fairy dust, skin cream and utility CX

I just celebrated a birthday. I ate a fabulous cake with my family and gave thanks for the privilege of enjoying another year around the sun. But I also spent an embarrassing amount of time researching anti-aging skin care products. I found a night cream basically promising that by using a proprietary blend of crushed unicorn horns and fairy dust, I’ll look 10 years younger instantly. Ordering this product kicked me off on a journey by which only a nerdy marketer like myself would be so entertained. I received an email promoting an anti-aging skin cleaning brush, saw several adds on social media for the same brush, and received a follow up email with guidance on how to personalize my skin care routine. This email was the best, the company clearly had me pegged as a 30-something suburban working mom and tailored the advice just for that archetype, and yes, it included that same brush. 

As consumers, we’re on the receiving end of customer experience strategies all day long. When we interact with retailers online, do our banking via mobile app, scroll through social media, we are travelling along a CX journey that someone has designed for each of us. These journeys are meant to provide us value, to make our lives easier, expose us to information or things that will help us solve some challenge. We take that expectation of the value-add CX journey into our experiences with our utility providers as well. CX for utilities has to evolve and improve with that in mind: we’re not simply aiming for an improved experience with the utility itself, we’re aiming to deliver value-add journeys that can contend with experiences our customers are having in other industries. 

Here are 3 things to remember about utility CX

For personalization, scale is key.

A great customer experience is all about personalization. Remember the skin care company? They didn’t share with me generic tips for skin care, they gave me specific tips based on what they knew about me and what I might find valuable. For utilities, this personalization comes with an extra layer of complexity. Any given consumer goods retailer may have 15% of the population fall within its target audience, segmenting and personalizing for that narrow subset is relatively straightforward. For utilities, whether a regulated water utility in the U.S. or an electricity retailer in Europe, your target audience includes everyone in your geographic regionacross all demographics and buyer personas. To truly drive personalization across that complex audience scale is critical. Utility CX teams must have the tools they need to design and execute deep customer experience journeys for a wide array of customer types. 


Energy data + behavioral science bring CX to an entirely new level.

To execute the right journey, we have to: 

1. Set our goals along the journey. What actions do we want this consumer to take? 
2. Understand the consumer. What will drive this consumer to take that next action I’m aiming for?

Any good CX journey is based on a foundation of consumer research. Utility customer journeys are built on the same principles, but they’re rooted instead in energy and water behavior and data. So, they must be fed with rich energy and water data. We have to pair what we know about each customer with what we know about their energy usage patterns and ultimately design our journeys with the behavioral principles that will nudge that customer to action. 

Don’t forget the CIS.

This brings us to the customer information system. It is critical to inform utility customer experiences with utility data. Making do with a generic customer experience strategy that is shoe-horned in to fit utility customer needs will leave you with a bland and ineffective program. Think about all of the utility-centric things you must optimize experiences aroundcomplex rates and billing, conservation and energy efficiency programs, energy and water usage patterns. And that’s just the stuff we deal with today. This industry is moving at break-neck pace. Not too far down the road you may also be optimizing experiences around real-time pricing or peer-to-peer trading. A modern CIS, one that simplifies business processes and data flow from meter-to-cash-to-customer, one with a powerful rating and billing engine designed for the utility industry, one that seamlessly integrates with CX tools to provide your users and customers with a superior and consistent experience, is a critical foundational component of an outstanding utility CX program.  

As you set your sights on improving your CX strategy, think about that ultimate goal of delivering value-add journeys. Are you feeding your strategy with the energy and water data you need to drive personalization at scale, to provide truly valuable interactions to your customers, whether by making their lives easier, or by helping them solve some challenge? 

PS: I totally bought that skin cleaning brush. 


Editor’s note: This piece is part of Oracle’s CX Virtual Summit going on now.


Oracle Utilities, including Opower, partners with the world's hardest working electric, water and natural gas companies to empower, enhance and enable your every single day. From cloud-native products and better grid management tools to support for every single step of your customer's journey, we have the answer. Learn more at oracle.com/utilities, and get specific personalized Oracle Utilities product information as quick as clicking right here

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