A customer uses a mobile app.

There’s an app for everything today, or at least that’s how it seems. Anything possible on a computer is also available via smartphone or tablet, powered by user-friendly applications. If your utility organization has not joined this trend by deploying a customer-facing mobile app, you may be missing a major opportunity to connect with consumers and increase the business’s appeal.

An app is the perfect way to share information with a modern audience. If you want to reach people wherever they are, at any time, you should enable them to contact you easily via their smartphones. By providing a positive experience through a customer-facing mobile app, you can take a position of leadership, as outreach methods in the utility sector are evolving slowly.

Apps are underused as a utility communication tool

When Deloitte polled utility customers about how they deal with their providers, a stark divide appeared between the two categories. While only 8% of residential customers had used an app to speak with their utility provider, 34% of commercial clients said the same. As a communication tool, apps still have significant room for growth, but they are already well on their way, at least in the business space.

The good news is that companies seem to know that there is an opportunity to improve their contact strategies by adding apps. The same Deloitte survey found that 38% of utilities plan to offer a mobile app in the future. That put apps in a four-way tie for first with web chat, mobile chatbots and text messaging. The through line between all these contact methods is clear: They all allow you to reach your customers in new ways to suit their preferences.

One of the most important parts of the app experience is that users have a choice of how they can connect to your organization. Rather than directing them to a call center for a relatively minor issue, they may have the option, instead, to check a notification or send a message through a smartphone. As Deloitte indicated, utility consumers are reaching out to businesses through a variety of channels. It pays to offer as many as you can, from a highly accessible website to an optimized call center with interactive voice response (IVR) technology and beyond.

Apps make business easier for your team

When customers have the option of sending and receiving information through a simple app interface, they will generally place fewer calls to utilities. Over time, that difference adds up. As Energy Central noted, this is especially important during outages. A person experiencing a loss of service can quickly view the status of the grid on the app or report that they are experiencing trouble with just a few taps. Your call center staff won’t have to talk to these customers as often, if at all, leaving workers free to perform other service-restoration duties. The customers, meanwhile, will receive the information they need even more quickly than if they had called in, increasing their satisfaction with your outage response performance.

Even during normal times, when the grid is up, there is value in offering an app. These include providing customer account management features to let people view and change vital account information or pay through their phones. This is a convenient option in a time when mobile devices are becoming people’s first choice, and letting customers deal with account upkeep without using a PC or placing a phone call can be a major relief.

When consumers and business owners in your region spend as little time as possible thinking about their interactions with your utility organization, you are serving them well. Developing a mobile app is one way to create this quick and frictionless relationship with your audience. When reporting an outage, changing account details or viewing a proactive warning about planned downtime are all quick actions that can be performed directly from a smartphone, you give your customers a truly convenient experience.

It’s easy to get started with mobile apps

While it may be tempting to think a mobile-compatible website is sufficient for connecting with customers, the purpose-built nature of apps, with buttons and menus designed from the ground up to work on Android or iOS devices, delivers another level of convenience. It’s not hard to work with applications, especially when you deploy them as part of a technology suite that also includes IVR and outage management systems (OMS).

Once you’ve achieved success with customer-facing apps, you can consider expanding your use of mobile technology to your own team. Specialized apps that let linemen report data from the field or allow managers to view the status of the grid on handheld devices are other convenience-building additions to your technology lineup. By becoming a more digitally connected organization, you can serve your customers and employees better.

Check out some of our success stories to find out how mobile apps and other tech tools have streamlined operations for other utilities.

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