I was amazed to realize how many times my credit card company contacts me each month. I was more amazed by the number of ways they did it, and by the fact that it never really bothers me. They weren’t harassing me, they were helping me. And they were doing it from every direction.
There’s always been my regular bill, with the various inserts. Yet as I wince at the statement, I realize I’ve earned double miles toward my next purchase of airline tickets, clothes, electronics ... things “retail” (for more on how this matters to utilities, see our U-Blog on loyalty programs). Now I get my bill via e-mail, which makes my life easier. The inserts are banners with links to more products and services, all for me.
Next is the vacation travel e-mail, which I often get around summer time, offering luxury vacations that somehow always seem to be places I want to go. Then I got an offer for rental car insurance coverage, making that part of travel more convenient and less expensive for someone who has to pick up the phone book to remember where he is.
Finally, there was the latest offer telling me that, yes in fact, they would fully reimburse me up to 90 days after most retail purchases were they lost, stolen, or damaged since that was part of my relationship with them. Needless to say, I am a big fan, and yet over the course of a single month they have contacted me one, two, three .... well, a lot. Whether it’s e-mail, phone or a letter, each time it’s worth my while to engage.
Now turn the dial to utilities. We talk live with our customers an average of nine minutes per year, and that’s usually about something that is unpleasant (outage, moving house, bill or payment issues). Yet utilities have a pipe into the home of every consumer out there, literally, and we may still be too low on consumers’ radars.
Maybe it’s time to rock the boat a little. How many ways, and for how many things, can I contact my customers to add value to the things that matter to them ... saving money, getting new goods and services, protecting themselves from unforeseen events, helping the planet? These are all consumer interests, some on an emotional level, that other retail companies help satisfy ... why should utilities be any different? Maybe if we did more of that, consumers would pay more attention to us. Maybe they would trust and respond more, feeling we have their best interest at heart.
We’ve got a way to go!