4 Ways Utility Fleets Can Increase Customer Satisfaction
- Blog Author: Wayne Fee
For utility companies, customer satisfaction has always been difficult. The reality is that sooner or later, outages will happen, usually at no fault of your company. The amount of unexpected outages caused by natural disasters, weather events, fallen trees, and road conditions are far greater than scheduled outages for repairs and maintenance.
Although utility companies have worked to improve their customer service in recent years, they still have some of the lowest customer service rates, even lower than airline companies and auto insurance companies. Common complaints include technicians showing up late for jobs, or not showing up at all, difficulty paying bills, and poor customer service overall.
Customer Satisfaction Declines in Energy Utilities Sector
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Energy Utilities Report 2018-2019, customer satisfaction in the energy utilities sector has declined. Higher prices and extreme weather events are responsible for this utilities sector drop in customer satisfaction.
To remain competitive in this extremely competitive, low-margin industry, it is important to level up your customer service reputation. While you cannot control unplanned outages, you can control how quickly and efficiently your technicians can get to them. Consistently delivering prompt service is key to improved customer satisfaction for utilities companies. It's crucial to restore service promptly to keep them happy and safe.
Here are 4 things you can do to improve your utility customer satisfaction.
Quickly Dispatch Drivers with Real-Time GPS
To your customers, time is the most important thing when responding to an outage. Quick response time and top-notch customer service are the two things that can save you.
Unexpected outages are not only an inconvenience to your customers, they can also be hazardous to their health. The longer the outage lasts, the higher the risk to their safety. Protracted power outages can prevent access to medical equipment, safe drinking water, and emergency services, while downed live power lines can spark fires.
A quick response to an emergency outage can improve your customer satisfaction reputation in a heartbeat. Your customers will appreciate the rapid restoration of their service. To quickly dispatch technicians to restore unplanned outages, you need to have visibility into the locations of your fleet's vehicles.
Utilities fleet management software with real-time GPS tracking can give you live data on your fleet vehicles' location. If an alert for an unplanned power outage comes in, you can use real-time data to get insight into which vehicle is closest and quickly dispatch the technician to restore service to your customers.
A MiX Telematics solution offers additional real-time insights with GPS tracking. You can monitor journeys from beginning to end. You can communicate with your drivers in real-time, giving them turn-by-turn directions when you send them to jobs that are hard to find. In an industry where customer satisfaction is tied to technician response time, GPS tracking can significantly reduce the time it takes to restore your customers' service and keep them happy and satisfied.
Keep Your Fleet Running with Preventive and Predictive Maintenance
Utility companies' customer satisfaction is key to retaining and attracting new business. In fact, 82% of customers have abandoned a company due to bad customer service, and 70% of unhappy customers will stay with a company if their issues are quickly resolved.
Utility company customer service relies mainly on speed—how fast can you get to an outage and get power back for your customers. You can improve how fast and efficiently you respond to your customers by keeping your vehicles in tip-top shape.
A vehicle that breaks down costs you time, money, and customer satisfaction. If your vehicles regularly breakdown, they are either dead on the road or stuck in the shop, neither of which helps your customers when an emergency outage occurs. By regularly scheduling maintenance for your vehicles, your fleet will be reliably ready to go at all times.
Installing telematics software is one of the best ways to make sure fleet vehicles are properly maintained. You can automate the process by setting alerts based on parameters you choose so that you can schedule your vehicle's maintenance at your convenience. When telematics devices are hooked up to your fleet vehicles' engines, they can alert you about emerging problems that need to be addressed before a breakdown happens. For example, if a battery voltage drops below a predetermined parameter.
You'll know when a vehicle will be out of service and can schedule your other vehicles around it. This way, you won't have to worry as much about vehicles breaking down unexpectedly and delaying your technicians on their way to a job. In addition, you'll feel more confident about sending any vehicle from your fleet to an outage site, since you know they will arrive quickly and restore power to your customers.
A regular maintenance schedule also helps prevent a string of faults from happening, since often wear and tear on one engine part can cause unexpected damage to another engine part. Telematics software can keep track of all the engine's parameters, such as fuel consumption and engine hours, commonly used to schedule maintenance. You can also get an alert that reminds you to schedule maintenance or lets you know that maintenance is needed even if it is not its regularly scheduled time.
By using engine diagnostic metrics to schedule maintenance, you avoid unnecessary maintenance on your vehicles. For example, if you schedule oil changes for your vehicles every three months, whether they need it or not, lightly used vehicles may be over maintained while more heavily used ones will not be serviced enough. This leads to vehicles pulled off the road for unneeded service and others not getting the service they need and possibly breaking down. Neither of these instances is good for your customer service reputation.
Another customer service benefit of keeping your vehicles well-maintained is the level of care and professionalism they project. They'll feel confident in your service when your technicians and your fleet vehicles leave a good impression.
Reassure Customers with Real-Time Service Updates
Unplanned utility service outages can be annoying at best, disruptive and dangerous at worst, and always concerning and scary to customers, even more so during natural disasters and other emergencies. During snowstorms, hurricanes, and earthquakes, customers can be not only in the dark, which is bad enough but also without heat. They may have no access to water or power and will want or need to have access to these necessities as soon as possible.
Your customers are counting on you to restore service to their business. They face the possibility of losing thousands of dollars in lost productivity and downtime with no information on when they will have power again. During unexpected power outages, utility customers can spend an average of two to four hours without power. Giving your customers visibility to know when to expect your technicians can help reduce their stress levels.
With GPS tracking, you know where your technicians are, and you can alert your customers about when to expect them or if there is a delay. By communicating honestly with your customers during unexpected outages, you show them that you are dedicated to offering them reliable service, even in an emergency or unforeseen situation.
Live, Caring Customer Service Representatives
Customers want to know you care, and even in the age of advanced telematics, they often want a human touch. Dealing with robotic and uncaring phone operators or touch-tone systems works for some customers, but others often become frustrated with the inability to talk to someone who cares. Make sure there are several ways your customers can reach you, and that they are clearly visible on your website, bills, and any written documentation. When your customers know they can easily contact you, they feel like you care about them, which increases their satisfaction with your service.
By installing telematics solutions that help you with quick dispatching, preventative maintenance, and real-time communication--when paired with excellent customer service representatives, you can increase your customer satisfaction.
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