retail energy online portals

Real data showcases the power of taking customers digital

Online self-service is an absolute consumer expectation in the "I can Google that" era. Yet many dealers make the mistake of thinking that taking online payments is all they need to do. Unfortunately, this falls far short of what your customers really want. They demand the ability to do everything themselves without needing to call you for help. That means your portal must literally perform like a virtual CSR.

For companies that have fully embraced moving their customers to digital service, the results are impressive. It is something we see every day and believe it is worth sharing. It is important to fully understand the real-world financial impacts of adopting new customer facing technology that enables comprehensive self-service. And for those who remain anxious about the disruption and change management of IT projects, seeing the payback can often ease the fear. The short-term pain is worth it in the long run.

Here is some compelling data from one of our clients after 1-year with MPX.

From 0 to 16,800 totally paperless customers

The implications of this are incredibly far reaching. First and foremost, this represents a significant reduction in paper and postage costs. In this case, that equals about $.50 per customer per month or $100,800 annually. This paperless adoption rate will grow, as will this significant annual savings.

Moving away from paper to a digital environment fuels several key improvements for customers too. Many customers want to avoid the clumsiness and effort of dealing with mailed bills. They can manage their account activity the same way they do with other business relationships, on the web likely from a smart phone. This aligns your company with current digital trends which fosters loyalty.

234% increase in web users

The retail fuel industry has a history of deploying portals that are dealer centric, not customer centric, resulting in lackluster adoption rates and even lower satisfaction ratings. These can be fairly described as glorified payment and order taking systems that have never fulfilled their most important promise; automating complex customer service functions to take the pressure off your customers and your phones.

In November of 2018, our client had 18,000 web users. Today that number has swelled to 43,000 with no signs of slowing down. This is proof of how a well-designed digital customer ecosystem can create meaningful online adoption. Customers want to be online and what better place to drive them than your web site and portal. This is a way for customers to exercise their self-determination and do things on their time. It also reduces phone traffic, taking pressure off one of your busiest departments.

292% increase in Auto Pay enrollees

In November 2018, our client had 2,967 Auto Pay enrollees. Today, that has grown to 8,650, again with no signs of slowing down. This is yet another indicator that consumers are looking for ease and convenience. Giving it to them makes them stickier and more likely to remain loyal. They are now adding text-to-pay. End customers sign up just like autopay, but receive a text when payment is due. To pay, customers just respond to the text message. They love being in control by being able to say yes immediately. Similar clients on text-to-pay are being paid about seven days earlier than usual.

Most importantly, Auto Pay greatly reduces your DSO (days sales outstanding). In an industry that still offers 30 day terms and has average DSO of 45-60 days, this is a big deal. Think of how this will cut collection costs and headaches while getting money in your bank account faster.

200% increase in online payment processing volume in just one year

This is quite an astonishing metric. Customers want to pay their bills on time in most circumstances. They simply want it to be easier to handle and, like most of us, they need reminders. This is much less costly to do with digital communication. And it lands this communication right where they live; on their smart phones and laptops.

In today’s world, you must give customers multiple channels to pay online. Email, text, even text-to-pay options all create quick convenient ways for customers to pay you. The constellation of effects generated by moving to online processing includes less manual processing, less security risk, and improved customer satisfaction. And, although it sounds surprising, online credit card payments are less expensive than handling checks and cash.

Your online customer portal centralizes information so that customers always know where to find what they need and can access the necessary tools to solve problems as they arise. It makes for a much better experience for customers and gives them the power to participate in their relationship with your company.

The rewards for you are lower costs, greater retention, and increased growth. To get there, first audit your online portal and engagement tools. Are they intuitive and easy to use? Can they do everything a CSR can do and more? If not, rethink what you can offer customers that will make them happy and take the strain off your resources.