Some things appear paradoxical at first, but make more sense upon further reflection. For example: the more essential a product or service is, the less effort is required to convince the public to purchase it.
This is particularly true for energy providers: everyone needs their showers showering, their refrigerators refrigerating, and their AC C-ing. But an unfortunate side effect of this is that energy providers have fallen behind other industries in key areas of customer experience.
But there’s good news: rising digitization in the sector (e.g. the growth of the Internet of Things or the increasing adoption of smart meters) is providing impetus for utilities companies to enhance their offering.
Customer needs are forcing the hand as well: for B2B customers energy is not just a service, but part of a wider solution to improve competitiveness, reduce costs, ensure business continuity and build a better, greener brand.
At the same time, B2C customers are increasingly accustomed to simple, personalized service - often through their phone - from banks, digital media and retailers. Utilities companies that are not offering that experience need to catch up.
Another potential factor making innovation and improvement to customer experience necessary for energy providers is deregulation. Although argued about from many angles - politically, academically, morally, environmentally - for energy providers deregulation fosters innovation, and innovation will help you align your offering with customer expectations.
Here are a few key areas where innovation can help energy providers improve their relationships with customers:
1. Personal Customer Experience
This 2018 research by Accenture revealed that customers are more likely to buy from retailers who recognize them, remember previous purchases and tailor recommendations accordingly. This kind of personalization has not quite caught on among energy providers since they are often not making full use of their customer’s data.
To provide the kind of experience that retailers do - tailored real-time interactions, 24/7 support, or basic transparency - you need access to data. If it is inaccessible or disorganized, you risk losing customers to competitors who do have their data in order.
This is why having everything accessible from a single hub can transform your relationship with customers, as you can offer a personalized experience, quick access to information and frictionless service.
And customers are happy to help you with this: 90% of consumers say that they are happy to share behavioral data if it makes their experience cheaper or easier.
2. Environmental Responsibility
Your customers prefer environmentally-friendly products, and have particular concerns about sustainable energy, so utilities providers are adopting a green energy approach, which includes openly communicating their green credentials.
Consumers no longer make purchasing decisions based on quality and price alone, and this trend intensifies as we look to younger generations. According to a 2021 study by GreenPrint: 75% of Millennials are willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products and services, compared to 63% of Gen Z, 64% of Gen X, and 57% of Boomers.
You need to walk the walk, and also talk the talk; tell your customers how you are providing them with sustainable and environmentally friendly products.
We went into more detail about the environmental and ethical expectations of customers during our recent webinar Measuring up to customer expectations in today’s decentralised, decarbonised and digital-first energy world, in partnership with Energy Global, which you can watch now for free.
3. Offer more than energy
Beyond energy itself, customers are concerned about the things that energy powers, as well as the degree of visibility and control over usage they have.
As the provider of the energy that powers their appliances, you are well positioned to also provide the appliances themselves.
You can offer your customers additional products and services, from refrigerators and boilers to thermostats, smart meters and more. Whether that’s through convenient self-service, or guiding your customer agents and field personnel by giving them all the information they need to make tailored recommendations for customers.
Satisfying these new demands is a win-win scenario. Your customers get what they want from a trusted resource, and you can explore new revenue streams for your business.
But this kind of experience relies on a technology platform that empowers you to deliver the entire customer journey. Right from launching new offerings, to managing sales, appointments, quotes and the fulfilment of your products and services. All while providing the single source of truth and full audit trail required for regulatory compliance.