Effective Safety Communication Strategies Emerge as Critical Area of Focus for Utility Providers
* Between cyber ransomware attacks and an uptick in severe weather with catastrophic consequences, executives in the utility industry are reviewing the efficacy of their communications plans and the effect it can have on customer satisfaction.
* The challenge is further complicated by an evolution of customer expectations that vary among individual age demographics.
By: J.D. Power
The challenge is further complicated by an evolution of customer expectations that vary among individual age demographics. Working across traditional broadcasting, mail, digital and mobile engagement strategies, utility leaders must develop a multi-channel approach to communication initiatives with limited -- and often dwindling -- budgetary resources.
Consequently, utility providers need field-level data to facilitate a better understanding of their customers, as well as their preferred means of digesting information to ensure the safety of their customers while also minimizing risk to equipment, systems, and investments.
To discuss the future of safety communication and the dynamics between the utility industry and its customers, we caught up with Eric Durdov, Managing Director of Utilities Intelligence for J.D. Power and Jim Croce, Client Relationship Director for J.D. Power.
Here is what they had to say:
Q: After an eventful 2020, how would you characterize present communications surrounding safety and the effect on the customer experience as it evolves?
Eric Durdov: The industry has made a long-term commitment to safety. It has been a critical point of focus along with reliability, and affordability. Safety has consistently been a top priority that has never gone out of style.
Residential customers require a basic understanding of what to do when they encounter problems. It is an issue that is gaining more urgency. There has been an uptick in severe weather events countrywide over the past decade. Also, ageing utility infrastructure continues to be a challenge as utilities tackle the backlog of replacement work. These items have increased the chances for the public to find themselves in situations where they are exposed to dangerous and sometimes deadly situations. In short, utilities have been at the forefront of trying to keep their customers -- and workers -- safe.
That said, the channels of communication have evolved tremendously in recent years, along with customer expectations about how and when they want to receive information. It is important for the utilities sector to better understand both customer engagement preferences and the gaps in customer safety knowledge while leveraging these personalized digital channels. From our primary customer research at J.D. Power, we know that safety awareness has a direct impact on customer satisfaction.
Jim Croce: I agree. Beyond the industry's commitment to protecting infrastructure and customers, safety communication is also an issue that is governed by stringent regulatory compliance requirements. The market, however, is moving and evolving at a much faster rate than the regulatory authorities. That is why it is important for the industry to progress beyond basic compliance levels.
On this front there is plenty of room for improvement. The utility sector has limited understanding of the effectiveness of their safety communications and delivery channels in driving awareness and action. More advancements are necessary for the industry to achieve broad customer-level understanding of evolving safety issues and concerns.
The situation is different for other stakeholders. Utilities regularly focus a lot of communication attention on employees, contractors, and first responders. Far less has been allocated to sending effective safety information to the mass market of small- to medium-sized businesses and residential customers.
This is both a challenge and an opportunity for the sector. J.D. Power satisfaction data indicates a strong correlation between customer recall with utility providers' safety communications and overall customer satisfaction ratings with that utility.
To read the remainder of this Q&A session, please visit: