We all know that being in the utilities business is no beach holiday. But right now it feels more like Dunkirk.

You’re getting slated in the press for things beyond your control.

Wholesale costs are rising, and government policies are asking more of the utilities providers. That’s forcing consumer prices up.

It’s not your fault, but people don’t want to hear that. They want a scapegoat, and the vultures are circling.

Meanwhile, to add to the fun, the government is demanding you install smart meters to all homes and small businesses in Great Britain by the end of 2020, piling extra pressure on resources. Smart meters are great for consumers – but they don’t know that yet, which gives you another problem.

And then there’s the traditional bad press around the payment system errors that have caused grief for some providers over the last few years.

So all in all, utilities companies are a sitting target.

Are there any rescue boats in sight?

Yes. Your customers can help

OK. This might seem counterintuitive. But in times like this, people (and their opinions) are actually your friends. More specifically, your customers – through user-generated content (UGC).

When your brand perception is at an all-time low among the general public – that’s exactly when you need to be shouting louder about what your actual customers are saying about you.

You can use UGC to “take back control” of your online reputation, so to speak. Being honest, responsible and prepared to confront the realities of the situation is all people want from utilities companies.

What are the advantages of UGC?

1. It shows you’re being transparent. Asking customers what they think of you and publishing their answers shows you’re prepared to face up and listen.

2. It helps your SEO. Search for any utilities company and you’ll see bad review scores from open review platforms appearing high up the page.

A third-party, closed review platform like Reevoo will most likely return better ratings, because we proactively collect reviews from real customers rather than just those with an axe to grind, like the ones who seem to find the ‘open’ review sites (and might not even use your services). You’ll soon start to see better ratings (and better rankings) on the search engines.

3. You get useful feedback. Want to know how your customers feel about smart meters, or for that matter, thermostats like Nest and Hive? You can ask them specifically about that. And useful feedback means you can start doing things better.

NestHive
If you want to know what your customers think of smart meters or thermostats, just ask them!

What if my customers write bad reviews?

Don’t worry. They won’t all be bad, and on average they’ll be far better than the stuff that’s out there already.

It’s natural to be scared of bad reviews. And while there will inevitably be some, they can help you move things in the right direction.

And by the way — consumers don’t expect particularly high scores in utilities. Gas and electricity aren’t luxury items or status symbols, they’re basic necessities. As long as people get them at a reasonable cost and minimum hassle, they’re happy. A score of 7.59 is good for utilities, whereas the same isn’t true for a luxury car.

We’ve done the research to prove it:

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These stats are from research we carried out this year. We asked consumers to tell us what they thought was an acceptable score for each industry.

Our top tips on UGC

1. Listen

Go out and collect reviews from your customers.

Do it proactively and independently by using a closed, third-party platform (like Reevoo). Responding to reviews shows that you’re listening and value the feedback.

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2. Do something

Once you’ve compiled and analysed the feedback, take action.

“We use our customer feedback to focus on any hotels that receive a lower score than we’d expect and take appropriate action, whether that’s working with the property to address any areas of dissatisfaction or, in extreme, discontinuing to offer certain hotels.”

Catherine Onions, head of customer service and quality at BA Holidays and Reevoo customer

If it works for BA Holidays, it can work for you too.

3. Showcase

Share your reviews!

Homeserve has used Reevoo scores in its advertising:

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..and marketing materials.

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Where you’ve acted on feedback, show what you’ve done to improve things.

You won’t always be 100% in control of your reputation. As winter approaches, everyone spends more as they turn on the heating, boilers are going to break, and customers are going to demand a lot of your resource – all whilst expecting the best service you can deliver.

What you can control is what you learn from their feedback and how it’s showcased.

So remember:

Listen – collect reviews proactively,
Learn – take feedback to product owners, installation teams, and drive change in your business, and
Share – showcase your customer advocates and what they have to say about you.

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How UGC can help utilities companies in hard times