Invisible to users. Indifference to the experience. Tolerance because there isn’t another choice. Historically, these statements could sum up customers’ thoughts and feelings about their local gas, electric or water provider – until there’s a disruption in service.
But times are changing. With digital marketing and social media tools, there is a growing opportunity for utility company marketing departments to shift from being cost centers to revenue generators.
Utility companies who invest in marketing that is relationship-driven versus promotional are reaping long-term benefits—developing an educational and engaging customer experience that is leading to increased customer retention and growth.
Customer experience doesn’t completely rest in the hands of the customer service team anymore. In working with clients in the utilities sector, we’re learning that there’s a growing recognition internally that they’re not just selling a commodity, but have an opportunity to develop long-term, trusting customer relationships—and happy ones at that!
Here are a few strategic marketing tips we’ve culled together in working with utilities clients on their websites and digital marketing strategies.
Communicate clearly across multiple audiences.
Your website has to communicate with several different audiences. Residents, businesses, developers and contractors all need to find what they need—and find it quickly! This can make it hard for utility companies to establish websites with simple, effective and hardworking navigation. Brainstorm with your team and web partner about how your navigation can be more intuitive.
In many cases, we’ve discovered that content on utility company websites often needs to be combed through to figure out what is necessary, what can be combined, and who needs what information. Working with Spartanburg Water, we developed a strategic approach that organized a vast amount information and resources in an intuitively navigable way, while simultaneously creating a modern, visual brand with a widespread appeal.
Make actions easy.
Gone are the days that help is a phone call away. Customers now expect help to be just one click away. Unfortunately, from a user perspective, also known as the “user experience” (or UX for short), utility company websites tend to be clunky. Quick actions are not always easy to take. Actions like “pay your bill,” “establish service,” and “cancel service” should be easy to accomplish in one click. In addition, actions like “report outages” and “estimated times until back online” are examples of situations that used to require a phone call. With an effective web presence, these (and more!) can and should be done online now.
Be as helpful online as you are in person.
In working with the Greer Commission of Public Works on their website, they shared how much they pride themselves on providing excellent in-person customer service. Greer CPW needed their website to be as helpful as coming in to talk to an agent. This was a fresh way of looking at the site project, which prompted us to find ways to infuse a personal feeling along with community pride throughout the site, all while including a vast library of up-to-date and helpful information and a simple way to access it.
If you’re in the midst of discerning how to approach the redevelopment of your website or marketing strategy, we’re happy to bring our experience working with utility providers to help brainstorm with you.