The balance of power in many industries is increasingly shifting towards customers, who have an expanded number of options to choose from. Know me or no me is their new philosophy. One industry to highlight such a shift is the utility market. In an environment that was typically monopolistic, utility companies are now facing the challenge of cultivating customer loyalty and enhancing energy initiative communications. At the same time, technology is providing utility companies with an unprecedented amount of data from a variety of sources. In a testament to an oft-repeated message, utility companies are realizing that how they communicate is just as important as what they say. With high unemployment rates, a struggling economy and growing pockets of deregulation, utility companies must improve communication strategies to truly reach customers. Transmitting information indiscriminately is no longer sufficient; effectively communicating with each customer using advanced data analytics to evaluate and influence behavior are key to success in this changing environment.
The customers who consume utility services also consume a variety of other, non-commoditized products and services – and their expectations of personalization carry over from these other types of consumption. Whether they’re dealing with an insurance company or a utility company, consumers require that they demonstrate their knowledge of them as an individual with unique lifestyle needs. Companies that are able to compile a detailed picture of how customers interact with their organization and use its products are well on their way to improving customer relationships. Consumers’ price-sensitivity is also at a record high, so companies need to go beyond providing a utility and also offer money-saving recommendations on timely bill payment, decreased energy consumption and alternative energy adoption. Relevance is king. One-size-fits-all communication is a guaranteed path to alienating consumers and possible encouraging them to pursue competitors.
The prospect of personalized marketing seems daunting but utility companies are sitting on a veritable gold mine of data than be leveraged in their communications strategy using analytics. With massive amounts of customer data at their disposal, utility companies can develop sophisticated profiles on individual customers that allow them to implement a highly-specialized delivery of customized messages. By minimizing the amount of irrelevant information and maximizing the timing, targeting and channel of the message, utility companies can reach those customers who are most likely to respond – and re-engage those are usually unresponsive.
Where does printing come in?
The modern utility statement has the potential to go beyond being a mere reflection of energy used and dollars owed. Predictive analytics capitalizes on the must-read nature of the utility bill and transforms it into a powerful marketing tool. The new generation of the utility statement entails highly-tailored messages based on the individual habits and tendencies that companies can divine from customer data. Utility companies cannot afford to be reactive – they must be proactive; predictive analytics allows them to anticipate customer behavior and communicate accordingly, deepening relationships and building customer loyalty in the process. Much like their customers, utility companies are also sensitive to costs and are always looking for ways to reduce customer service expenditures – such as minimizing call center traffic. Improving bill clarity and effectively informing customers of price increases and penalties play an important role in preventing unnecessary customer service interactions – and are yet another area where analytics can be implemented to communicate these messages properly. The sooner utility companies realize that their statements can (and must) transcend billing and become a means of communicating personalized insights and influencing customer behavior, the sooner they will reap the benefits of an improved customer experience – a stronger brand identity and increased profits.