Blog // March 19, 2020
Blog // March 19, 2020
Receiving customer complaints can be discouraging for any brand or industry. But, did you know that behind these complaints is a wealth of helpful information to improve business operations?
Within the energy industry, the Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) in every state collect and publish complaint data to help energy providers improve their customer support efforts. Thirteen states have PUCs that provide more details on the nature and context of customer complaints.
A lack of detailed data-collection and categorization can prevent energy companies from gaining insights on customer sentiment, but there are other ways to access similar information. For example, the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power (TCAP) has assembled a detailed report on Texas PUC complaints to highlight the national complaint landscape.
Public Utility Commission complaints are similar to negative Yelp reviews, but for energy providers. And in this age of the empowered consumer, companies should do whatever they can to address and minimize them. Poor reviews are the quickest way to weaken a brand’s reputation and poor customer experience is the quickest way to accumulate poor reviews.
According to the TCAP report mentioned above, the top three complaints from energy customers are billing, cramming and provisions of service. While providing an intelligent customer experience requires optimization for all issues, addressing those three primary PUC complaints or reviewing national data from the Texas PUC will help energy companies improve overall CX.
To address the top three complaints, we’ve outlined three solutions that will demonstrate to current and future customers that their needs are prioritized, contributing to increased acquisition and customer lifetime value.
While standard to the energy industry, jargon such as “kilowatt-hours” and “British Thermal Units” makes energy bills confusing and difficult to understand. Many top-ranked energy companies look to reduce customer confusion by clearly and proactively communicating accrued charges with their customers.
It’s common for energy customers to complain about their bills when the amount is higher than expected, or new or “hidden” fees are applied. Other billing complaints include deposit amounts, metering measurements, dispute resolution and unclear payment methods and plans.
By tracking the quantity and frequency of billing complaints, companies can exhibit more customer empathy before the complaints begin. When companies track and store this type of data, signals and patterns arise as to why and when customers complain. Armed with this knowledge, companies can proactively and clearly communicate solutions to customers to reduce the level of future complaints.
With billing as the top customer complaint, the first CX solution looks to improve billing visibility when paying for electricity consumption. The frustration stems from a lack of transparency of charges and fees. According to PUC reports, the best energy companies are transparent with their customers about upcoming changes to their bill.
Beyond billing transparency, offering communication channels like chat or SMS to address billing concerns is one solution companies can use to provide exceptional customer service. Offering alternative communication channels eases potential friction points and builds brand loyalty.
Creating searchable self-service content can also alleviate billing complaints by helping customers answer their own questions before calling into a support center. If customers can search for and read billing FAQs, they’ll have fewer reasons to call and complain.
Communication channels can also be used to proactively share information. For example, companies can send SMS texts at the start of summer to remind customers that a rise in billing is likely due to an increase in air conditioning usage. Custom — or targeted — content can be created based on historical and seasonal trends, which can answer many potential customer questions.
The second biggest energy customer complaint is cramming. Cramming — or adding misleading charges to an electric bill — can quickly impact customers’ trust.
In deregulated markets, adding unauthorized charges to a customer’s bill is illegal. Despite the potential legal ramifications, cramming has been a regular practice in many industries — including phone and internet — for the past two decades.
Customers are understandably frustrated by the application of cramming. And while changes to products and services are expected, transparency is key. Otherwise, such practices are unethical and will quickly lead to lost customers and revenue.
To achieve a flawless brand reputation, the second CX solution recommends clearly defining expectations during the onboarding process.
For example, as sales agents onboard new customers, part of their workflow should include a verbal overview of each section of the bill to explain the “what” and “why” behind monthly charges. While that may result in a slight increase in call or chat handle time, adding extra customer-centric details at this stage can reduce future misunderstandings and accusations of cramming.
Once again, when energy customers are armed with knowledge and billing transparency, they are more likely to remain with a brand.
The third biggest energy customer complaint is provisions of service. This refers to how the service is provided; namely, getting it up-and-running in a timely manner. When service is subpar, customers will feel frustrated and undervalued.
Six ways provisions of service can lead to PUC complaints include:
The third CX solution encourages an increase in upfront and readily available information. When customers have questions about outages, usage rate increases and setup status, easily accessible information can greatly increase satisfaction.
When customers see that companies care about their pain points enough to create unique or targeted customer care content, brand reputation will significantly increase. Giving customers the tools and knowledge to address their specific issues increases a level of trust.
Understanding the most common complaints and how they impact customer interactions can help energy companies improve their end goal of creating an incredible overall experience for users.