When we talk about Customer Experience, Customer Journey or putting the customer at the core of any initiative, we associate it with concepts such as omnichannel, digitalisation of processes or personalisation; it often sounds more like a business concept than a real service commitment. And that, in itself, is the first big mistake to be made. The purpose of a company is profitability, profit generation, success. But none of that is possible, much less sustainable over time unless the customer is truly at the heart of it.
To do this, we must activate all the means at our disposal to find out who they are, what they need/seek/want, where they are, how to access them, what their lifestyle habits are that will lead to how they want to consume the services they contract. Having several references that point to the same subject does not help. Nor does drawing up proposals based on different goals, depending on the provider, rather than the recipient. Likewise, it does not help to operate according to a partial or biased view of the client, depending on the time or stage of the journey in which he is. Hence, the need to articulate a single customer vision that accompanies the recipient throughout his journey.
With this in mind, why not change the strategy to focus on how to help the customer – the one who is already a customer and who we want to be one – and, in the process, make our business much more profitable?
There is one subtle difference; however, in this case, “the order of the factors does alter the product”. Therefore, the first recommendation is to look for what the client needs and then to articulate a strategy, procedures and solutions that will help respond to their requests, in terms of profitability and efficiency.
A lot of data, but it’s fragmented, unrelated, and of little value
In an environment that is more VUCA than ever, we find ourselves in the business ecosystem – especially in the energy, utilities and environment industries – with a too fragmented view of information. In other words, the data comes from very different sources, with different formats or is archived in different repositories and therefore “hides” much more information than it provides.
On the other hand, we find different types of clients. We are not dealing with a homogeneous division, but rather with a business architecture, which in general has a very high degree of fragmentation, very dependent on the legacy and with hardly any integration. We are faced with data – yes, a lot of data – but separated by business lines, by activity or, by project, sometimes even by channel, which increases the difficulty of generating relevant and coherent insights with vision and complete knowledge. Also, they are incompatible with the establishment of patterns of consumption of energy products and services, despite having, as I said, an enormous amount of data.
All this results in the absence of a unique operational vision and an adequate Customer Experience strategy. To top off this set of problems, we also find ourselves in an environment in which compliance with privacy and regulatory standards is more complex to manage than ever before.
Once the situational map has been drawn up, the question remains as to how to deal expertly and, above all, intelligently with the gaps that arise in day-to-day situations. Clients modelled by the business that generates duplications, differentiation of the B2B and B2C client that we do not finish resolving or, something as logical as the unique and unequivocal identification of the client. Therefore, the second recommendation is to build the vision of the sole client to move from the perception of the client as a mere installation or service contract to that of the one who ends up prescribing your brand.
From data intelligence to personalisation of services
Intelligent information is the key to retaining, acquiring and increasing the value of customers in the energy sector. What remains to be built; however, is data intelligence that delivers the real value the market needs to give back to the customer much more than they are looking for or expecting from the brand. To this end, it is strategic to collect and merge all the data relating to the customer and archive it in a single repository. It must be an aggregated and holistic representation that facilitates the understanding of who each customer is and what action they take at each of the different points of contact. In this race all the data will be useful – personal data, information on websites visited, purchase and consumption behaviour, transactional or privacy data – as long as they are fed back to each other, shared and enriched.
This amount of data is the basis on which to build the unique vision of the client to define business rules, even in real-time, integrated into the very architecture of the business with decision and prediction models. To achieve this, all the systems must be fed and enriched, and specific actions must be generated in different channels. But always, operating following the knowledge extracted from the data and truly improving the customer experience, with concrete proposals, such as real omnichannel or improvements in the go-to-market. Therefore, this is recommendation three: provide the data with all the intelligence possible to obtain, in return, the necessary knowledge to be able to offer personalised, differential and competitive services.
A new approach based on the Golden Record model
In the new approach to the energy, utilities and environment markets, the integrated treatment of customers will make it possible to understand, with a certain degree of precision, what their real needs are and to project a single vision of those needs, regardless of when they are in their life cycle.
This Golden Record model will facilitate rational and intelligent exploitation of information with an appropriate context, to direct the organisation also towards the services demanded by the market. With all the relevant information available and within reach, it will be easier to include systems that allow the generation of insights with business rules based on decision models. In a word: personalise.
However, in the context of personalisation, not only is the objective of providing ad hoc services to make the client profitable but, beyond this mercantilist philosophy I spoke of at the beginning, it must also weigh up the real commitment to the client: the commitment to service. We see this more clearly, for example, in the case of vulnerable customers.
With the current crisis and the continuous regulatory changes, it is more important than ever to understand, regardless of the channel used to interact with the organisation, what the customer’s real needs are. In other words, to have systems, devices or processes that allow a potentially vulnerable customer to be identified quickly and efficiently to launch the request to the pertinent departments, and to accelerate the resolution of the case.
In this field, Artificial Intelligence continues to gain in strength. Automated, semi-automated or human-assisted channels make it possible to anticipate customer needs and also allow companies to provide highly differentiated services that reinforce brand identity and their value proposal for the customer. This summarises one of the most critical competitive paradigms in today’s industry: the need to be in the right place, at the right time, in the right channel and ready to respond to customers who expect to be served. And with this, I would like to make a fourth recommendation: we must pay close attention to the increase in the number of customers who demand greater control over their experience because this growth represents a significant challenge for the processes, structures and systems that organisations establish to communicate with their customers.
Flexibility and autonomy, key in the new era of the digital client
At this point, you may have already imagined that flexibility will be a sine qua non-condition for enabling companies to adapt to changing customer requirements or to reconfigure processes and structures in line with market ups and downs, regulatory changes or competitive behaviour. But how can organisations have processes and systems that are flexible enough? I have three thoughts:
Designing value-added products and services
Implementing solutions for the creation of multi-product/service offers and flexible invoicing models
Develop Marketplace to attract and retain customers, as well as to increase the possibilities of up-selling and cross-selling
Finally, and taking into account the industry’s capacity for hyper-connection and continuous digitalisation, technology will continue to be a determining factor in establishing the appropriate digital channels with the client. In this regard, the industry will have to be attentive to balance those conversations and connections, which cannot be replaced by technology, with those other purely transactional events that will end up being automated and self-managed.
Thus, my fifth and final recommendation: users must be provided with the tools that allow for fluid interaction with suppliers and at the same time facilitate the self-management of their contracts, services and solutions through any channel.
Ángel López Ibáñez
Global Director of Energy, Utilities and Environment
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