By Olufunmilayo Okubena, Country Manager at Infobip Ghana
While Ghana’s utility companies are state-owned and face virtually no competition, there is still a compelling case to be made for the sector to improve service delivery and the customer experience (CX) through digital transformation. The companies would also benefit from improved efficiencies within their own operations that could lead to growth.
The Ghana Grid Company oversees energy transmission in the country, while the Northern Electricity Distribution Company and the Electricity Company of Ghana are in charge of distribution. The Ghana Water Company Limited is Ghana’s primary source of urban water supplies.
These distribution companies are responsible for handling last mile electricity and water provision to customers, as well as for processes such as billing, onboarding and customer support. However, their customer communication systems are not fully automated, nor adequate enough to forge meaningful engagements with the end user.
Their customer communication channels are mostly limited to voice and one-way SMS, which means that customer onboarding, query resolution, billing and any amendment to service provision are largely manual processes that are slow and cumbersome.
The resultant bottlenecks created by the inability to reach all customers means that these utility companies are missing out on revenue-generation as many end-users are going off-grid and side-stepping metered connections. Due to the lack of automated and digital engagement channels, an increasing number of people are turning to electric generators or illegal connections for power supply, while some are sinking private boreholes for water.
Breaking the law
The gaps in service delivery and customer engagement are in some isolated cases driving people to break the law and use these services and utilities in a non-metered manner. This of course has a knock on effect on populations where providers are unable to monitor and quality assure provisions for all. In addition to the loss of revenue through leakage of this kind, other revenue gains that would stem from providing a better CX both to existing and disappearing customers are being missed..
To achieve a strategic edge and improve service delivery by Ghana’s utilities, the best strategy to CX would be to meet the customer wherever the customer is. This means that these companies should adopt an omnichannel strategy that will allow them to reach their customers over the channel of their choice, whether this is email, SMS, voice, social media or chat apps such as WhatsApp.
This strategy should be implemented based on the demographic segmentation, as older customers might prefer voice or face-to-face engagement, while younger end users might prefer a combination of digital and social media channels.
Ultimately, the strategy needs to deliver a customised one-to-one engagement depending on where the customer feels most comfortable to engage with the business and must be underpinned by automation to boost service delivery. Digital channels typically provide convenience by incorporating payments models, and automated onboarding, billing and complaint resolution. Improved service delivery will boost the customer journey and build brand loyalty.
Similar to the recent deployment of a cloud-based omnichannel solution by Nigeria’s largest power distributor, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Ghana’s utilities would do well to adopt a modern-day omnichannel strategy that puts the customers at the centre. In the case of Ikeja, which provides power to about 800 000 households in the state of Lagos, the utility rolling out a contact centre solution that integrates the world’s most popular communication channels. The decision to implement this project was driven by the company’s major push to deliver an optimum-quality customer experience through technology.
In terms of best practice for enhancing customer engagement, Ghana’s utilities should ensure their engagement models include a unified omnichannel approach, where all customer touchpoints are fully automated and can offer seamless services and support. While brand loyalty might seem like a moot point in a state-owned monopoly scenario, fostering brand loyalty is a wise future play for when the market opens up to private distribution companies that will provide competition to entrenched state-owned entities.
Essentially, Ghana’s utility companies should turn to local and global service providers that have the skills and expertise to deliver a proper unified omnichannel solution. Some service providers have already engaged in discussion with various stakeholders within the full spectrum of the utility service provision value chain in Ghana for various use cases. It is encouraging that the country’s utilities are recognising the benefits of boosting customer engagement, which will ultimately enhance the customer journey and also benefit their bottom lines.