Transforming customer experience in utilities

Utility leaders are achieving great customer experiences while driving out costs. Doing so requires customer-experience transformations around self-service and digital channels.

In the second half of 2020, McKinsey conducted a survey of nearly 20,000 residential utility customers, representing 84 utilities in North America. The questions covered recent industry trends as well as respondents’ preferences and thoughts on the performance of electric and gas utility providers. Simply stated, the results highlight the disparity in customer-experience performance among utilities, with top-quartile performers seeing three to four times higher net customer satisfaction than those in the bottom quartile.

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What sets utility leaders apart from their peers is a focus on optimizing customer journeys and satisfaction drivers that matter most. For example, when customers experience an outage, about 50 percent of customer satisfaction is derived from factors within the direct control of that utility’s customer-service organization, including information timeliness, clarity, and ease of access; the other 50 percent focuses on outage frequency and duration.

Customer expectations around digital interactions with utilities continued to accelerate through the COVID-19 pandemic, and digital channels and self-service are key enablers of unlocking higher satisfaction at a lower cost. From 2018 to 2020, utilities that maintained or improved digital satisfaction saw overall customer satisfaction rise by an average of 2 percent, whereas utilities that experienced a decline in customers’ digital satisfaction saw overall customer satisfaction decline by an average of 1 percent.

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