Nearly 1 in 3 homes have a smart meter collecting data as frequently as every 5-15 minutes. Yet, your average utility customer may have no idea that smart meters even exist, much less how they can access this data, or how the data can be utilized to save money and energy. Utilities can capitalize on their investments in smart meters by using the data they collect to give customers a streamlined, useable view of that information in a customer portal. This equips consumers with a comprehensive plan to act to lower their bills and save resources and moves utilities along a path to become their customers’ trusted energy advisors.
Customer portals are integral to any customer engagement solution for utilities and essential to improving customer self-service and satisfaction. Customer portals consist of many beneficial features that provide consumers and utilities with a vast amount of data that will strengthen their relationships and educate beyond just the consumer-facing side of the portal.
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Personalization is a must
Utilities must adapt to meet customers’ changing expectations for services tailored to their needs. Consumers now want to feel like they’re individuals and are expecting the utility to be their trusted energy advisor. This requires a more personalized experience that helps to educate consumers on the solutions that best fit their needs. An efficient customer portal provides personalization through an omnichannel experience that offers tips, targeted messaging through segmentation, and data that is relevant to the individual customer.
Self-service and customer service go hand-in-hand
Consumers today expect to have access to their utility information 24/7. Customers want to view and compare bills, access account information and examine consumption habits at their convenience. A consumer portal meets their demands for self-service and creates a more satisfied customer, while simultaneously reducing the call center volume – and associated operating costs.
Customer portals should also make it easier for CSRs to help their customers by showing the CSRs exactly what the customer sees while viewing the portal. This cuts down on call time, reduces IT costs and increases the likelihood that the customer’s questions will be resolved in a timely and correct manner.
Education is key
A modern customer portal offers more than a space for the consumer to interact with their utility but also acts as an education tool. One of the main goals of a customer portal is to get the consumer to implement energy efficiency or demand-side management measures, and a good customer portal provides that.
Customer portals educate by providing targeted messaging and robust analytics. These should be based on customers’ actual consumption and individual profiles and presented in easy to read visuals such as charts and graphs. Tips and recommendations that are personalized to the consumer are other educational tools that drive the adoption of energy savings technologies.
What to look for in a platform
Two crucial elements of a software platform are necessary for the development of a portal that is configurable to the requirements of utilities of any size. These elements – widgets and application programming interfaces (APIs) – allow for personalization and customization.
1: Widgets are standalone applications that are embedded in portals and usually perform one simple function. Widgets are used in portals, for example,to present billing information, charts and graphs, home profiles, savings plans, and tips and recommendations. By breaking down the data into streamlined visuals, consumers can easily understand their consumption habits and make informed decisions.
2: APIs are independent interfaces that allow two separate software applications to communicate with each other. A good API will effectively use small bits of code to make often repeated yet complex processes highly reusable. A robust set of APIs is necessary in a consumer engagement platform to ensure that utilities can easily integrate third-party applications to the portal including analytics, customer relationship management, billing, and outage management solutions.
The Aclara ACE® customer portal was developed to embody the benefits of the modern customer portal, using APIs and widgets to provide the information customers need to make decisions about their energy and water use, conservation efforts, and more. To learn more, sign up for a free consultation.