Turn Outages Into Positive Customer Satisfaction and Brand Trust Scores
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Hurricane Hermine, a category 1 hurricane, knocked out power for more than 300,000 people in Florida before it creeped up and away from the east coast. Most of the electric utilities responsible for the territories in the wake of the storm spent their holiday weekend scrambling to restore power. How each utility performed and communicated with its customers will impact their satisfaction with and trust in their utility. Most utilities’ customer satisfaction and trust scores will decline, but a handful of utilities have figured out how to actually improve their satisfaction and trust scores during power outages.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Up to half of a utility’s Operational Satisfaction score is driven by reliability, according to the Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study. Additionally, slightly over one-third of a utility’s Brand Trust score directly relates to how the utility responds when the power does go out. For decades, utilities have assumed that power outages depress customer satisfaction and trust, and for good reason—most utilities see this phenomenon in their customer research.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Leveraging Value-Added Products and Services to Build Brand Trust and Drive Customer Satisfaction
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When we think of world-class brands, companies like Amazon, Apple, FedEx and Nordstrom come to mind. For these companies, customer loyalty begins with trust—trust built over years of consistently delivering on a strong value proposition. Many energy utilities have built trust among their customers as well by consistently providing a reliable supply of electricity at a relatively reasonable price. However, the energy industry is at a turning point, and utilities can do much more than simply deliver reliable service. New, smart technology and advances in renewable and alternative energy offerings have customers searching for guidance to understand how these new offerings may improve their lives. Who better to fill that role than the trusted, local utility?
Why Trust Matters for Utilities
Some might argue that the concepts of trust and loyalty are irrelevant in a market without competition. Yet, it remains imperative that customers believe their utility is operating in their best interests. New products and technologies are changing the way energy companies interact with customers and have opened up an array of additional products and services to drive engagement and trust. Our research indicates that building brand trust is the best way for today’s utilities to drive adoption of value-added products and services, improve customer satisfaction and insulate the utility against negative events.
Here we go again.
T-Mobile’s John Legere recently announced the latest in his “Un-carrier” program—a new plan that allows customers to upgrade their phones anytime, up to three times per year. This was followed by the Mobile Without Borders plan which extends T-Mobile’s coverage to Canada and Mexico. Un-carrier, Legere claims, is intended to force a change in the way that wireless carriers treat their customers. In this, there is no denying that the program has succeeded in forcing the industry to change. (See below for a timeline of the 11 Un-carrier moves Legere has implemented since March 2013.)
Every time T-Mobile makes one of these dramatic changes, the major competitors follow suit by coming up with their own response, which typically has involved creating some variation of T-Mobile’s offering. T-Mobile advocates point to this continual “upping of the ante” as demonstration of how Legere has differentiated T-Mobile from its competitors and how much these actions have improved the overall wireless communications landscape for the customer.
It would be difficult for anyone to objectively claim that T-Mobile’s Un-Carrier moves are not having significant impacts in the overall wireless marketplace. However, it can be debated whether these moves have improved the industry’s overall customer experience.
I contend that they have not.
It should be noted that while provocative, the Un-Carrier moves are not always made on the offensive. Legere himself admits that the Mobile Without Borders plan was introduced as a defensive response to AT&T’s recent expansion into Mexico. Yet, even in this defensive mode, Legere is quick to point out that in true Un-Carrier fashion, Mobile Without Borders is provided without additional cost to the customer.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared here.
Like most American cities, Portland, Oregon has its fair share of nicknames: PDX, Beervana or Brewvana, Rose City, Bridgetown, Rip City, etc. So you’ll have to forgive me for suggesting one more: the “City of Unsolicited Advice.” It’s not quite as good as Bellingham’s “City of Subdued Excitement,” but it’s catchy, right? Okay, maybe not, but at least it’s accurate. Portlanders are not shy about sharing their opinions. And it’s more than just politics and poppycock; it’s anything from bike maintenance to outerwear to organic chicken feed.
“Hey, man, you should really think about feeding your chickens something that’s corn free and soy free with a lot of high-quality fish protein.” (Did I mention there are a relatively large number of backyard chicken farmers here?)
Anyway… I don’t mean this as a rant or a dig at my city. Nor do I believe Portlanders would take much offense. I’m sure when George H.W. Bush staffers referred to Portland as “Little Beirut” they didn’t expect the city to embrace the title with pride. But, we did. And, we do.
So why bring this up if not to take a swipe at Stumptown?