Tell me that I have to do something, and I’ll object.
Tell me what’s in it for me, and I’ll listen.
Central Maine Power began installing digital smart meters last fall. It gave customers the right to “opt out” of the meter upgrade. Many did. But now CMP is being publicly criticized for bullying its customers into upgrading their electric meters.
So while CMP continues with the meter upgrade program, it also has to fix its reputation, and improve customer relationships.
What could CMP have done differently, to avoid this highly-charged situation? For starters, they could have more closely followed three basic customer relationship management practices:
- Educate your customers on the benefits and value.
- Offer incentives.
- Capture , manage and use customer information.
What do we mean?
Tell the customer What's in it for Them.
When you want to get your customers to do something, you need to help them understand why it’s a good thing… for them. While CMP did publicize the benefits of smart meters, the public education process didn’t seem thorough enough; they put a greater emphasis on sticking to the installation timeline, regardless of what their customers understood about the program. The customer wasn’t at the center of CMP’s agenda – the meters were first; the customers were second. In the private sector, when a company loses customer focus, they lose customers. In the public sector you’ll lose your reputation. Always consider decisions from the customers’ point of view, regardless of your sector.
Time Warner Cable prefers to have its customers pay their bills on line, instead of pay-by-phone. To influence customers to pay on line, they offer a three-dollar savings. Had CMP done a better gotten a little creative, and structure an incentive based on their cost savings, they’d face less resistance. If there’re financial savings and advantages for you, get creative, and figure out a way to create a concrete incentive for your customers to receive some immediate value.
Capture, organize and act on customer information.
CMP gave customers the right to opt out. Over 2,000 customers did. But many of them continued to receive letters, and visits from installers to change their meters. Customer preferences should be captured in a customer information system, then used to separate your customers into different groups, so they can be treated differently, based on their preferences. Not doing this is poor information management, and worse, poor customer management.
Whether you’re a public sector organization delivering services to its citizens, a utility delivering power to those people, or a private sector company selling products into a competitive market, it’s critical to educate your clientele on the value you deliver, make it attractive to your consumer and properly manage customer information. Doing these things will improve the quality of the relationships, and the benefits that both parties receive.
Thanks to "Long Islander" for this photo, with its subtle green undertones.