Customer satisfaction drives decisions for utility companies of all shapes and sizes. Whether you are determining your product and service offerings, implementing organizational changes, or seeking to improve the overall experience, the need for customer feedback is vital when making these decisions. Utility companies are constantly searching for ways to increase their customer satisfaction levels, but are often unsure of how to proceed. We have created a five-step process to assist in improving customer satisfaction using market research.
Step One: Benchmark Current Satisfaction Levels
Assess your customer’s current satisfaction levels, opinions, and perceptions of your organization.
Your team will need to identify the topics most pertinent to future success. Areas critical to utility organizations often include products, services, bill pay, rates, customer service and energy efficiency programs. You will be able to develop questions to provide a deeper dive into these areas, which will generate customer feedback. This feedback will lead to a better understanding of what your utility company can do to provide a higher level of service to their customers.
The recommended method to collect this information is through surveys via telephone or online. To ensure a statistically reliable data set to draw conclusions, you will typically need 400 completed responses. However, the number of completed responses needed is dependent on the size of your customer base. While survey questions can be developed internally, a non-biased partner will help develop a strategic survey and customer sampling plan to capture accurate data needed to make decisions. Working with a market research company ensures objectivity resulting in usable results.
Step Two: Assess Strengths and Gaps
Gain insights in the areas where customer satisfaction is positive as well as opportunities for improvement through the use of market research.
Understanding dissatisfaction is almost as important as understanding satisfaction. Areas where satisfaction is high provide an opportunity to fine-tune processes and/or create enhancements to continue to deliver at the same or higher level. Areas where research indicates customers are dissatisfied create opportunities to influence positive change in the organization. Less than stellar feedback from a customer identifies an opening to reevaluate and collaborate with teams to best right the ship. When you take action to improve the customer experience, you will often find that satisfaction levels go up.
Step Three: Create a Strategic Plan
Utilize the data collected as the roadmap for your strategic plan to assure alignment with your customers.
You have identified the areas of success and in need of improvement from Step Two. Now you will want to increase satisfaction, improve processes, and enhance efficiency, by listening to your customers and following their lead. The research you have completed will provide you with the information and tools you need to devise a plan.
During the data collection process, your customers will be asked their opinions about different changes and potential solutions to problems that they face. You can use this information to choose the best course of action to make improvements that will satisfy the greatest percentage of customers. Based on this direct feedback from your customers, you can develop a strategic plan or roadmap for both short-term and long-term initiatives. Your market research company will provide actionable recommendations through expert data analysis to help you create your strategic plan. The results of the research will help you determine if an investment is going to be worthwhile and whether the customers will be receptive. This information will also help you understand when to pivot and implement changes to ensure an enjoyable customer experience.
Step Four: Implement the Plan
Implement the plan and roll out any new changes to products, services, or processes based on customer feedback.
You should first act quickly on areas identified as major gaps or issues, looking at short-term opportunities based on unexpected feedback. From there, you should look at long-term opportunities to align future initiatives, product, services, and offerings with the desires your customers have expressed. Before seeing results and asking for further customer opinions, you will need to allot a period of time to implement changes in policy and procedure and to allow for customers to adjust to the new methods.
Step Five: Reassess and Track Customer Satisfaction Over Time
Reassess the changes you made by surveying your customers again.
Through these surveys, you will be able to determine if the level of satisfaction has improved. It is recommended that you track customer satisfaction year-over-year. By establishing a benchmark and then tracking the changes year after year, utility companies can assess the effect of implementing certain processes on customers over time. GreatBlue Research has nearly four decades of extensive experience working with utility companies. GreatBlue recommends reassessing customer satisfaction on an annual basis through data collection. This method is a valuable way to compare satisfaction levels over time and have the opportunity to improve or maintain customer satisfaction levels.