The Now Consumer: Make it Easy


nowconsumerWhen we recently kicked off our new blog series on the Now Consumer, Joe Gagnon explained that consumers want issues resolved instantly, on their own time and via their preferred communication channels. Joe shared the essence of what businesses need to do to adapt to new consumer expectations but we want to dive into each expectation to see what it looks like in reality.

I live just outside Orlando in an area dotted by more than 250 named lakes. It is not uncommon for residents in this area to have more than one electricity meter. One meter for the house and, due to the proximity, a separate meter for a boat dock (each meter requires a separate account). I, like many of my neighbors, have two accounts with the power company for this reason.

In the 13 years I’ve lived in my house, there have been a handful of times we have lost power, It’s not a total shock considering Florida is the “Lightning Capital of the United States.” One might think that it is an easy process to notify my electric provider about the problem. Certainly, power companies throughout the country are adequately prepared for common issues like an outage. Not so fast, my experience more closely resembles a sitcom script than a routine power outage report. 

It was dark and in the middle of the night. Thankfully, as one of the 71% of Americans who sleep with my phone next to my bed I saved myself from stumbling around in the dark looking for my phone. And, knowing that the power never goes out at an opportune time, I previously saved the power company’s number in my phone. For a fleeting moment, I felt like I had a handle on the situation.

At 3:00 AM, no one was manning the ship at the electric company and I was working my way through their IVR system. “This is my sweet spot” I thought. But in the three minutes since the power went out, I was sweating in the lovely Florida humidity. The IVR informed me I needed to enter my address, my account number or my phone number in order to report the outage. I know two out of three of those things, so I was all set.

Or so it would seem.

I selected the phone number option. The IVR informed me that there are two accounts associated with my phone number and I’ll need to speak with a customer service representative. BUT IT WAS 3:00 AM! Unfortunately, I was disconnected so I had no other choice than to start over.

On my next try, I chose ‘account look up by address’. Guess what? There are also two accounts associated with the address and the IVR again informed me that I needed to speak with customer service. Once again I was disconnected.

I had no other option than to use my account number. I opened my email on my iPhone and searched for an email from the power company and then stumbled through the house in search of a pen and paper so I could write my account number down by the glow of my phone.

Finally, on my third attempt, I was able to report the outage. The power is restored, the air conditioner hums to life, and the optimal sleeping temperature is achieved. Whew! Based on my account set up, what should have been fast and simple was no easy process. My exasperating experience got me thinking. While not every single customer has multiple electrical meters, it’s not uncommon either.

When companies develop their self-service strategies, consideration should be given to potential problems or areas where customers could get hung up. Imagine a scenario in which the IVR recognized multiple accounts and asked which account I was calling about. Or an Interactive Text Response (ITR) option where I could communicate via SMS allowing me the chance to search my account number without being disconnected. Both scenarios provide a solution to a simple problem that would meet the needs of today’s now consumer by “making it easy.”

See the full series on the Now Consumer: