Thu 22 Feb 2018

Is water being left behind in improving the customer journey?

The customer journey may be a relatively new concept, but it is already vital. The term refers to the interactions between a business and consumers across their relationship. Improving this journey and making entry points and obstacles less arduous is invaluable for businesses who want longer-term patrons.

The global customer journey analytics market is forecasted to grow to triple in value by 2022.

This value is backed by the forecasted growth of the customer journey analytics market, which will triple in size by 2022 according to PR Newswire.

Previously low-touch industries like electricity utilities have already started working on revamping their users' experience by using consumer management data platforms. Meanwhile, the water sector appears to be lagging behind in improving that same experience. So how is power utilities transforming the customer journey in ways water providers aren't?

Water vs energy utilities – how patrons' experiences are forking

Electricity providers

The switch to smarter grids is one of the most ambitious changes to face the energy sector. Controlled by automated technology, the shift to a more technologically-enabled provider has led to renewed consumer interest and a willingness to offer usage data. 

Energy utilities have been quicker to embrace digital solutions for engaging customers. Energy utilities have been quicker to embrace digital solutions for engaging customers. 

GreenTech Media points to a Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) survey that shows nearly 50 per cent of buyers interested in the smart grid used digital programs to engage with their providers, including smart billing software and energy comparison tools.

This makes it easier for electricity providers to analyse data across their clients' time with them and make changes to enrich interactions.

So what is the current customer journey like in the water sector compared to energy?

Water sector

A Deloitte survey on transforming customer management in water notes that 71 per cent of consumers think service is a key criteria for water provision. The survey also notes water providers' inability to generate a comprehensive view of the customer journey is a key issue, with billing, client experience and operations data usually separated.

Unlike the energy sector, water suppliers haven't faced the kinds of sweeping changes that have captured the engagements of its customers. While the smart grid and electricity prosuming have enabled them to become involved with their electricity suppliers from production to consumption, the water sector remains entrenched in a provider-user relationship that leaves the former lacking the engagement data to address this apathy.

Customer service was determined by 71 per cent of consumers to be key criteria for water provision.

What can water providers do to match energy utilities?

The task for water providers is to more wholly adopt customer management technology. Using this, managers are afforded an overview of how buyers have interacted with your business and can plan individual engagement strategies. 

The SGCC survey broke users into different groups, like the rarely engaged 'Status Quo' and selectively engaged 'Savings Seekers', based on their interactions with providers. This information is vital for managers who want to personalise each client's journey.

Making water billing more flexible for the customer is key.Making water billing more flexible for the customer is key.

There is evidence consumer-centric technology is on the way:

  • Sydney Water are restructuring their billing and service offerings after undergoing design thinking around the customer journey and theories like the Client Experience Pyramid.
  • Melbourne's South East Water manage over $4 billion AUD worth of water infrastructure – but to further their offerings has turned to advanced consumer management technology. Introducing a bill simulator, this enabled purchasers to select the services they wanted and test how this would affect their bill. Initial findings show high participation and a general willingness to pay extra in order to limit service interruption – valuable data for South East Water.
  • Cloud based software Senet and advanced metering infrastructure developers Neptune Technology have announced a partnership to implement wireless network-as-a-service technology for water meters in the North American market. This opens the doors for water providers to adopt this technology in monitoring water meters, giving patrons more real-time billing data. 

For more billing and management solutions to improving the customer journey, contact Gentrack today.