We’ve all been there…

You call a service provider’s 1-800 helpline, navigate the options menu, wait patiently on hold, and once you finally get a live person on the phone, all they seem know about you is your account number. The faceless voice on the other end of the line recites a script that doesn’t address your issue or help resolve your problem. … You get frustrated.

Why can’t they just help me?

You know that the last thing you want is for your customers to associate your service with that level of frustration, but you are also aware that customer expectations are changing. In today’s world, utility customers have started to expect the same special treatment from their utilities that they get from brands like Amazon or Nordstrom—individualized treatment—and as customer expectations continue to shift, top-notch customer service is more important than ever.

Each customer wants to be seen for the individual they are, which is much more than an account number. And with more and more businesses providing that specialized attention, who could blame them? So how can your utility harness insights on what really makes customers tick to exceed customer expectations at each interaction?

Think about this:
  • What if frontline staff could have, on hand, the best tips to share and the most relevant topics to discuss when engaging with each individual customer?
  • What if, instead of leaving it up to customer service representatives (CSRs) to interpret customer needs in real time based solely on account history and live discussion, the CSRs were armed in advance with a snapshot of each specific customer’s primary concerns?

Perhaps one of the most inopportune times for a customer’s interaction with your brand to feel impersonal or canned is when they are communicating with a human CSR.

But the only way for utilities to truly achieve exceptional customer service is by enabling CSRs to anticipate and understand customer needs on a case-by-case basis. Customers expect their utilities to show genuine interest and concern for their outcomes and to provide solutions to their specific problems that align with their views. Honoring the customer of one is the only way to drive customer satisfaction, and that challenge reaches across all touch points, including interactions with CSRs.

Typically, CSRs are given certain information when speaking with customers: their account status, billing information, program participation records, etc. Several data points are often pulled from different systems that operate as silos, giving CSRs no summary or context as to what the information might mean about how they should talk to the customer.

Basically, frontline brand representatives are given too much data and not enough insight into customers’ interests, motivations, and needs to lead to effective, helpful, game-changing interactions with customers.

That shift from data overload to behavioral insight is what will personalize those crucial moments and drive customer satisfaction, trust, and participation. The exciting thing about a proactive, insightful, scalable approach to customer service is that we already know of some easy ways to put it into action. So, what are they?

How can utilities surface deep, relevant customer insights and make them actionable for CSRs?

There’s no reason the power of technology and machine learning shouldn’t be used to enhance face-to-face, human stages of the customer journey. In fact, that’s the most efficient way to scale personalization. All it takes is some creative thinking to identify the best solution your business can use across as many channels as possible. A great example is how we harness behavioral insights here at Lirio to help utilities engage customers.

We believe personalization can be best achieved, scaled, and communicated in the utility space through personas. Persona-based segmentation facilitates a jumping-off point for the CSR to personalize the experience and offer the best tips and measures to suggest moving forward. Our True Believer, Cautious Conservative, Concerned Parent, and Working Class Realist personas can each offer CSRs an immediate, intuitive peek into the deeper values and behavioral factors behind each customer’s question, complaint, or concern about energy.

Based on the disparate data points already collected by utilities, our personas provide real on-the-spot insight, serving as a snapshot of each customer’s primary motivators and values related to energy and suggesting the Best Next Action the individual is most likely to take in line with the utility’s objectives. Behavioral personas offer the ultimate cheat sheet for CSRs to proactively address customer concerns at each and every touch point throughout the customer journey.

For example, a CSR responding to an unhappy customer would achieve better outcomes and possibly avoid inciting further frustration if they knew the customer was a Cautious Conservative with no special interest in environmental preservation. Knowing that the customer is more motivated to save money than to save energy would help the CSR connect with them on a much more relevant level by suggesting they “look for the ENERGY STAR® label to save up to 30% on electricity bills,” rather than recommending they “use ENERGY STAR® to help reduce your carbon footprint.” (The latter statement would be much more persuasive to a True Believer.)

In either case, the suggested measure (using ENERGY STAR® products) accomplishes both benefits (saving the customer money and reducing their carbon footprint), but the persona gives the CSR special intel on which benefit will motivate that specific customer. As a result, the CSR makes a genuine connection with the customer, communicating that the organization cares and boosting satisfaction and loyalty. At the same time, the CSR presents a recommendation in a way that is most likely to drive the customer to act, which brings the utility one step closer to their organizational objectives.

A truly personalized experience can and should be applied and integrated across all interactive channels (human and digital) throughout the entire customer journey. Thanks to innovative technology, behavioral science, and customer personas, we have a scalable way to provide tailored customer insight at every level. There are no more excuses for utilities, or any other service providers, not to individualize the customer experience. It’s time to use behavioral insights to empower your brand representatives to move beyond account number and engage the customer of one.

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