Gas, electricity, and water bills are known to be a pain point for consumers. But it’s also a huge pain point for utility companies managing all the billing, customer communications, record-keeping, and compliance processes. They have to ensure smooth customer support and automate billing to offer customer service that meets expectations and regulatory demands.
Therefore, we want to dedicate this article to utility companies. If you are about to join this industry or looking to digitally transform your current customer communications management, our tips will help you.
Inkit has collected top questions asked by utilities that need to optimize their customer communications management. You will learn what communications utilities need to send, how long they have to keep records, how they optimize customer communications management, and more.
#1. What Communications Are Sent by Utilities?
Monthly bills are the primary type of customer communications in utilities. These are electric, natural gas, water, and waste bills that charge customers for consumed resources. Most utility bills are delivered every 30 days and must be paid shortly. Today utilities can provide bills both online and offline depending on the customer preferences. In addition, utilities send responses to consumers’ claims and requests, audit documentation, inspection records, etc.
Some utility companies also send marketing materials. Their marketing teams leverage digital and offline communications channels to attract more customers. 33% of utility consumers are ready to switch services if the customer experience is lacking. Hence, customer engagement, retention, and loyalty campaigns have their place in the utility industry.
#2. Why Do Utility Companies Need to Keep Records of Communications?
First of all, record retention is required by law. It’s not a free choice of utility companies, and they can get considerable fines for violations. Yet, apart from regulatory compliance, utilities can benefit from record-keeping in many other ways. Document retention helps them minimize litigation risk, support better decision-making within an organization, and make services more transparent. If a customer registers an unlawful claim against a utility company, the retained communications will allow the latter to protect their interests.
#3. How Long Do Utility Companies Keep Records?
Different rules work for different kinds of utility communications:
- Customers' service applications and contracts must be retained for four years after expiration.
- Copies of tax returns filed with taxing authorities must be kept for two years after the final tax liability is specified.
- Utility bills are stored for a year.
In most cases, utility companies develop a regulatory compliant schedule that manages document retention and destruction. To learn more about the timelines for public utilities, natural gas, and oil pipeline companies, visit this page.
Note that it’s also recommended to store copies of casual customer communications like emails. They will serve as a knowledge base to provide better customer service and enhance the quality of customer communications.
#4. What Software Helps Utilities Automate Customer Communications and Record-Keeping?
To automatically retain and deliver communications, utilities need customer communications management (CCM) software. Such client communication platforms create personalized documents or communications and send them to people through different channels. In the case of utilities, these will be either email or direct mail. The utility servicing teams that support apps can also use customer communications management systems to display pop-ups or in-app messages. All the delivered messages and documents are automatically stored in the CCM system for record-keeping.
The work of CCM software is trigger-based and depends on how a customer interacts with a utility. It means that the documents are automatically delivered once a specific event or action happens. For example, if the billing date approaches or a customer has forgotten to pay the previous utility bill.
#5. Why Do Utilities Need to Use Customer Communications Management Software?
A client communication platform is essential for digital transformation in utilities. It allows utility companies to change their business model and make customers’ interests the focal point. Real-time consumer activities automatically trigger the client communication platform to provide the necessary type of interaction, be it a follow-up email or a live chat. Hence, improved customer experiences are the first reason to adopt customer communications management software in the utility industry. Here are some other measurable benefits of client communications platforms:
- Compliance with utility billing deadlines and regulations;
- Automated record-keeping throughout the customer journey;
- Trigger-based customer communications for personalized marketing;
- Quality multi-channel customer support;
- Holistics view on all customer communications and delivered documents;
- Better connected team members within a utility company;
- Reduced data siloing;
- Optimized work of employees thanks to automated manual processes;
- Security of credit card data and other personal details thanks to automated processing.
#6. What Are the Must-Have Features of CCM Solutions?
If you adopt a client communication platform, research the functionality of several tools before choosing. A customer communications management solution must include the following features:
- Document conversion. Customer communication management platforms extract unstructured data from other tools (e.g., CRM system or ERP software). Since the source information may have different formats, it’s essential to integrate and standardize it.
- Data scrubbing. Not all information that ends up in the customer communications management software is appropriately formatted and correct. Therefore, you should pick a client communication platform that can correct duplicated, incorrect, or incomplete data.
- Automated document generation. To create custom documents based on triggers, you need a client communication platform that supports automated document rendering. It will automatically create and store personalized communications for utilities.
In addition to the listed capabilities, it would be great to have automated address verification and offline delivery. Since many consumers still prefer to receive utility bills and documents by mail, utilities need to cover all the communication channels.
#7. How to Integrate Customer Communications Management Software (Web and API)?
Customer communications management solutions fall into two types: web- and API-based. The integration process varies depending on the software you choose.
To integrate a web client communication platform, you will need to:
- Sign up for the tool.
- Connect the software to the currently used CRM platform or alternative solution through a built-in integration.
- Configure the workflow to align customer communications management processes.
To layer customer communications management capabilities into your existing systems through an API, you will need to:
- Sign up for the tool.
- Retrieve the API key.
- Copy and paste the snippet of the API into the coding environment.
- Run the snippet and continue with configurations.
Note that API customer communication tools are recommended for companies that want to make utility document delivery one of their system’s features. API is a shortcut used instead of custom software development.
Inkit for Customer Communications Management in Utilities
Inkit is a reach enablement platform (REP) with document rendering, management, and delivery capabilities for utility companies.
Whereas Inkit’s Render automatically generates PDF documents and stores them in the system for record-keeping, Send initiates printing and delivery. This simplifies utility billing and customer communications management for utility companies. The Verify product additionally enhances the quality of customer interactions through address verification. It automatically cleans, formats, and validates customers’ contact information for accurate delivery.
Want to learn more about Inkit or test it? Contact us to get the demo.