Making both customers and employees happy at the same time is hard enough, but when you’re a utility company during the COVID-19 pandemic, this task seems impossible.
It’s a hard time to be in the utilities industry right now, with frequent outages due to harsh winter conditions, customers unable to make payments, nearing a year’s worth of no shut-offs due to COVID -19, and just the stress associated with the pandemic alone can sometimes make the utility industry feel a little hectic at times.
If you’re an executive in the utilities industry and looking for a way to please both your customers and employees during these hard times, Milestone has the tools you need. Here, we’ll go over how Milestone’s eVolve platform can help you make both customers and employees happy as a utility company.
How to Make Your Customers Happy
As a utility company, your customers depend on you for many vital functions in their homes. Their ability to access electricity, natural gas, and clean water rests entirely in your hands. It’s a big responsibility.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have lost their jobs or taken serious pay cuts. On top of that, many people must be confined to their homes depending on their local government.
This means that people have less money, and are using their utilities more at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster from a utility company standpoint, so how do you keep struggling customers happy while the company might be struggling as well?
First, make sure that you provide excellent customer service. The last thing anyone needs right now is an additional source of stress in their life. If you provide flawless customer service and show your customers that you really do care about them, they will be more loyal to you.
By maintaining a good relationship with your customers, you not only build trust with them but with the community as a whole. This can help businesses tremendously, as you can now share your customer care accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to differentiate yourself as a truly devoted and passionate provider.
The key to keeping your customers happy during the COVID-19 pandemic and these recent winter blackouts is to maintain a high level of customer service. Your customers will be truly thankful, and this kindness can act as an example for other utility companies across the nation.
There are a few more ways you can engage your customers and keep them happy during this time. Here are a few ways you can make your customer service even better despite these difficult times.
1. Provide Paperless Billing: If you aren’t doing this already, now is the perfect time to go paperless. Paperless billing allows your customers to pay online instead of mailing checks in advance of the due date, or showing up to the office in person with a check.
This makes those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 much safer, as now they don’t need to leave the safety of the home to pay for their utilities. Your customers will appreciate the convenience you provide with an online payment platform.
2. Provide many online payment options: In addition to your customers appreciating the convenience of multiple online payment options, so will you. Managing payments online, providing multiple payment options, and even providing partial payment options demonstrates an ease and convenience for both parties. Online payments are quick, convenient, and the safest way for customers to pay. Milestone’s ePortal empowers your customers to pay online, saving them time and keeping them happier and safer with your level of service.
3. Teach Your Customers How to Save: Managing personal finances has become a difficult task, with many peoples’ livelihoods being interfered with or dramatically altered due to the pandemic.
If you want to provide as much value to your customers as possible, communicate to them ways in which they can save money on their electric, natural gas or water bill. Milestone’s new eNeighbor and Advanced Efficiency modules provide your customers insight on how their neighbors are consuming, bill predictions, providing disaggregated usage reports and providing behaviour and money saving tips empowering customers to be able to control their usage and spending.
Your customers will appreciate this information greatly, and your company will be even more trustworthy and transparent in their eyes.
4. Stay in Touch: Constant communication between your company and your customers is vital for building a relationship of trust. On top of that, your customers will greatly appreciate the outreach and transparency. Milestone’s eNotification module helps accomplish this. eNotification empowers you to digitally connect with your customers via the communication channel of their preference.
A 2020 study by Mailchimp, a customer relationship management firm, found that when it comes to email during the COVID-19 pandemic, “businesses are sending less often, but consumers want to hear more often.”
This means that you should take communications with your customers to the next level through a weekly email newsletter or promoting communications via social media channels.
Every week, send your customers emails or texts with information regarding your COVID-19 policy, updates on local outages, and so on. Additionally, ask your customers for feedback to see where you can improve.
But what about when the customer needs to speak with you? Make sure that your inbound customer support channels are always convenient, easy to use, and available. To be the pinnacle of customer service, you should be there for your customers no matter what is happening or at what time. Milestone’s eIVR product gives you advanced omnichannel automated call technology, not only reducing your call center costs but also making your customer’s lives easier and more convenient. For those customers that like to communicate online, online live chat, chatbots, text messaging and email communications should be enabled and worked immediately.
These strategies are very simple and easy to implement on your side, but to the customer, they make a world of difference. Your customers will take notice of you actively manage your relationship with them.
Keeping Employees Happy
Now is a very difficult time to be a utility employee. Aside from all of the difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 winter season has wreaked havoc on utility chains across the world.
Utility employees have been stretched thin to address all of the problems that customers have been facing due to extreme winter storms. So how do you keep your employees happy during this difficult time?
Keeping In Touch with Your Team
The first technique to use is to shift workplace culture and change your employees’ perspective on what is happening. Now, your employees may feel as though they are being stretched too thin to accommodate too many people.
1. Show Them Off To The Community
This is an opportunity for you to show them off as the heroes they are. Show them the massive impact they have when it comes to keeping people’s homes and lives functioning normally, even in the face of a global pandemic, historic snowstorms, and problems with power grids. They already know this, and so do you, but do your customers? When communicating with your customers, make a big deal about those employees that are going the extra mile to serve.
2. Reward Them Financially and With Better Tools
This is a time to reward your employees for their hard work. If economically feasible, this can come in the form of raises or seasonal bonuses. It can also come in the form of new tools to make their jobs easier, like Milestone’s eCSRConsole, designed to streamline the front-line customer service rep’s access to and processing of information.
Actively taking steps to benefit your employees not only shows that you truly care, but it also incentivizes them to continue going the extra mile for your customers.
How to Keep Both Customers and Employees Happy at the Same Time
It’s hard to keep everyone happy. Luckily, research into business administration shows that the happiness of employees is directly correlated with the happiness of your customers. Taking steps to improve the happiness of one will improve the happiness of the other in step.
Start by providing your employees with the right tools to make their jobs easier. This makes your service faster and cheaper in the long run, making your customers happier too.
Focus on making your customers happy. This means fewer angry voices on the phones and more thank you notes on the desks, boosting morale in the office and making your employees happier.
No matter what you choose to do, Milestone has the technology and expertise to make it happen like no one else can.
Dialmycalls.com: 5 Ways Utility Companies Can Increase Customer Satisfaction (09/28/2020)
Borshoff.biz: The Key to Happy Utility Customers? Initiative (05/22/2018)
Westmonroe.com: How Utilities Can Win the War For Talent (10/2019)