Each time I kick off a broadband training session at an electric utility, there’s the usual chatter about deploying fiber internet in unserved or underserved areas. I talk with a room full of employees about pricing, speeds, timelines, phases, and competition.
When I leap to the customer journey, I see a few puzzled faces. Customer journey? Do electric members take a trip when buying broadband service?
Listen to “Journey: Exploring the Customer Experience,” a six-part podcast series hosted by Carrie Huckeby.
Electric vs. Broadband Drivers
Depending on your location, most consumers drive straight to the community-owned power provider to get electricity. There aren’t choices or sights to detour consumers from the main route. The path is simple:
- Contact the utility.
- Request service.
- Power on.
Broadband customers drive differently. When shopping for broadband services, consumers may take detours near the awareness and interest stage. Their mobile phone web search displays multiple providers, service choices, promotions, TV offers, bundle discounts and Google reviews.
Broadband options can be overwhelming. Customers’ expectations are different, and they may need a little push as they maneuver through all the stages of the buyer’s journey. If done well, a smooth customer journey can pave the way toward a beautiful relationship. But if there are too many potholes, customers may take the exit ramp.
Plan for Pit Stops
The road between being interested in broadband and signing up for service may be long and cluttered with scenic route options, construction delays and pit stops. What happens at each step of the journey? Our Customer Journey Report Card helps you gauge how easy — or hard — you make the journey.
Evaluate your customer experience journey in five stages: awareness, evaluation, purchase, retention and advocacy.
Here’s the chance to create the perfect introduction and first impression. Ask yourself:
- Is your website the first one someone sees when looking for broadband service?
- Does your website only appear for inquiries about electric service?
- Is your broadband program information easy to find?
- Do your social media accounts have up-to-date, helpful posts?
- Are there other ways for your community to know you provide fiber broadband?
Customers can’t start a broadband relationship if they don’t know you exist.
Potential customers saw an announcement that your utility is entering the fiber broadband business. What now? When buying something new, how does a potential customer weigh the pros and cons of converting to your service? Will they purchase broadband from you just because they are happy with the electricity you provide?
At this point in the journey, the consumer wants to do some comparison shopping. It’s critical to set yourself apart from your competition. Ask yourself:
- What makes your product better?
- How do your prices, speeds, technical support, managed Wi-Fi, installation, hold times and contract requirements compare to your competitors?
- Where are your consumers looking and finding company and product information?
Make answers easy and low effort. If you’re excited about your new venture, don’t hide it between energy efficiency and the “how to pay your bill” section.
The consumer found lots of good information and arrived at the purchase stop. Woohoo! Can you mess it up at this point? Sure. There are more choices and decisions when buying broadband than electricity, so it takes more time and attention. Hard-to-understand promotions, contracts, unresolved complaints on social media, a long on-hold time and a grumpy employee can dampen buyer enthusiasm. A website that is hard to navigate is equally frustrating and can detour the potential customer right off the buyer’s path.
Do all you can to ensure you don’t lose the opportunity to get a broadband customer. Be transparent. Keep it simple. Build trust. And make sure they don’t encounter grumpy employees!
4. Retention and Advocacy
It’s possible retention concerns or advocacy efforts have never been on your electric utility’s radar. A member disconnects the power when they move. Someone moves in, and the utility has an account again.
By contrast, broadband loyalty can shift when a customer gets a colorful direct mail piece from a competitor. When Netflix glitches, there’s a fiber cut, or the credit card machine doesn’t work, negativity can run rampant on social media. Customer satisfaction dips. It’s critical to follow through and address concerns.
An electric co-op member won’t call when his or her toaster or fridge doesn’t work. But when a broadband customer’s smart TV doesn’t stream Netflix, expect a technical support call. (Hear GoSEMO CEO Sean Vanslyke talk about broadband customer expectations in “StoryConnect: The Podcast.”)
You’ve spent a lot of time and dollars getting the network just right and preparing to connect members. Don’t forget to put thought and action into a plan to retain broadband customers and turn them into fans and advocates. Show those folks some love. Happy customers rarely disconnect service. And when customers feel like you’re on their side, they’ve got your back, too.
Podcast Series on Customer Journey
Customer experience isn’t something you think about once and then move on. Roads need to be maintained over time. The way people travel changes. To help you evaluate your efforts and spark innovation, this summer we’re launching a six-part podcast miniseries, “Journey: Exploring the Customer Experience.”
We talk in detail about each stop on the perpetual customer journey. Guests from the Carolinas, West Virginia, Vermont, Montana, Texas and Iowa will share experiences and tips of what works for them. More importantly, my guests reveal their daily challenges. None of us have all the answers or a perfect road map. There are always potholes and detours to navigate.
The miniseries will be delivered in the “StoryConnect: The Podcast” feed, available on several popular podcast platforms.
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