Utility customers, like consumers in every sector, are constantly bombarded with offers and information. Understandably, they won’t participate unless the messaging resonates, and their experience is smooth and easy. That’s why it’s vital that programs and marketing plans are carefully designed to be relevant and friction-free for the customer, with no hiccups or sticking points that could shut down engagement.
A powerful way to ensure that customers’ experiences are exceptional, and thereby boost engagement and business performance, is to analyze every step of the customer journey, with the aim of identifying, eliminating or reducing pain points.
Customer journey mapping is a growing trend in the utility space, with an estimated 34% of North American utilities now using the technique. And with good reason: a 2016 report suggests that focusing on the customer journey in this way can lead to a 50% greater return on marketing investment, around 25% more positive social media mentions and 250% higher revenue from customer referrals.
Yet despite this, 55% of marketers are not confident in their company’s understanding of the customer journey—and many feel their organization still hasn’t managed to achieve a single view of the customer through journey mapping.
What is the customer journey?
The customer journey, or lifecycle, is the complete story of a typical customer’s end-to-end experience with your company—from first awareness of your services to adoption of your product or service to (ideally) complete loyalty to your brand.
For modern consumers, the path to purchasing and using products and services is more nuanced than ever. But we can nevertheless identify key steps along the way, which allow us to understand their journey and look for opportunities to improve their experience. In a nutshell, these steps are awareness, consideration, decision and loyalty. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Step 1: Awareness
Awareness is the first step within the pre-service phase. It’s when a potential customer first becomes aware that they have a problem to solve.
From a marketing standpoint, priming the market will help customers recognize a need before they experience the actual pain point while making them aware of potential solutions and services.
February utility bills, for example, are almost always high. So, you can begin making customers aware of this potential pain point by showing them how to reduce bills during the first cold snap in November.
It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when a potential customer experiences first contact with your business (a website, a Google search, meeting your representative at a community event, a mailing, social media post, or a TV commercial). It’s often tricky even for customers themselves to recognize the moment. But it’s important to track these touch points—and, crucially, your customer’s experience of them—so that you can identify which of your marketing efforts are proving most effective and opportunities for improvement.
Step 2: Consideration
During consideration, which marketers call the “lead conversion,” a contact becomes a lead. For example, a customer interested in reducing their utility costs might download a lighting selection guide from the utility website.
At this step, targeted nurture messaging at just the right frequency that offers plenty of value can turn someone who is simply aware of their needs into a potential program participant. The lead engages, considers your offering, and compares it with similar services or products.
Once again, it’s vital to monitor these interactions, to gauge if your approach is too aggressive, or doesn’t hold the customer’s attention—or indeed if the customer simply feels neglected—to improve future performance.
Step 3: Decision
This is where you incite action—the lead commits to scheduling a home energy audit or adds lighting items to their online store cart, for example, signaling they’re ready to engage in your program offering. Conversion, or close rate (the percentage of leads that turn into customers) is an important marketing metric for measuring success at this stage.
The customer experience here is key. It’s vital to make the appointment scheduling and payment process, for example, as painless as possible, to ensure the customer feels they’ve bought into a relationship, not just a service or product.
Scheduling the appointment or adding a product to a cart doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve won the customer. They could easily cancel their appointment or abandon their cart. And even if they do move forward with that initial appointment or sale, that doesn’t mean they’ll participate beyond the free direct install products provided in their energy audit or order more items from the online store.
In today’s world, there are a lot of options out there, and it’s easier than ever for customers to switch suppliers or convert to solar power. This is why it’s important to form a strong partnership with each customer.
Step 4: Loyalty
By now, the customer is not only satisfied with your product, but has also become a delighted brand ambassador, singing your praises in online reviews and testimonials. The social proof your loyal customers provide is extremely valuable when it comes to attracting more customers.
Retention is all about solidifying that relationship, by providing guidance about other relevant programs or even installation support with the new product, plus ongoing outreach and engagement. This could potentially (but not necessarily) include upselling and cross-selling. Retention is solidified once the customer participates more deeply and broadly in your available programs, making the utility an integral part of their life.
For more information on meeting your customers wherever they are in their journey, download our free ebook, The Importance of Journey Building in Program Design.
Customer Journey Mapping as a Marketing Strategy: How Nicor Gas transformed its energy efficiency program’s marketing strategy by getting in its customers shoes, Meena Beyers, Nicor Gas, Naperville, Illinois
Customer Journey Mapping: A Real-Life Approach to Your Digital Marketing Strategy, Lionbridge (2017) http://content.lionbridge.com/customer-journey-mapping-a-real-life-approach-to-your-digital-marketing-strategy/
Digital Marketing Strategist
Marketing is always evolving, but Megan Nyquist knows how to stay one step ahead. As an expert in both digital marketing strategy and digital campaign development, she works closely with clients and program marketing staff to develop innovative digital marketing campaigns that improve results and reduce costs. Megan also leads digital marketing training for the Franklin Energy marketing team and our clients. She has achieved trackable customer engagement in our own corporate marketing and effected impressive improvements in satisfaction and participation on behalf of our utility clients. Megan holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Marquette University, extensive digital marketing certifications and has won multiple digital marketing awards on behalf of Franklin Energy and our clients.