City skyline at night
As a company, we’ve met with over 10,000 utility leaders and executives across the country and one common theme we’ve taken from all of them is how urgently utilities have begun to understand the need to improve the utility customer experience. That’s why I’m excited to announce the results of a new project with independent research firm Greentech Media (GTM) Research benchmarking the level of maturity today’s utilities have in delivering a modern, satisfying customer experience. Our objective was to better understand where, in the customer experience, they are doing well, where they are falling short, and what the key action items are they can take today to improve the utility-customer relationship.

The survey measured relative overall customer experience maturity across six key “lenses” (or best-practice areas): People & Organization; Process & Operations; Systems, Data & Analytics; Customer Engagement; Brand & Market Engagement; KPIs & Measurement.

GTM Research surveyed more than 60 electric and gas utility executives and staff members, serving 47 U.S. States and territories under differing ownership structures and representing a variety of functions. They also gathered qualitative feedback based on one-on-one phone interviews with executives and utility program leaders.

The results? Not surprisingly, most utilities are early in their Customer Experience Maturity, but many are progressing to the next level. And Customer Experience impact appears to have a strong relationship to positive business outcomes. For example, the survey found that utilities who have the lowest customer cost-to-serve score nearly 60% higher in customer engagement best practices. Similarly, those with the best regulatory outcomes score more than 30% higher in customer engagement maturity–illustrating why improving the customer experience should be a critical focus for utilities.

Other key survey findings include:

  • Utilities were reasonably satisfied with their progress in hiring diversity, corporate responsibility, and community engagement;
  • Customer satisfaction remains an important metric, though many are placing increasing emphasis on their own, proprietary measures of satisfaction, rather than industry-wide metrics like JD Power score;
    In their assessment of process and program operations, most utilities feel good about progress in achieving energy efficiency goals, although overall process efficiency scores were quite low;
  • Other areas indicated as particularly challenging for utilities were having the right customer experience data, leveraging modern analytics tools, and having high enough executive prioritization for customer experience initiatives;
  • Most customer experience-related software and technology investment continues to flow to updating core systems such as CIS and CRM. Investment in advanced customer experience-focused solutions and cloud technology still scored low;
  • Holding utilities back from accelerating their investment in cloud technologies are a lack of clarity about the ability to capitalize cloud software investments, questions about software deployment and integration costs, and the need to find ways to demonstrate long term ROI.

There are, of course, many other compelling findings, as well as opportunities for utilities to move up the Customer Experience Maturity curve and bridge those gaps. The survey identified four ways that utilities can improve their maturity including: investing in technological updates, partnering with trusted vendors, responding to customer needs more dynamically, and improving internal communications.

While there are many roadblocks to achieving customer experience transformation, utilities that make it a priority will not only improve customer satisfaction, but will also benefit from improved business results, including a lower cost-to-serve and better regulatory outcomes.

Get more details on the fascinating findings and methodology of the 2017 Utility Customer Experience Maturity Survey. or attend a webinar hosted by Utility Customer Experience Consultant and former Southern California Edison VP of Customer Experience Seth Kiner, to learn more about practical lessons today’s utilities can learn from the results–and how to apply them to their own customer experience transformation efforts.