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"Delivering a Smarter Customer Experience" - The Next Generation Customer Self-Service

"Imagine the scenario, John is a utility customer, every month when he gets his electronic utility bill by email, he logs onto his utility account, checks the bill details, verifies the bill, and analyzes the factors impacting the charges. He then makes his online payment.

On a stormy night when there is an unscheduled outage, he immediately gets an update on his smart phone providing the outage details. Within a few minutes he gets a tweet from the utility field crew with an update on the restoration status and estimated resumption of service. The power is restored as communicated.

John gets a Facebook status update from his Utility Company requesting his opinion on a new tariff plan. John checks out the details of the tariff plan, logs on to his utility account and performs an online rate analysis to determine the savings based on his consumption pattern - it looks beneficial. He changes his tariff plan online and gets a confirmation of the action. John provides his comments on the new tariff plan and posts it to Facebook and his Twitter account. 

Ann, another utility customer, and John's neighbor reads his comments, and investigates the new tariff plan. She logs onto the utility portal, and accesses the new usage analysis tool which she uses to monitor her consumption during peak hours. She checks out the new tariff plan and signs up as well."

The rise of the digital consumer fuelled by the omnipresent nature of smartphones, tablet PC's, converged devices, supported by evolution of Smart Grid and appetite for social media, is driving utilities across the world to implement self-service strategies or review existing implementations. 

As almost every household is a customer for the utility, the utility's self-service portal is exposed to a wide range of user personas by age, education, profession, ethnicity, gender, internet exposure, etc. Taking into consideration the above facts, some of the top strategies to consider when building the "next generation" self-service portal are based around the following aspects: design, content, access and functionality.

Next-Generation Self-Service Portal.png

With the technology and customer behavior shift, the next generation Self-service will grow from a "Bill Presentment and Payment" portal to be "Personal Account Representative". Utility now needs to make best use of this to translate the experience from 'customer self-service' to 'customer engagement' to realize their business benefits.

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