In 2020, US electric utilities saw remarkable gains in customer loyalty: Net Promoter ScoresSM—a measure of customer sentiment for a provider—were up 10 points on average compared with 2019.
Although this boost in customer sentiment is certainly a triumph, it’s likely a result of temporary Covid-19 policies. A close analysis of customer episodes—the discrete actions a customer takes to satisfy a specific need—reveals that the interactions most likely to annoy customers were less frequent during the pandemic. Due to moratoriums, the volume of frustrating “reconnect service after late payments” and “need more time or help to pay my bill” episodes declined substantially, elevating overall customer satisfaction. But as companies repeal payment forgiveness, service disconnects and requests for payment arrangements will increase, posing a significant threat to the customer experience and adding downward pressure on overall Net Promoter Scores.
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How can utilities preserve the moratorium’s halo effect on customer loyalty scores? It starts with understanding the customer experience at the episode level. By going deeper than overall relationship measurement, executives can determine where to invest in improvements.
Looking at NPS PrismSM data across 19 episodes, we uncovered what matters to customers most within each episode. For example, when getting help to pay a bill, customers want proactive communication, consistent and knowledgeable representatives, and first contact resolution. Similarly, when reconnecting their service after late payments, customers want advance notice of disconnects, clear information on next steps, on-time arrival of technicians, and quick reconnections. Utilities that focus on these aspects of the customer experience will have the best chance of maintaining customer loyalty beyond pandemic-related policies.
Net Promoter Score℠, Net Promoter System℠, and NPS Prism℠ are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. Net Promoter®, NPS®, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.