Utilities companies are facing a raft of serious CX issues during the COVID era — here's how WhatsApp and Viber can play a vital role in keeping customers switched on to a brand.
From an increasingly competitive marketplace to the consumer's ability to change suppliers quicker than ever before, the utilities sector was struggling with high customer churn rates before COVID struck. Since the pandemic's arrival, that pressure has only increased on providers — and their bottom lines — as increasingly cash-strapped consumers hunt out more cost-effective utility deals.
To combat these issues, utilities brands are making significant changes to their CX strategies to retain existing customers and attract new ones. For instance, nearly 30% of providers in the energy sector have transformed the way they service their customers, according to Isobar Creative Experience Survey 2020.
These changes include deploying new channels to create frictionless, personalized journeys for customers whether they're signing up to a new service, submitting meter readings, or reporting a fault. Digital channels already being leveraged by multiple sectors could prove to be a vital ally for utilities: WhatsApp and Viber.
WhatsApp & Viber: Why they're already a 'utility' service
Both chat apps represent huge untapped potential for utilities players. WhatsApp boasts over two billion users worldwide across 180 countries while Viber has particularly strong penetration rates in South East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and CIS.
Critically, each is already delivering significant CX gains within other sectors. From reducing call volumes in the travel sector to increasing sales in online retail, WhatsApp and Viber offer a wide range of features that can enhance, even transform, customer experience:
1. Offer access to instant customer services
While SMS, voice calls and emails remain vital channels, they lack the immediacy of WhatsApp and Viber. Whether setting up a new connection or contacting the provider with a complaint, customers can use the chat app to connect with the company in moments. This removes the need to queue in a phone line, wait for an email response, or worse still, install yet another brand-specific app to sign up to and decipher.
2. Remove the 'busywork' from customers' lives
Chat apps feature powerful rich media functionality, enabling consumers to submit meter readings or report a fault in seconds by taking a picture or recording a video, which can then be uploaded and reviewed by the provider. For instance, Singapore-based SP Utilities allows customers to submit meter readings via WhatsApp by uploading a photo of their physical meter's display.
3. Build in convenience from day one
The need for consumers to monitor multiple accounts to manage their utilities effectively is the antithesis of great customer experience. To aid customers wrangle their accounts more efficiently, WhatsApp and Viber allow them to carry out a myriad of tasks, all from within the app.
From changing account details and setting up installation/service times to viewing bills and monitoring usage levels, chat apps promote simplicity of service, enabling customers to remove a layer of unnecessary bureaucracy from their lives.
4. Increase loyalty through personalized offers
To reverse high churn rates, smart amenities providers are looking for new ways to promote special offers and deals to existing consumers. It's a vital strategic move as a 5% increase in retention rates can boost profits by 25% to 95% according to Bain & Company, plus winning a new customer costs a company six to seven more than retaining an existing one.
Unfortunately searching through snail mail letters or email inboxes is a CX killer for many consumers, meaning they often miss out on timed offers and special deals. This, in turn, can lead to resentment and even jumping to another supplier. However, by collecting all information within a single chat app, customers can view details about potential rebates, enjoy timely reminders about account credits before they expire, and more in an instant.
Better still, Viber allows providers to push out marketing missives to opted-in customers to promote, say, special deals. Combined, it means consumers need never miss out on that special personalized offer again (see below), and further reduces the risk of churn.
5. Introduce automation to remove aggravation
Waiting for a live agent to respond to a query or issue is frustrating for any consumer (even stressful if there is, say, a power outage and they need an immediate response about when normal service will resume). Instead of forcing customers to queue on the phone or search through a website for answers, chatbot technology can be deployed within WhatsApp and Viber to offer instant notifications and updates.
Bots can also service many FAQ-like consumer questions whether they're about services/product, or even personalized deals and rates based on the customer's purchasing history (see below). If human intervention is required at any stage, bots can hand over to a live agent immediately. Best of all, bot tech not only provides quicker responses to customer queries, but it also lowers operational costs for utilities provider who rely mainly on contact center-only solutions.
6. Enjoy greater benefits for greater peace of mind
As well as lowering costs, WhatsApp and Viber deliver other key benefits. For instance, the messaging platforms can be assigned to a supplier-provided number, including mobile, landline, toll-free, or an existing phone number. Critically, any messaging conducted in either chat app are encrypted end-to-end, and official WhatsApp/Viber providers ensure all messaging management and storage strictly adhere to regulations including GDPR.
Why WhatsApp & Viber integration needn't be a logistical nightmare
Introducing a new digital channel into an existing CX strategy requires serious planning and resources; not an alluring prospect for utilities providers during such challenging times. To remove such roadblocks, official providers such as tyntec can mange the entire process for the provider from identifying specific CX needs and designing an optimized solution through to the roll out itself and advising on off-the-shelf chatbot technology.
Critically, tyntec's Conversations API enables WhatsApp and Viber to integrate seamlessly with existing commerce systems including Salesforce, Shopify and Slack. This ensures that any customer conversations held on the messaging platforms can be personalized using data direct from the company's CRM — and importantly, any customer insights gleaned from the chat can also be fed back into the CRM.
Utilities providers can also benefit from tyntec's Conversations Inbox, a web-based user interface, that enables brands to manage chat conversations more efficiently with easy agent routing, effortless notification deployment, and rich analytics capabilities to identify emerging customer trends.
Ultimately, by introducing WhatsApp or Viber into CX strategies, utilities companies are putting themselves in the best possible position to address churn issues head on by dramatically improving customer experiences. And in this digital-first era, that's a vital advantage as research by Oracle shows that 89% of consumers leave for a competitor due to problems with customer experience; that's an unsustainable trend for any sector, never mind utilities, especially during these unprecedented times.