A Guest Blog by Adam Firbank of British Gas

Over the past several weeks, we have seen the sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine impact the energy market. Compounding already high wholesale energy prices, energy companies are asking the following question: How can we deliver a meaningful customer experience during uncertain times?

Agility is required to keep customers informed.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, this new challenge of increased wholesale energy prices continues to impact how energy companies manage customers to maintain profitability. Many organisations have had to make significant changes to the way they operate in order to adapt to, or even survive, changing market conditions. The organisations that have maintained an agile culture with a focus on customer-centricity are in a better place, because they carry the capabilities needed to react quickly and efficiently to the unpredictable environment we find ourselves in.

And those that have established customer experience strategies and have mapped their customer journeys are much more likely to succeed. Being able to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and communicate change to customers in their channel of choice, with the right level of information, and at the right time is crucial in delivering a great customer experience.

Don’t use the unstable market conditions as an excuse for delivering poor customer experiences!

Humanising digital experiences.

The pandemic forced organisations to expedite digital transformation so that they could continue to offer products and services to customers. This latest issue of rising energy prices reinforces the need to truly understand your customers. But a fully digitised experience in place of traditional communication routes involves more than simply digitising paper or verbal processes.

Humanising customer experiences starts with developing a true and deep understanding of the emotions of your customers and employees. Engaging employees and gaining feedback is as crucial as customer-centricity in developing enduring customer experiences.

Customers are willing to self-serve through digital channels if their needs are simple and easy to meet without human interaction, e.g. updating personal details, because digital journeys allow them to transact or interact with organisations 24/7. Customers rarely interact with organisations in one channel and more emotive customer need states require a hybrid approach. 

Changing demographics and lifestyles have led to the emergence of a new type of customer – one that's more tech-savvy, more demanding, less tolerant, and very well-informed, which has made omnichannel personalised journeys a marketer’s holy grail. Knowing where to surface human contact within complex digital journeys is key, particularly when operating within current market conditions and working to protect customers and manage fuel scarcity.

The importance of customer journey mapping.

A journey map is a good way to identify the moments of truth that will have significant impact on the customer experience. It’s not enough for organisations to ask their employees to pretend to be in the customer’s shoes. This will only get you a pretend customer experience, to paraphrase Jim Tincher, Heart of the Customer.

Analysis has shown that customers judge organisations on a cumulative set of experiences across all touchpoints, with twelve positive experiences required to negate one negative experience. This makes mapping and understanding customer journeys across all channels the single most important tool in an organisation’s arsenal.

Understanding how customers interact with your organisation and adding key metrics to journey maps to track customer flow across channels helps drive key decision making, particularly the ability to react to increased prices to customers and communicate these changes effectively.

Data is king!

Data is an integral component of all customer journeys and must be carefully planned and considered from the outset of journey design or journey improvements. What data do you need to drive campaigns or start the journey? At which point of the journey do you capture more details from the customer to drive more personalised interactions and offers? 

And most importantly, how do you get customers to provide you with their data?

The answer is trust.

The more personal customer data organisations have and the more empathetic they make their journeys, the more relevant their customer offerings will be and the better the customer experience – this is the value exchange. Understanding the dynamics of the value exchange is critical in designing and developing a fulfilling customer journey.

Research carried out by YouGov at the end of 2020 showed very interesting results. 78% of customers are frustrated by irrelevant marketing and communications, and 66% are frustrated to receive communications for products/services that they have already purchased.

But, 46% of consumers are willing to hand over personal data in exchange for relevant personalisation. Age is a factor in sharing personal data: Consumers aged 18-24 are twice as likely to share personal data for relevant personalised communication and offers in comparison to those in the 55+ age range, as it saves time shopping and comparing.

And finally, don’t see technology as the solution. See it as an enabler.

Too many organisations tend to jump at the latest technology trends as the solution to all their customer experience problems or a way to make instant improvements to customer journeys (if they have them), but the reality is far from this. 

Organisations must recognise that technology is an enabler, not the solution, and that people are still key. A good customer experience strategy is more than just being able to map the journeys, automate digital transactions, and manage customer data. The most effective way to humanise the customer experience is by personalising services and valuing employees' emotions and experiences.

Guest writer biography:

Adam Firbank, British Gas

Adam Firbank - Communications Experience Manager, British Gas
Adam is a strategic marketer, specialising in marketing systems and integration, with over 25 years’ experience across several sectors, including: utilities, pharmaceutical, construction, and waste. His rise within the field of CXM to become a respected ‘go-to’ expert for analysts stems from the knowledge and experience gained using data to drive fact-based marketing decisioning.

Joining British Gas at the start of 2015, Adam has been establishing customer journey mapping as a way to link offline and online channels with operational processes and data orchestration, enabling British Gas to restructure their operations with a focus on the customer.  

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