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Utilities need to improve paperless adoption levels to enhance customer service

Published on 16 May 2018

Utility companies tend to only communicate when it’s absolutely necessary and that is mostly at billing time. According to J.D. Power’s 2017 Residential Electric Utility Customer Satisfaction Study, less than half (43%) of customers recall receiving communications from their utility.

While some utilities might provide limited services online through a portal, the sector is not as focused on improving customer service through digital processes as, for example, the retail/ecommerce sector.

There are many reasons why paperless adoption may be inhibited – not only in utilities, but across other sectors as well. Security concerns and regulatory issues are definitely contributors, but from a customer perspective – it’s the ease of use and convenience that seems to be lacking.

Reasons paperless adoption targets are not met

Why aren’t you reaching your paperless adoption target?

  • Compliance concerns 39% 39%
  • Not easy enough for the customer to switch 29% 29%
  • Restricted by regulations in the customers’ country 29% 29%
  • Not easy enough for the customer to use 24% 24%
  • Meeting security and privacy concerns 23% 23%

Source: InfoTrends 2014 Customer Communications Business Survey

As indicated in the graph above, 53% of respondents cited ‘ease of switching’ or ‘ease of use’ as the main reasons for not adopting paperless processes.

Why a customer service portal will not achieve optimal adoption

Many utilities providers have service portals, but the processes are simply not convenient. Providing a portal alone, as a means to go paperless, will directly affect the number of customers willing to adopt a fully paperless process. If utilities do not offer anything new to entice customers to go paperless, the adoption of paperless processes will continue to stagnate if not worsen.

Portal Processes Are Inconvenient

What is compounding this problem?

  • Buyer profiles have changed: Today’s ‘digital natives’ are looking for personalized services and customized products. They want information immediately through whichever channel and device they happen to be using. They want to easily service themselves and expect to engage with their service providers to manage and improve their experience through value added services. None of these attributes are typically associated with utility providers.
  • Standards are being set by other sectors: Customer service is no longer measured against similar companies in the same industry. Utility providers aren’t expected to keep up with their industry peers, they are expected to match the best service a customer experiences from an organization in any industry.

So, what do utility customers really want?

Four consumer trends that are shaping the new energy retail ecosystem

Instant everything

Fast, simple and effortless is what consumers want. It needs to be on their terms-anytime anywhere


Meeting personal expectations is the new now. Consumers want personalized interactions and experiences that align with their lifestyle

Meaningful experiences

Purchases are now an expression of who you are and what you value. Intangible branding is now key, going far beyond product value

Collective consumption

New ways to share products and services without the burden of ownership are now welcome. It is about trust, community and collaboration

According to Deloitte, while utility customers are still motivated by price /cost reduction and environmental concerns, they increasingly expect their interaction with these providers to be super easy and informative.

And as it turns out, customers are willing to pay for better customer service.

In a 2017 CapGemini study, as much as 73% of respondents said they would pay for better customer service from their utility provider.

Consumers want customized services and personalized communication from their utility providers and paperless processes are key to meeting this expectation.


Document resource: Utility Commercial Insight

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Infographic: Paperless adoption for utilites