How Utilities Can Improve the Digital Customer Experience with Mobile App Development – BizTech Magazine

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Joe Kuehne is a Senior Editor at BizTech magazine 

Joe Kuehne is a Senior Editor at BizTech magazine 
The development of mobile apps is what Forrester calls “a complex and crucial competency in today’s digitized business world.” Mobile apps have become essential to any organization hoping to meet customer expectations, and the need applies to nearly every industry.
According to the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Utility Digital Experience Study, released Feb. 23, “many utilities are still resisting the forces of modernity by continuing to offer outdated websites and low adoption of mobile apps.” The study notes that lack of innovation in utility customer engagement channels is coming at the expense of customer satisfaction.
Jon Sundberg, senior manager for digital at J.D. Power, claims that approximately one-third of large utilities still do not have an app. “This is inexcusable in the current environment, in which consumers are controlling virtually every other aspect of their lives via smartphones,” Sundberg says. “Utilities have been among the slowest adopters of digital customer engagement technology, based on all the industries we track at J.D. Power, and that is showing up in the form of sinking customer satisfaction scores.”
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While many organizations have already introduced or begun developing mobile apps, more are yet to come. Both Apple and Google currently offer mobile meter reading apps for customers to monitor their energy and water use. But those apps represent only the customer use cases.
As a recent Accenture report points out, “Utilities’ future value propositions will be defined as much by technology capabilities as they will by business strategy. A utility’s ability to generate value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of its technical architecture.”
Utility owners would be wise to invest in the infrastructure that supports mobile app development, as well as “the abundance of technology available — AI models, cloud, edge computing, and hardware and computational design,” the report states.
MORE FOR UTILITIES: Find out how artificial intelligence can unleash the power and value of the data that power companies collect.
It’s no secret that data is at the heart of every technology deployment. The desire to harvest data — and to unlock the value it offers — is the driving force behind the digital transformation efforts companies around the world are pursuing. And part of the secret to accessing that value comes in using data to improve the user experience.
As the J.D. Power study puts it, “Every interaction a customer has with their local electric, gas and water utility reflects their overall experience. It is critical for utility companies to provide services that delight customers at every touch point — from reviewing account information online, to making a payment on their mobile app, to resolving an issue through email.”
A recent blog post from Forbes agrees, and suggests “utilities should transform customer interactions from predominantly transactional ones into true customer engagement opportunities that enable a two-way dialogue.”
Smart meters are just one of many tools utilities can use to gather data that would allow them to better understand customer needs. “Marketers can use a number of data analytics tools to source information at this level and use the insights to create communications that drive customers online or to mobile applications,” the post states.
READ MORE: Learn how technology can help stabilize the electrical grid.
Many experts have pointed out that utilities should understand their customers’ needs, and mobile apps enable them to collect data and direct their marketing efforts to better achieve their goals.
According to J.D. Power, “Consumer behaviors and expectations are changing, and companies must be able to provide services when and where their customers want them. Utilities that understand their digital strengths and weaknesses will be better positioned to improve customer satisfaction by deploying resources to enhance areas that will have the most impact.”
Among the advantages mobile apps can offer these companies, according to the study, are the ability to understand how customers currently interact with their utility companies; the ability to determine how well digital touchpoints meet customer expectations; and the ability to identify areas of a website or mobile app that need improvement. For companies that lack the technical expertise to accomplish these goals on their own, a strategic partnership can offer the experience and knowledge needed to modernize apps to meet customer expectations.
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