Why proactive customer communication is essential to the future of the utility industry

Interview with Matt Todd, Account Executive at Wiraya

Many companies have been hit by the pandemic and increased churn as a result of poor communication with their existing customers. Taking control of their communication is more vital than ever to retain happy customers. As part of an exciting new concept to share insight and awareness, we will be examining various industries and gaining insights on current trends, industry challenges, and unique perspectives from our amazing Wiraya team. For this month’s exclusive interview, Matt Todd, Account Executive at Wiraya, sat down with us to discuss what he expects for the future of the Utility industry. A trending discussion is how utility brands are able to efficiently communicate with current customers to decrease churn. Matt gave us his advice and perspective on this:

What do you see as driving the future of the Utility industry?

Utility companies pre and post Covid-19 are two different stories. Pre Covid-19, resources and staffing were in abundance and a “if it isn’t broken why fix it” mentality was clear. Post Covid-19, safety, social distancing, remote working where possible, and potential staff shortages will have affected most organisations. This has changed how utilities look to operate in the future.

In my opinion, the Utility industry needs to become more agile.

Digital technology is not new for utility companies, but the way they currently need to work with it is. We’ve seen Precision Customer Communication as something lots of our utility customers shift towards. This means they proactively contact and communicate with at risk customers on scale. As customer service teams are scattered around the UK, moving to digital technology is key. Utilities have to explore opportunities to work differently. Regardless of the current climate, customers expect consistent communication. The CX and CLV are more important now than ever.

What steps can utility companies take to control their communication in order to create a better customer experience and reduce churn?

Carefully managing customer expectations is key. With the majority of people in lockdown, there will have been a higher rate of consumption. The impact of furlough and job losses has had a greater impact on customer churn and revenue losses. Remote working has made staff training and interaction more complicated. The knock on effect is an increase in call waiting times and reduced CX.

To communicate with the customer base is paramount in the utility industry to achieve satisfied customers. A proactive approach is essential, much easier and cheaper than losing customers and reacting to try to and win them back. To acquire a new customer is much more expensive than to keep an existing one. More than five times as much!

Welcome your customers and generate customer loyalty early on by creating an efficient welcoming process. The first 100 days are the most critical for ensuring a happy customer and thereby building long term loyalty, preventing churn later on. This is where automation can support to reduce churn. Many utility companies have started using individually personalised pre-recorded voice calls alongside text messages (SMS) and landing pages. These real time messages give the customer the opportunity to be connected with customer services, either immediately, or at a convenient time for them, stopping unnecessary wait times and reducing strain and stress on these teams as well. To efficiently communicate with current utility customers in such a way can substantially decrease churn.

More and more utility companies are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. What advice would you give brands to help them shift towards sustainable growth in regards to communication?

Embrace the digital technology and be open to change. COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated adoption of these practices, but more can be done.

A recent conversation I had makes me realise there is so much more utilities can do. This will resonate for any company that has a large customer base. For this particular company, generic letters were being sent out for late payment. Just 2 days late I might add. The letter goes off and reaches the customer. More often than not it isn’t because they’re unwilling to pay, rather they’re unaware the withdrawal hasn’t been done. Not only is this a very bad CX, but a waste of resources, money and terrible for the carbon footprint (environment).

Now scale this to an average of 5,000+ letters a week, the impact is huge. Stop chasing the customer incessantly in the same way, sending letter after letter.

Now include other types of customer communication, the numbers spiral. For example, utility suppliers want customers to take action on important information. It could be providing customer data such as KYC (Know Your Customer), missing customer data to get started with a service or renewing. Many suppliers send a letter asking the customer to fill out the missing details. Some diligent customers may fill it out and send back, but many customers do not, often just forgetting.

Wiraya has assisted many utility companies with digital, automated communication, making it easy for the customer to take action immediately on their mobile phone. Companies can save 10’s of 1000’s of wasted letters from being produced with this change. Moving from paper to digital payments greatly reduces their carbon footprint and in addition, improves the CX and CLV whilst massively reducing cost.


If you’re interested to learn more and get industry updates, follow Matt Todd on Linkedin.


Natalie Kolmogorova