Rising unemployment rates, unsettling world events, and economic uncertainty continues to influence the usage behaviors of the American utility customer. Today's customers are looking for helpful information from their utility provider on how best to conserve and are looking for tips, suggestions and directions on how to save money -- now. Utilities, on the other hand, are faced with rising costs to implement new regulations, smart technologies, mandated reductions in carbon emissions and increase the adoption of alternative energies. These endeavors all come at a cost, and these costs will need to be passed on to the customer. Rate increases if not clearly communicated, will definitely increase call center volumes and decline customer trust. The utility industry is changing, and customer expectations have equally changed. Customers are demanding improved service -- but not at an increased price -- regardless of industry. It would seem that the utility company and the consumer have different expectations, which if left unaddressed would lead to lack of brand loyalty in deregulated states, customer dissatisfaction, and negative word of mouth. But is there a way to bridge the divide?
Throughout many industries, marketers by nature have agreed to be the voice of their customer. It now becomes a balancing act between progressing the company's business objectives with implementing the right programs and products for the right customer segment. Utility marketers alike must now grow and improve their understanding of customer's needs, usage and desires. But how do you drive relevant communications, impact program adoption and assist in reducing the payment cycle, late pays or even no pays? The answer: Precision Marketing, which is a framework that drives the right message; to the right person; at the right time by leveraging transactional data.
An often overlooked opportunity for precision marketing is the utility statement. Utility customers regularly open this important bill to see what is owed, and when it is due. This communication channel is often an overlooked and undervalued means of customer communication. By precision marketing definition, a bill should be customized and relevant for the recipient. Enhancing the level of customization, clarity, and relevancy by extending it beyond the "amount due" and name/address section is considered best practices. This customization does not only relate specifically to marketing -- it can be educational in nature. It could revolve around tips, advice and programs that will lessen the likelihood of a call center call or color coding a bill to ensure what needs to be read, is read.
How Can My Utility Implement Precision Marketing?
In order to successfully implement a Precision Marketing campaign, it is vital to follow along with this five step process:
Step 1: Identify Your Problem or Opportunity
What are you trying to solve or what program are you trying to create? Reduce your call center volume to reduce overhead costs? Are you trying to raise customer awareness of energy conservation initiatives? Whatever your goal, it is imperative that clarity around it is identified early on to help your company maintain a clear eye on the intended goal.
Step 2: Evaluate & Leverage Your Dat
Next analyze your current data. Utilities have years of usage data and payment behaviors at their fingertips. This information, when mined properly, will provide new targeted segmentation for your campaign, allowing you to proactively target and potentially change behaviors. Such behaviors can be curbing peak usage or alternative energy program uptake. Since data analytics can often be overwhelming for companies, it is often most optimal to leverage organizations that specialize in this form of analytics. These companies can work with your utility to access, evaluate and analyze data from all departments within your organization to most effectively recommend a strategic route to precision marketing implementation.
Step 3: Create Your Target Campaign
- Will you use an existing campaign or create a new one?
- What content and creative materials will you incorporate into this campaign?
- What offers are you prepared to present?
- What must your message express in order to resonate with your target segment?
- How will you measure your success?
- Your strategy may incorporate one or more of the following delivery channels:
- Direct marketing
- Email campaigns
- Banner ads placement
Step 4: Test & Measure
Measurement is the report card that tells you what worked and what did not. Based on these measurement results, you can then design your next communication to be even more precise and more effective in engaging customers with relevant content. Did this call center campaign reduce the amount of calls made the following month? Was there a spike in registrants for alternative energy programs? These are the types of questions that can be asked to help evaluate measurement.
Step 5: Refine & Repeat
Finally, refine and repeat to generate increasingly positive results. This step is about understanding why the end result turned out how it did and using that awareness to enhance your next communication.
By following these five steps, utilities companies should have a stronger understanding of what to look for, how to implement and most importantly how to measure results of a Precision Marketing campaign. Incorporating this into monthly customer bills is an effective way to educate customers, promote initiatives and therefore reduce costs. Precision marketing can assist in the transformation of the transactional documents like bills and statements into educational tools, companies can improve customer relationships and increase loyalty by delivering relevant information to their customers. By proactively providing this relevant information and better educating customers, companies can evolve from a simple service provider to a highly valued resource and partner.