Winter storms can be a beautiful yet treacherous force of nature, capable of causing widespread disruption and damage to power infrastructure. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a surge in the frequency and intensity of winter storms, leaving utilities companies with the formidable task of ensuring that their customers remain connected and informed even when the lights go out. How does modern customer preference management play a pivotal role in enhancing winter storm resilience for utilities, specifically those in the mid-market.
The Impact of Winter Storms on Utilities
The power grid is the backbone of modern society, and when a winter storm strikes, it can leave communities in the dark, disrupt essential services, and even endanger lives. Numerous examples, over the recent years, underscore the devastating impact of winter storms on utilities:
In 2021, Winter Storm Uri wreaked havoc across the Southern United States, resulting in widespread power outages and disrupted water supplies. Many residents found themselves ill-prepared to face the extreme cold and prolonged power losses.
How Preference Management Could Have Helped
Preference management could have been a game-changer during Winter Storm Uri. Residents, especially those who are vulnerable, could have pre-set their communication preferences, ensuring that utility providers reached them through their chosen channels. For instance, elderly customers might have preferred receiving automated phone calls with safety instructions, while younger individuals might have opted for text messages or app notifications. Such tailored communications could have increased preparedness, reduced anxiety, and improved the overall response to this challenging storm.
These examples demonstrate how preference management can make a significant difference during winter storms by delivering personalized, timely, and relevant information to utility customers, ultimately enhancing their experience and safety.
The Importance of Customer Communication
During these and many other energy emergency events, effective customer communication is critical. Utility providers must keep customers informed about the status of power restoration efforts, safety precautions, and service interruptions. However, communicating effectively during a crisis is no small feat, and this is where preference management becomes a valuable tool.
Preference Management: Putting Customers in Control
Modern customers expect to have a say in how they receive communications from utility providers. Preference management centers are the key to empowering customers and enhancing their experience. These centers allow customers to manage their communication preferences, including channels, frequency, and content, giving them greater control over how they stay informed during a crisis.
Enterprise Preference Management (EPM) is the practice of systematically collecting, managing, and utilizing explicit customer preferences about communication in all interactions. This approach allows utility providers to tailor their messages to individual customer needs, fostering a more personalized and engaging experience.
The Benefits of Customer-Centric Preference Management
Customer-centric utility providers that prioritize preference management enjoy several benefits, including:
- Enhanced Trust: By giving customers control over how they receive communications, trust is fostered. Customers feel respected and valued when their preferences are considered.
- Improved Satisfaction: When customers receive communications in their preferred manner, they are more likely to be satisfied with the utility provider’s services, even during challenging times like winter storms.
- Personalized Experiences: Tailoring messages based on customer preferences can lead to more meaningful and effective interactions. For example, a customer who prefers text messages may receive outage updates via SMS, while another who prefers email can stay informed through that channel.
- Higher Engagement: Engaged customers are more likely to respond to safety alerts and take necessary precautions during a storm, ultimately leading to better outcomes for both the customer and the utility provider.
Personalized communication is a cornerstone of effective preference management. Tailoring messages to customer preferences fosters more meaningful interactions during challenging situations like winter storms. For instance, customers who prefer text messages can receive outage updates via SMS, while others who favor email can stay informed through that channel. However, another vital aspect of preference management is delivering communication in the customer’s preferred language, which offers numerous benefits:
- Inclusivity: Providing information in the customer’s preferred language ensures that all customers, regardless of their linguistic background, can access crucial information during a crisis.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Addressing language preferences respects diverse cultural backgrounds and nurtures a sense of belonging.
- Effective Understanding: Preferred language communication minimizes misunderstandings and misinterpretations, enabling customers to respond appropriately during emergencies.
- Compliance and Legal Requirements: Meeting language-related legal requirements ensures compliance and avoids potential legal issues.
- Customer Engagement and Trust: Offering communications in the customer’s preferred language enhances engagement and trust, fostering a positive relationship.
- Emergency Response: Language barriers can impede emergency response efforts, making language preference integration crucial during crises like winter storms.
By combining communication channel and language preferences, utility providers offer a more comprehensive and inclusive service, recognizing the uniqueness of each customer’s needs.
Three Pillars of Preference Management
To effectively engage and retain customers while promoting awareness and program enrollment during winter storms, utility providers should adhere to the following three pillars of preference management:
- A Customer-Obsessed Mindset: Respect customer privacy, collect only relevant information, and design a user-friendly experience that limits the number of preference questions.
- A Preference-Driven Customer Data Strategy: Integrate customer preference data with organizational data to deliver personalized experiences and connect customer interests across touchpoints.
- User-Friendly Preference Centers: Create a seamless user experience that employs progressive profiling to build a relationship with customers over time, enhancing their control and satisfaction.
Message Broadcast: A Solution for Modern Utility Providers
With our decades of domain expertise and cutting-edge omnichannel messaging platform, we empower utilities to enhance customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.
Our suite of solutions goes beyond expectations, offering customer engagement, self-service capabilities, acquisition, retention, and conversion across all communication channels, including SMS, MMS, RCS, Voice, Push, Email, and Social These solutions enable utility providers to send real-time, contextually relevant communications to the right individuals over the optimal channels at precisely the right moment, reducing customer effort and improving the overall experience.
Privacy and compliance are at the core of Message Broadcast’s approach, ensuring that customer data is secure and communications adhere to industry and federal regulatory frameworks. Their commitment to security and integrity reinforces trust and compliance with the highest standards in the industry.
The utilities sector faces the growing challenge of dealing with more frequent and severe winter storms. Modern customer preference management is a powerful tool that empowers customers and enhances their experience during these crises. By allowing customers to manage their communication preferences and tailoring messages to their needs, utility providers can foster trust, improve satisfaction, and ensure better outcomes for both customers and the company. As we’ve seen from real-life examples, effective customer communication during winter storms is crucial, and preference management is the key to achieving this goal. Message Broadcast’s suite of solutions can help utilities on this journey, ensuring that they are well-prepared and responsive when the lights go out.