Despite recent headlines over price increases and supposed consumer apathy, energy suppliers continue to install meters at quite a pace.
Currently, around 7milllion have been installed in UK households and 1 million were installed in the first three months of 2017 which is 10% higher than the same period in 2016. But, with 53m meters still to be installed, to meet the end target date of 2020, there needs to be a significant increase in activity to make this happen. So, it’s likely that the installation programme will have a 'long tail'. Here are Eckoh’s seven key points as to how this will impact customer service and secure payments.
#1 Competition will intensify and customer experience will be the new battleground: Consumers are able to choose, and switch supplier, so it’s clear that there will be implications to customer retention and experience. Competition will intensify as consumers seek the best tariffs. To meet that you need to make sure you not only deliver the best service at the best price, but you also deliver the best customer experience.
#2 Suppliers will need to extend their security and PCI DSS compliance measures: In 2016 UK utility companies were ranked as the highest risk industry for data breaches. With the ever increasing sophistication of hackers it’s becoming even more critical to ensure that your customers’ personal and payment card data is protected.
Payments through your contact centre may well be PCI DSS compliant – ensuring your customers’ personal and cardholder data remains protected and secure – but online payments and automatic top-ups mean that these will fall under the scope of PCI DSS compliance. You will need to show that they have extended your solutions to cover these channels to maintain compliance and avoid the risk of a data breach. With a huge choice of payment options such as Live Chat Pay, Apple Pay, Agent Assisted payments, Self Service payments and Contact Centre payments - you have the opportunity to deliver outstanding customer experience that will help you keep your customers.
#3: –There will be a staggering increase in the volume of customer contact: To book and manage these installations a whole range of customer engagement, management and scheduling will be required. So, you’ll need to be able to scale up to handle this, making use of cost-effective channels such as Live-Chat, IVR Self-Service and even a complete Omni-Channel solution so you can engage with customers through the channels that work best for them.
#4 New and shiny equipment = more tech support: As smart meters and In-Home Displays (IHDs) are fitted so the number of questions will rise – all of which need responses and support. Your customers will want to know “how do I use the IHD?”, “What happens if I spill coffee on my IHD?” or “Can I get a second IHD for the garage?”. Self-Service channels are ideal for responding to these routine and frequently asked questions. Using Knowledgebase content via web and apps, as well as implementing technologies like Chatbots, can deliver an accurate and consistent service across a large customer base and make sure that more vulnerable or less tech-savvy customers are not excluded.
#5 Interactive is the new normal: As your customers get to grips with their In-Home Displays and interact more with you, they’ll also begin to expect that same interactivity on your websites and apps. They’ll want to know “If I can see my energy usage while I'm stood in the kitchen, why can't I see it while I'm waiting for the train home?”
#6 Life might get harder for the 'left behind' customers: In a post-2020 Britain, you should have most of your customers on smart meters. But, there will always be a portion of homes that could not, or chose not to, have their meters replaced. As this will be the exception agents will be less familiar with the processes and so find it harder to provide good support. This is the time that contact centres will need to have a good Knowledgebase content solution to help agents to serve those customers left behind.
#7 Pre-payment becomes more compelling: With legacy prepayment meters customers had to manually keep an eye on how much credit they had and, if you didn’t offer self-service options, they would have to go to a shop to buy more credit. With the introduction of smart meters customers will easily be able to see how much credit they've got using their In-Home-Display (IHD) or via self-service apps or web portals. Topping up the meter will be done 'over the air' so they can buy credit instantly without even needing to leave the house. This added convenience, coupled with pledges to maintain price parity with credit customers, makes pre-payment a better product which could increase transaction volumes.
How can Eckoh help?
Eckoh are one of the leading providers of Contact Centre and Secure Payment solutions that deliver outstanding customer experience. As a PCI DSS Level One Service Provider since 2010 we have extensive experience in helping clients achieve and maintain PCI DSS compliance and so avoid the risk of damaging data breaches. We also operate our own PCI DSS compliant contact centre and so we know the challenges you face when delivering the best customer engagement.
Sources:  The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/26/smart-meter-rollout-household-bills-rise  Utility Week http://utilityweek.co.uk/news/dealing-with-data-breach/1253262#.WYh5HoTyvmF
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