Neil Svensen discusses how established energy companies can galvanise their business and navigate digital transformation to deliver the extraordinary brand experience consumers demand

When it comes to brands, consumers expect seamless, personalised experiences that intelligently connect what they’ve done before and what they want next. However, the energy sector – which has been dominated by large, traditional players – is currently rated as the second worst for customer experience and the worst for reputation. With that in mind, it’s imperative for established organisations to fundamentally rethink their approach to customer experience. By 2020, it’s predicted that the way people interact with brands will become the key differentiator over product and price. And when 73 per cent of consumers say they are willing to pay more for a better experience, it’s clear that businesses need to make sure they’re meeting the increased expectations of customers.

A new cohort of ‘demanding’ consumers
Following the advancements in industries such as technology services – as well as in digital retail and FinTech – consumers have become accustomed to a highly intuitive and personalised level of service. They now expect this from every brand they interact with – and are becoming even more prepared to consider new brands they might not have before if they aren’t happy. Especially as switching has never been easier, with 70 per cent of consumers reporting that technology has made it much simpler to move between brands. The migration of consumers from established brands to start-ups has also been accelerated by the Government’s ECO policy and Green Deal, which removed the barriers to entry for smaller firms.

Despite a handful of service innovations in the energy sector, most established organisations have failed to keep up with the pace of change. Obviously, there is work to be done and those who do make these improvements can expect to see significant financial rewards. Capgemini report that NPS leaders gained 2.5 per cent of their total annual revenue in additional sales revenue from delivering an enhanced customer experience.

Overall, we know that consumers want a simpler service, that’s tailored around them, with transparent pricing, more control and real-time information. They also want responsiveness and services targeted to their specific needs. Most importantly, they want utility brands to be helpful, rather than a monumental effort. For those organisations who fail to meet this expectation, loyalty counts for little and the threat of losing out is very real. In the US, it’s estimated that businesses lose $1.6 trillion a year to customers switching, because of poor service or experience.

As we move into a future of ever-present digital evolution, utility providers must consider how they will deliver the right experience for their customers. To put it simply, it’s become business critical to embrace the power digital transformation can bring to meet the growing expectations of consumers by delivering extraordinary customer experiences while reducing operational cost.

The key is employee engagement
Bringing about these changes starts with people. But internal resistance is one of the most difficult, yet important challenges to conquer. And as Forrester argue, employee experience and customer experience are intrinsically linked. However, without buy-in and engagement from the board right through to front-line staff, even the most innovative of customer experience strategies will be doomed to fail.

Organisational engagement is fundamental to achieving coherent meaningful digital transformation, no matter how many agile teams you throw at it. By utilising HR as an important resource to deliver these experiences, brands are 50 per cent more likely to be a customer experience leader. Employee behaviour simply has to reflect the experience you are creating through digital, as they are the ambassadors for making your service better and championing the customer throughout the transformation. They need to understand how they fit into the new operating models that embracing real digital transformation demands, how teams need to work differently and how they fundamentally need to think differently.

So how do you sell your ambitious digital transformation vision into an organisation in a way that gives it the best chance to succeed? For those established organisations looking to press ahead with their digital transformation journey, here are some important considerations.

Engage the entire organisation
It’s crucial to have engagement from all levels of the organisation, from board level downwards. This is a fundamental transformation programme that will touch every aspect of the business. To truly benefit from these innovations, an entire organisation will need to be engaged in the journey and adopt the mind-set necessary to embrace new technologies.

Demystify the terminology
Machine Learning, Intelligent Machines, Cognitive Platforms, Deep Learning, Intelligent Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Products, Virtual Assistants, APIs… the list goes on and on. These new capabilities are wrapped in a language that to many is impenetrable. Find ways to simplify it. Compile a glossary. Educate everyone so you’re all speaking the same language.

Champion the role of storytelling
To support the evolution of your customer experience strategy, and give your teams useful parameters to create within, try developing user stories for your key personas. Establishing these at either end of the spectrum will allow you to explore the narrative through each stage of the customer lifecycle, from shop through to renewal.

You should also consider how to effectively communicate this. First of all, step away from the PowerPoint – nobody ever felt inspired by an 80-slide deck. Instead, consider media that champions the role of storytelling. Create long print scrolls, books or short films to engage and connect everyone within the business to the same vision. Really show them what it will look and feel like.

Translate the practicalities of your vision
Support your storytelling media with a framework that translates the future customer experience into design principles and actions. All of which should become the brief for teams to design their specific customer experience around, with a roadmap of proof points to execute against. This will help nurture the ongoing belief in the vision internally and externally.

Bring in business areas early
Reinforce the idea that digital transformation is much more than a big IT initiative. Bring in other business areas early to work on the proof of concepts. It’s important to help your teams recognise how their role adds value to the customer and to the business. Your goal should be to empower your organisation by setting the direction, without prescribing all of the solutions.

For the first time, the technologies now exist to radically transform all aspects of an established utility organisation. Energy companies now need to embrace innovation, at all levels of the organisation, to deliver extraordinary brand experience. The potential of digital transformation is yet to be fully realised but the warning signs are clear – those that don’t act now and embark on digital transformation and move from a transactional utility to a trusted partner brand, will rapidly be left behind.

Finally, this stage of digital transformation is really about organisational transformation. This is not something for the IT department. It needs to be embraced across the board to deliver the change that will underpin the organisations that are going to survive and flourish in the future.

[For a list of the sources used for this article, please email the Editor]

Rufus Leonard
Neil Svensen is Co-founder & CEO at Brand Experience Engineers, Rufus Leonard. Ever since its founders, Neil and Darrel, started Rufus Leonard 29 years ago, the agency has been helping businesses create extraordinary experiences for their colleagues and their customers across all touchpoints. Rufus delivers outstanding and impactful work for a variety of brands including Lloyds Banking Group, British Gas, Reckitt Benckiser, Royal Mail, Stagecoach, BBC and Aggreko.

For further information please visit: www.rufusleonard.com