When I first moved out of my parents’ house, I knew nothing about housing or utilities.
I had to start subscriptions for water, gas, and electricity, but the hardest one was somehow the internet subscription.
I was so poorly onboarded that it took me 2 weeks to realize I didn’t need an add-on for wi-fi.
The router at my parents’ house was a pretty old one, and we needed a new modem setup to start using wireless internet. I simply didn’t know, and no one told me.
Be it your electricity subscription, heating, rent payment system, any utility service, or a different industry altogether: if the onboarding is bad, you can’t quite use it to the fullest.
So today, let’s look at how you can do better at customer onboarding than your average utility services provider and go over:
- What customer onboarding in utilities is,
- Why a good customer onboarding process matters,
- Some utilities customer onboarding examples, and
- How you can start out with a better onboarding experience in utility services
What Is Customer Onboarding in Utilities?
Customer onboarding in utility services is a customer onboarding experience for clients of utility services and can take many forms depending on the different types of utility services provided. Often, the customer expectations about the utilities onboarding process entail an introduction to identity checks due to regulatory requirements, customer accounts, payment types, and how customer communications work. Still, due to the digital transformation in utilities, different utility companies can offer different customer experiences throughout the customer journey.
Though the typical process for utility services may vary a lot from service to service, we still know that more often than not, it goes a little bit like this:
1- Customer application 📑
Be it through commercials or social media posts, or any type of other marketing, most of the time it is customers that initiate the customer journey for the majority of utility services companies.
Typically, potential clients can access these services through their websites and fill out a form or make a call to talk to a sales or customer service rep.
2- Call from utility companies ☎️
If the customer chooses to fill out a form – and that might be necessary for most utilities services since the home location and other details regarding infrastructure might be required before a sales pitch – a call from the utility services company follows.
These calls are often for initial onboarding and information check purposes, and payment methods might be discussed later or can be wholly done through a digital experience.
And that’s what brings us to…
3- Signup to the customer service portal/platform 📱
Most utility services companies make use of self-service customer portals and/or apps to offer their customers a digital experience both for when they require help and for payment.
This stage of onboarding can be quite crucial since unless the digital onboarding experience is done right, a positive customer experience might be jeopardized for the rest of the customer lifecycle.
But do not fret; I’ve got the solution for you:
Utilize the right solution for utilities onboarding: UserGuiding ⚡️
Besides my unsuccessful onboarding with the internet company I told you about above, I have had many other misadventures with utility companies as well.
Case in point: I tried to install a cooktop without cutting the gas.
Another case in point: I had to call the electricity provider to find out that I needed to turn the power on from outside my apartment.
Yet another case in point: I didn’t know there was going to be a water cut in my neighborhood because I didn’t know how to use the portal right.
This might come off as me being an absolutely clueless mess, but don’t forget: you will have lots like me as a utilities company and the best you can do is try and onboard better.
With the help of a good solution:
UserGuiding is a no-code user onboarding solution you can use to onboard your utilities customers digitally with ease and the most affordable pricing for all sizes of business.
Some key features include:
✅ Interactive guides and product tours,
✅ User onboarding checklists,
✅ Hotspots, tooltips, in-app messages,
✅ Resource centers,
✅ NPS surveys, and more…
… all powered with powerful analytics, user segmentation and targeting, and high customization.
4- On-premise setup (if necessary) 🔧
Utilities as we know them – water, gas, electricity, internet, and others – might require on-premise setup, and naturally, the technicians and other staff taking place in this process become a part of onboarding as well.
If the briefing is not done properly, not only customer satisfaction but also customer safety might be at risk.
Thus, it is important that not only customer service reps but also technical staff are also prepped right for a smooth, positive customer onboarding experience.
5- Check-up call 📞
Generally, a check-up call is the last step of the initial onboarding of a customer.
After all processes are completed, a check-up call scheduled a week, month, or three months later can be beneficial for customer loyalty and can decrease the risk of churn when the renewal dates roll in.
Now, you might have a more concrete image of utilities onboarding, but one question is still up:
Why Does Customer Onboarding in Utility Services Matter?
I’ve already given you a glimpse of why utilities onboarding matters above with my stories of failed utilities onboarding.
But that’s not all the reasons why you should care.
Here are three reasons why customer onboarding, and especially a good digital customer experience, can make a difference for the better:
1- Higher customer loyalty & lower customer churn
A proper onboarding experience is known to improve customer retention and acquisition rates while contributing to customer churn reduction, no matter the industry.
In the utility industry, however, the chances are even higher since, more often than not, utility companies use too high-touch or too low-touch onboarding processes.
2- A better chance at customer feedback collection
The utility industry might present itself as being a less agile and more traditional one in comparison to new industries of today, like the SaaS industry.
Thus, it might be a hassle to get into customer interaction, let alone acquire customer feedback to enhance and improve processes.
