During African Utility Week held in Cape Town last week, Jodie Sherwin Hill, director of Jomat Investments presented ways in enhanced utility customer service can be used to help energy providers to improve their revenue collection.

The presentation aimed to equip energy distribution companies with measures they can implement to understand their customer needs and how they can make use of customer demands to create new revenue streams.

Jodie's discussion started with helping the energy stakeholders present at the event to define a great customer and factors which impact on the behavioural changes of utility consumers.

A great customer was defined as one:

  • Who pays on time, consistently.
  • Who is realistic regarding expectations of the service
  • Contributes to their community

Enhances the service by supporting the organisation

She said the personalised relationship between energy firms and their consumers have a direct impact on the behaviour customers. In addition, factors such as customer hierarchy status, awareness of products and services, and influence from other consumers either negatively or positively affect customer behaviour.

According to Jodie, 48% of utility customers share good experiences all the time, 56% share negative experiences all the time and 71% say personalised service is important.

The presentation defined a great service provider as:

  • One that provides quality and affordable power
  • Is open to changes in technology
  • Has value for money
  • Responds fast to power outages and customer demands
  • Serve the need of the community
  • Fast reaction to fraud and leakages
  • Timeous and accurate billing systems
  • Educates and trains consumers

In order to improve services, Jodie said utility companies need to "give customers the whole picture of their services to make them understand.

"If we don't understand the customer, we go nowhere."

In knowing the customer and understanding their needs, utility projects need to include:

  • An assessment survey which includes skilled versus unskilled customers
  • Community asset identification programme
  • Public meetings and focus listening sessions
  • Interviews
  • Ward councillor meetings
  • Engagement through social media platforms [ComEd customers now able to report outages via Twitter].

 

Image credit: 123rf.