Moving Utilities into the Modern Age: A Proposal to Leverage Technology to Improve the Customer Experience
In today's business environment, customer service is more critical than ever. It is a major factor when consumers decide where to take their business. However, consumer choice is not applicable to all businesses for example, public utilities. Consumers do not have a choice in picking which utility company provides them service; the choice depends upon local jurisdictions and predetermined service territories. This lack of choice creates a "forced relationship" between consumers and public utilities. Because the nature of this relationship can have a negative impact, public utilities need to reevaluate their approach and invest in effective customer service as a valuable tool to achieve their organizational goals. This study investigates the need for public utilities to expand their investment; explores the available avenues to expand their investment; and offers a recommended pathway with the features and interface to expand their investment. Technology is the key in achieving organizational goals as it can reengineer internal and external operations. Self-service technology (SST) along with the features of gamification enable an organization to reengineer both its internal and its external operations. Companies can shift work from employees to customers and develop new mediums for customer service interaction. Overall, three investments are analyzed: traditional call centers, online, and mobile. The analysis focuses on available features and how those features affect the achievement of organizational goals. Two studies comprise interviews with utility representatives and a customer survey completed to reinforce findings. Based on the research, a smartphone application is the best option to enhance customer service while addressing all organizational goals.