Across the utility industry, utilities are beginning to view customers as an essential business asset. As consumers educate themselves on the growing selection of energy options available to them – and as alternative energy solutions become more affordable – the utility industry has begun focusing on customer services to build greater consumer engagement and loyalty.
This isn’t an overnight solution, however. The poles and wires approach many utilities take today follows the same methods used 100 years ago. Current utility infrastructures are in need of an update to be more responsive to customers.
While utilities worldwide are working to further engage with their customers, 2015 will prove that utilities need to adopt a consumer focused delivery model in order to achieve this new type of customer-focused success. In order to sustain, utilities will need to redefine the energy experience for customers.
Prediction one: Utilities will expand digital offerings due to customer demand.
Due to increased differentiation in the market, utilities are going to have to keep up with non-traditional competitors, such as Nest, SolarCity and NRG energy. Customers are already used to a high level of digital service and user experience from other service providers (airlines, banks, credit cards, Amazon) and utilities are increasingly going to be held to the same standards. The New Energy Consumer, a 2014 Accenture report, noted that 65% of customers experienced challenges while using their utilities digital channels. There is room for great improvement and positive business impact by improving and expanding utility digital offerings.
Prediction two: Utilities will transition from paper mailings to delivering personalized, frequent digital messages. By straying from standard paper bills, utilities will reduce costs and create a more personalized, interactive experience with customers through digital and online communication. Utilities will still deliver traditional paper reports, but they will be used primarily to drive customers online to build engagement with the utility and raise awareness of the online tools. These tools include alerting customers of their energy consumption, educating them on how, why and what they consumed, how they can consume less and offering easy-to-understand communication to help it all make sense.
Prediction three: Utilities will increase the range of experiences for customers, straying from the one-size-fits-all model. Customers want personalized information, not generic alerts and communications. Utilities will begin offering this through data they already possess, converting consumer energy usage data into personalized energy-saving recommendations and tips that will help customers understand how energy-savings translate into money savings, based on their home.
Prediction four: Utilities will begin to offer additional products and services, positioning themselves as the energy resource hub for consumers.
“Instead of just recommending energy-efficient appliances, utilities will begin offering customer-specific smart thermostats, furnaces and other personalized energy products and providing e-commerce solutions to become the sole energy source for their customers.”
The battle over customer satisfaction will soon be mission critical to the success of utilities. In order to own the energy experience, utilities will assume further involvement, through increasing consumer awareness and enabling the purchase of energy-saving products, such as household appliances.
In order to keep up with this dynamic market, utilities need to look at home automation (Internet of Things), smart thermostats such as Nest, and new tech entrants as an opportunity to pioneer within the market.
Energy Efficiency Standards are demanding a higher accountability from products, making a mutually beneficial relationship between utility and consumer a reality. Utilities must begin building mutually-beneficial partnerships within their customer base and the industry to successfully become this sole, trusted energy resource for customers.