Who Are You?

September 6, 2017By Stephen V. Smith

Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror and asked, “Who are you?” Well, that might be a sign of a midlife crisis — unless you were talking about your utility. “Who are we as an electric distributor or telecommunications provider?” is quite a healthy question to ask yourself as a leader of the company. And you will get the most benefit from this self-reflection exercise if you remember that it doesn’t matter who you think you are, but rather who your customers think you are. Consider these points:

You Are Your Office 
You spend a huge chunk of your life at the office. You’ve seen the place so much that you could probably walk in blindfolded and find your way to your desk with ease. But a greater challenge is looking at your office with fresh eyes — the eyes of your customers. What do they see when they drive into the parking lot? Are they met with a clean, well-maintained building that says “We are a professional company here to serve you,” with signage that makes it easy to understand where they should go to conduct business with you?

What about the inside? Is your branding prominent in the customer service area? Is your lobby comfortable and inviting? Is it obvious to visitors what they should do in order to have their needs met? Does your office look fresh and modern, or more like the set from a 1970’s TV show? Your office plays a big role in the impression your customers have of you.

You Are Your CSRs
From colors and scents to furnishings and décor, there are many ways your office can support a positive customer experience. But the best space in the world will fall short if the employees inhabiting that space are cold and unfriendly.

Just like updating a physical space, your customer service reps need to be refreshed occasionally through training. It’s easy enough to keep them up-to-date on the services you offer. Beyond that, they need to have a general understanding of what is taking place in the company so they can intelligently discuss such issues if a customer has questions.

These are the basics, however. There is something else that’s even more important than job skills: people skills. The way your CSRs treat customers has a huge impact on how people feel about your company. Are they warm? Friendly? Courteous? Do they make customers feel welcome? Do they look for opportunities to help customers with their accounts? These are often the only personalities your customers deal with from your company. Think about the implications of that reality.

You Are Your Linemen/Servicemen
Everything above regarding CSRs can be applied to linemen and other outside workers. These employees may not have as much interaction with customers, but when they do it needs to be positive. They need to have a basic knowledge of what is happening in the company, and be able to answer simple questions about customer service in general. Most of all, they need the same training in people skills as your CSRs. After all, they are the face of your company, too.

Note: This is especially important for the installer/repairman at the telecommunications company who goes inside the homes and businesses of your customers.

You Are Your Trucks
Yes, it may seem like a small thing, but your service trucks and other equipment have an impact on your customers’ perception of you. Do they all have the same logos (the most current one) on their sides? Are they kept relatively clean? Are they in good repair? An old bucket truck rolling down the road covered in dried mud with a faded logo from 20 years ago sends a strong message — and the wrong message — to your customers.

You Are Your Monthly Bill
Regardless of how often a customer reaches out to your company, you reach out to them every single month. The monthly bill is your opportunity to create a positive experience for them. Yes, you are sending them a bill that they have to pay, but it doesn’t have to be a negative interaction. Is your bill accurate? Is it easy to read? Does it anticipate and answer any questions they might ask? Do you take the opportunity to pass along additional information about your utility, to keep them informed of the good things you are doing for the area? Put in the extra effort to make your bill benefit your customers.

You Are Your Service Outage Updates
You pride yourself on system reliability, and rightfully so. But that incredibly high up time makes little difference to the customer who is sitting in the dark or waiting for their internet connection to start working again. They want to know two things: “What is wrong?” and “When will you fix it?” And because we live in a day of instant communication, they expect that information now.

Fortunately, social media provides a powerful tool for delivering excellent customer service during outages. It takes little effort to post occasional updates on Facebook. Was it storm-related? What areas are impacted? Follow up with occasional posts of “We’re down to 300 meters out on the west side of town” or “internet service has been restored to this or that neighborhood,” and you’ll have some happy customers who otherwise would be left in the dark.

You Are Your Communications Program
Do your customers understand the benefits of all the programs you offer? Do they know how to increase the energy efficiency of their homes, or to choose the right internet speed? Do they know about the many ways you support the community beyond providing service? Are they aware of payment options and other programs that would make it easier for them to do business with you?

They don’t know if you aren’t telling them.

Communications is not something you do once a year and check off your list. The flow of information between you and your customers has a tremendous impact on their opinion and perception of you. Are you investing in a strategic program (time, personnel and money) to build and maintain connections with your customers? It will pay huge dividends long-term.

So Who Are You?
Use this list to conduct a “Who am I?” audit. Commission a customer satisfaction survey. Create some benchmarks. And start making those changes that will help your company look in the mirror and say “Who am I? I am the best provider our customers could ever ask for.”

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