Why aren’t many utilities adopting mobile customer engagement apps?

Mobile apps have become a major driver of customer satisfaction over the past few years, dramatically affecting how utility industry players interact with their communities of interest. For the growing number of consumers who use their mobile devices to manage nearly every aspect of their personal and professional lives, the lack of easy-to-use, feature-rich apps can not only lead to disappointment, but also to frustration. dissatisfaction that can affect how utilities achieve their long-term business goals.

While momentum toward mobile app adoption in the utility industry is building, 33% of the nation’s largest utility providers still do not offer digital engagement methods. In the opinion of this author, this is inexcusable. Many utilities are missing out on an app revolution.

Failure to communicate

Failure to adopt mobile applications can have significant consequences. On the one hand, it prevents utilities from developing and maintaining a high level of intimacy with customers. It also cuts off an essential communication channel in times of crisis. Utilities that embrace mobile apps are receiving accolades from customers for delivering a faster, more personalized experience in a convenient form factor that’s literally at your fingertips.

This is especially true for those in the industry that go beyond offering the most basic levels of functionality. Utility providers at the forefront of mobile app development allow customers to directly interact with a variety of service features. They can also proactively notify key stakeholders of important account developments and emergencies through push notifications and automated alerts.

In the process, utilities that have made strategic investments in mobile apps are gathering critical information about their customers by voluntarily sharing data on changing habits and needs. It provides a clear window into how utilities can improve their services while optimizing efficiency.

While there are many benefits to adopting robust mobile app messaging strategies, most utilities tend to focus on three key factors when deciding to go ahead with this messaging channel. commitment :

  • Cost reduction. Mobile apps can significantly reduce the pressure on conventional call center operations, which tend to be quite expensive. As customers become familiar with the apps, they tend to turn to the self-service options when looking up information, changing account settings, or performing other essential but routine account functions. . The ability to offload standard queries and operations allows customer service representatives (CSRs) to focus on handling and resolving the more complex challenges that stakeholders face.
  • Consumers prefer digital engagement for problem solving. JD Power studies show that 70% of customers turn directly to digital channels when they have a problem. Indeed, customers find it frustrating when they are forced to make a phone call for routine activities.
  • Crisis communication. Utility providers should not overlook the benefits associated with the immediate and highly reliable communication that is enabled by mobile apps when events disrupt service or create hazardous situations. Mobile app solutions provide a platform for fast and efficient communication in an emergency.

These solutions also allow utilities to be extremely precise in how messages are targeted while providing a valuable feedback loop during crises. By using geofencing technologies that take advantage of location-based services on mobile devices, utilities can focus more on how notifications or alerts are sent to customers in the event of a crisis. This cannot be reproduced by texting or initiating an automated call protocol.

Mobile apps have universal appeal

One of the arguments sometimes raised for putting off mobile app development revolves around the idea that it targets young tech-savvy people while excluding older generations. JD Power’s data, however, shows that most age groups seem open to – and even enthusiastic about – using utility apps when they’re available. With the exception of pre-boomers (those born before 1946), who make up 5% of the survey sample, all other age demographics rate their experiences on apps as preferable to calls or experiences on the Web.

More than 50% of customers surveyed say they use mobile features to access some aspect of public service. Although many complain that the utility industry lags the others in the quality of digital functionality, some utility leaders are leading the way with impressive digital engagement goals. For instance:

  • Florida Power and Light scored exceptionally high in mobile app satisfaction. The utility has received great feedback from consumers since it rolled out a modern and visually appealing mobile design.
  • HallScored over 900 (on a 1000 point scale) for their app experience following major updates to align mobile app functionality with customer expectations during the year 2021.

Another concern voiced by opponents of mobile apps is that mobile apps end up serving more affluent customers at the expense of low-income stakeholders. Once again, JD Power data shows a different reality. Mobile apps – as an engagement channel – drive the highest satisfaction ratings across all income categories, with app preference highest among those earning less than $60,000 per year.

In the final analysis, the success of mobile apps – and customer engagement strategies in general – comes down to designing experiences that drive adoption. JD Power’s research reveals that the key to broad consumer adoption is quite simple: functionality. Utilities that build apps that provide premium features, such as proactive advice and guidance, in addition to standard bill-paying and appointment-scheduling services, create strong motivation for customers to stay engaged and satisfied.

Casey J. Nelson