Utility Week

UTILITY Week 18th November 2016

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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28 | 18TH - 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Customers Market view T he customer on-boarding process is a little bit like flying a kite. You start off tentatively with the wind beneath you. Despite the uncertainty of the wind, you are enthusiastic and confident that you will, as with a customer, continue to fly and not be blown off course. It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security once you are flying high in the beginning but customers, like kites, need to be steered carefully amid the uncertainty of the wind, every step of the way. They can be won over by strong marketing messages from competitors and switch to another supplier; they can be put off because of the regula- tory complexity of the process and they may also feel bemused by the number of different ways in which they can be on-boarded. The word on-boarding has become something of a cliché in recent times, an over-used buzzword that irks many of those who believe they have heard it all before. But on-boarding is not what it used to be. Customer-centric smaller companies enter- ing the market, increased expectations of all stakeholders and the growing technological tendencies and abilities of customers have caused multiple changes in wind direction, making utility companies more reliant on intelligent and intuitive technology that can pre-empt and sway customers' actions. To suit the needs of different sized organi- sations, a system that incorporates scalable soware that can manage large volumes of data and allow access to core service pro- cesses is essential for on-boarding. One of the key elements is making the process as simple as possible for customers. In the instance of on-boarding, this means rationalising the vast amount of information that comes into your business through multi- ple channels, so all new customers have the same experience. Let's talk about the sales funnel, the wide end of which contains new customers ready to enter a relationship with your business. These customers have entered through a range of mediums including brokers, mobile applications, price comparison websites, cus- tomer referrals and commercial channels. The information fed in from each sales channel will be different – the trick is to make it consistent and the on-boarding journey the same for every customer. To do so, the soware must be able to digest mass data and re-issue it cleanly and consistently. This action transforms customer facts and figures into consistent information available to the whole of your business, on one plat- form. It needs to be accessible by multiple departments across the utility business, such as marketing, operations and debt manage- ment divisions. In addition, time-consuming and oen complex data input and cleansing tasks are removed from workloads. Businesses need to facilitate omni- channel customer engagement because the beginning is a critical stage of the on-board- ing process, a time when it is at its most vul- nerable. Standardising customer data means there is consistency inside your business and outside from a customer's perspective. Customer appreciation Customers oen have a lack of awareness regarding the legal and regulatory protocols that come with switching suppliers or getting on board with a new energy supplier. Appre- ciating this fact is important, and utilities should engage with the customer through multiple digital channels during the on- boarding process so that the customer jour- ney begins before on-boarding is complete. At this juncture, it is important that any external laws and compliance, such as Ofgem rules and consumer law, are adhered to but customers oen do not have an appre- ciation for the levels of complexity involved with this part of on-boarding. When you first start to fly a kite you don't expect to fly high straight away. You are happy with simply being off the ground. Similarly, you do not need to know every- thing about your customer in the beginning and you do not need to overload them with information. Allow your automated commu- nication system to provide pauses and gaps so that a customer has time to consume the new information. Real-time data sharing and interoperabil- ity are two more essential tools for delivering a smooth on-boarding process. For example, data input into a web portal from a customer can be verified and used within the billing and CRM system to initiate other activities like direct debit set-up confirmation and the allocation of a customer to an electronic pay- ment segment. Data sharing capability also allows for more accurate data to be fed in directly from the customer and removes the time-consuming task of sending bulk files. The changing direction of the wind is sometimes difficult to anticipate, however integrating systems with each other, appre- ciating your customers' understanding of the official processes led by market overseers and streamlining data are primary elements to successfully bringing on new customers and convincing them that the positive expe- rience will continue long term. David Brown, vice president for Europe, Gentrack The art of on-boarding David Brown discusses the need for developing the 'fine art' of customer on-boarding and how to delicately handle the process without jeopardising vital new business. Key points Customers are comfortable with new technology and have raised expectations when it comes to service. Utilities must rationalise the vast amount of information that comes in to their busi- nesses through multiple channels. The sales funnel will deliver leads through different channels but the on-boarding experience should be consistent. Your soware must be able to present the information consistently to all the depart- ments of your organisation. New customers must be engaged with all the digital channels at your disposal dur- ing the on-boarding process. Real-time data sharing and interoper- ability are two more essential tools for delivering a smooth on-boarding process.

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