Differentiate your company with powerful self-service and a high-end rewards programs
By: Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia Inc.
Energy marketers are separating themselves from the competition by creating robust online environments where customers can serve themselves 24/7 the same way they do when shopping online, banking online and booking vacations through travel websites.
E-commerce vendors across the economic spectrum have raised the bar, and consumers now want their energy company to provide a robust front end so they can do their business while lying in bed using a smartphone.
As commodity resellers who look a lot like their competitors, energy marketers understand the value of differentiation. When they outperform the competition in regards to a vital consumer touchpoint, their customers have more reasons to stay put, and prospects find them more attractive.
The building blocks of great online service are as follows.
- Capable back office software. Back office software packages from ADD Systems are specialized for fuel delivery and home comfort and can support a robust customer-facing environment. Support for customer self service varies depending on your back office package and the options that are included. Many packages can be paired with Internet applications such as the ones PriMedia provides to create seamless data exchange between the customer and the back office. In the best cases, customers can view account data, schedule service appointments and sign up for service contracts, while the back office system records the changes without any duplicate data entry. In other cases, the website can collect scheduling requests and program enrollments for subsequent data entry, which means that extra steps are required on the company’s end, but customers enjoy a seamless environment where they can take care of business. ADD Systems will be happy to review the capabilities of back office software with you to help you determine exactly what you can do for your customers. Regardless of whether you can achieve full automation behind the scenes, it is important to enable 24/7 self-service.
- Account look-up. Every customer should experience your website as a personalized environment. Use account look-up software to build an elegant portal where your customers can manage their relationship with you. Present all the account data that your software system can make available, which can include payment history, budget plan status, service plan status, delivery history, service history and more.
- Program enrollment. Do everything you can to help customers manage their services at their convenience. With the right options, you can enable them to sign up for service contracts and budget plans and even to execute price protection contracts in minutes without a phone call.
- Loyalty rewards. Customers love earning rewards points and browsing online to see what desirable items are within their range or just out of reach. A program like PriMedia’s OnPoint can put your company in a new league and give customers repeat doses of joy that you could never deliver just by being a great company doing great work. Customers expect you to do you job, but they love it when they get a fresh infusion of reward points.
- Paperless billing. Customers of all ages are increasingly managing all their business online. Support them with a paperless billing option, and enable them to sign up for it in the account look-up space.
- SMS messaging (texting). The smartphone is the communications and action hub for many consumers. When you use text messaging effectively to support your operations, you mesh seamlessly with their lives and earn plentiful customer love. Deploy a text messaging application that simplifies the sending of personalized texts and promote it on your website.
Optimize for Mobile
As you add capabilities to your website, anticipate that many users will be interacting on smartphones. Code your website so that customers can easily find and use the self-service features when visiting the on their smartphones.
On a cautionary note, applications that expose customer data can create security vulnerabilities. Be sure to choose a vendor who understands security and has hardened their applications. Follow good data security practices and conduct periodic scans of your website to check for vulnerabilities.
Great energy companies provide great customer service on the customer’s terms. Empower your customers to manage their affairs with you, and knock their socks off with a strong rewards program. When you combine reliable performance with friendly personal touches and robust self-service opportunities, you make company a very tough competitor.