A good onboarding flow, especially if it is digital, might give companies the chance to collect meaningful customer data and feedback and, thus, even a competitive edge against other companies in the industry.
3- Enhanced customer safety and security
As mentioned above, utilities might be an industry that requires proper onboarding not only for higher customer engagement but also for customer safety and security.
Unless onboarded right, the utilities sector might create bigger dangers than the comforts, it offers, from home security systems used wrong to children’s internet access without parental control.
Making sure you onboard your customers to utility services correctly will increase customer awareness of such risks, enhance customer relationships, and prolong the customer life cycle.
Now, let’s take a look at a good example of utility service providers doing onboarding right.
Utilities Customer Onboarding Example: Ajar
Ajar is a great example of utility services onboarding as a rent collection and property management platform where landlords keep track of their properties with ease and tenants get rewards for paying rent.
And all was great in heaven until the people of Ajar realized that to become a global company, they could not keep doing onboarding the way they always did it: through one on one meetings.
It was not only time-consuming and inefficient but also impossible to scale.
So, the people behind Ajar decided to adopt a new, better, scalable onboarding process for their platform: digital onboarding.
They have used UserGuiding to create onboarding flows with interactive guides triggered directly from inside user onboarding checklists:
Through this change, Ajar enabled its users to self-serve with interactive onboarding content and saw a significant increase in activation rates.
There are, of course, better examples out there, but why bother with it when you can start perfecting your own onboarding process for your utilities product?
Let’s take a look.
Creating the Perfect Onboarding Process for Your Utilities Service/Product
1- Revise and simplify the existing process
If you are looking into onboarding users to your utility services, chances are you already have an onboarding process at hand.
And the reason why you’re here is that it’s not functioning as it should.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean it’s unsalvagable.
More often than not, what makes an onboarding process bad is the unnecessary interactions, processes, and customer experiences squeezed in together.
By removing whatever is too much for creating a positive customer onboarding experience and making meaningful additions if necessary, it is possible to work with whatever you have at hand.
For example, you can tailor your utility customer journey map by decreasing the number of phone calls in the initial onboarding, turning your existing application forms into more engaging experiences, and revising your digital onboarding on your platform.
2- Introduce new tools to the process
At all stages of onboarding, either on the side of the customer or your customer service representatives, there are various tools in use.
For example, in application forms, you might be using a smart address validation tool, or for the calls your sales agents make, you might be using a user profile management tool.
Similarly, you might want to adopt a digital onboarding tool (like this bad boy over here 👀) to make sure that the initial onboarding and the rest of the customer lifecycle of your users are smooth and easy to navigate.
3- Remarket and reengage
The utility services industry is among the industries that see the most abandonment rates since the onboarding, and the rest of the customer lifecycle is pretty complex and requires quite a bit of attention on both sides.
So, it is not unlikely that in the middle of onboarding, your customers will leave the process.
Not to worry.
If you play your cards right with remarketing and engagement given that you will have received an email address and other information in the beginning, you just might be able to win back your customer.
Remember: the utility sector, no matter what type of service you provide, is pretty big, and there are many competitors out there.
Make sure you can win back your customers even before they decide to leave.
4- Collect actionable feedback
Your customers haven’t left?
That’s cool, but now is the time to ask them about their experience.
What went good, what went alright, and what could be improved; all types of feedback are welcome and ready for your to ask away.
But this doesn’t mean you will get an answer. So before you start preparing for a customer survey, make sure that the answers you will collect can actually be useful and make a difference in the way you do business and onboard your customers.
Moreover, even if your customers have left for good, you can still try and learn their feedback and the reason why they left through a well-written exit email.
It is a part of the job to turn every failure into an opportunity to do better.
5- Update, optimize, iterate
You’ve done it all?
Well, that’s not all.
It’s in the nature of onboarding that it constantly evolves; as long as your product is updated, so will the onboarding need updating.
So, with the new processes you’ve come up with and the feedback you’ve collected, it is time to get down to optimizing your customer onboarding.
Remember: as long as you update, optimize and iterate, your chances of acquiring and retaining your customers will increase.
To Wrap Up…
Utility services is a complex industry with many business processes that need attention both digitally and on-premise.
But adopting a better onboarding process can help both parts of these processes.
With a well-established customer journey map, the right tools, and actionable feedback, the perfect onboarding process for your utility services isn’t far away.
Best of luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a customer onboarding of a utility provider good?
Whatever the industry is, a good onboarding process is concise, engaging, and available for self-service. These criteria are true for utility onboarding as well.
How should utility services onboard users?
Utility services is among the most tedious industries in terms of the onboarding process since it requires many forms and documentation and mostly on-premise setup as well. However, by making the onboarding concise, engaging, and available for self-service, and most importantly, digital, utility service providers can make the process smoother and easier.