Why water utilities should embrace omnichannel communications
For you as a water utility, the use of digital technologies can provide solution scalability and streamlined processes while enabling effective customer engagement. Without these digital technologies, you will struggle to meet the increasing customer demands driven by technology accessibility. Connected devices of the Internet of Things (IoT), data-driven decision making, and enhanced communication methods ensure that your customers are more informed and have more communication platform choices than ever before.
You can use this evolution to further establish your customer relationships by empowering your customers with consumption insights, engaging them through new platforms, and transforming the CSR role from a commodity provider to a trusted partner.
The beginning of this transformation is omnichannel communications, or the ability to provide your customers with many communication channels through one single experience.
The smart meter journey
There is a perception that digitalizing customer service in the water sector begins and ends with smart meters. While this is far from reality, smart meters are a more important topic than you may realize.
The most publicized benefit of smart metering is that it empowers your customers to monitor and understand their own consumption. This reduces billing queries and even enables early detection and resolution of infrastructure issues. These benefits empower your customer and promote transparency.
However, smart meters have many more benefits. During billing, smart meters reduce utility operational costs by shifting meter readings from a physical activity to an automated electronic process. Smart meters provide you with customer usage insights. You can use these insights to proactively educate customers on unexpected consumption spikes and even proactively identify resolutions to undesirable repetitive usage patterns.
Reimagining the contact center
Omnichannel communications provide your CSRs with the opportunity to completely reinvent their role. Omnichannel communication options reduce over-the-phone billing queries by as much as 50 percent, freeing CSRs to provide excellent customer experiences.
Using data generated from customer contacts via phone, e-mail, webforms, and chatbots, you inherently learn not only what prompts your customers to make contact, but the best way to resolve their issues. You can also automatically direct customers to the most effective communication channels while your CSRs focus on those issues that need a personal connection.
Let’s review the ways your CSR’s job becomes easier with omnichannel communications and how customers are energized when moving to a proactive omnichannel approach:
The social utility
Given that almost every adult in America is both a water utility customer and social media user, it makes sense to engage your customers where they live. Social media is a great way for you to get your brand personality in front of your customers and organically engage them.
Social media can also be a powerful tool for managing issues, such as billing concerns, leaks, or an outage. By training your CSRs to monitor, engage, and resolve customer issues via social media, you can gain a powerful sense of customer loyalty and demonstrate your dedication to resolving issues.
You also need to embrace mobility. Customers engage with their bank, credit card companies, and more via their smart phone. As a water utility you can engage customers through an app as well, providing details on billing, payments, consumption, FAQs, and more. You could even provide a live map showing where you are working to update your customers on outages and infrastructure improvement.
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