Survey shows need for more powerful utilities customer engagement

If utilities customer engagement consisted of just stuffing a utilities bill envelope with a brochure on energy savings, then every energy company in the world could claim it is truly customer centric. Unfortunately, according to a Renew Grid piece, there’s more to it than that.

Further, according to an annual survey by Accenture, a global technology services company, when it comes to consumer satisfaction, the lights may be on, but there’s hardly anyone home.

That would be because the survey, which asked more than 11,000 customers in 21 countries to rate their utilities providers, disclosed a low level of consumer satisfaction with utilities companies:

  • Just 24 percent actually trust their utility company to tell the customers how to do better on energy consumption – a fall of 9 points from 2012.
  • The survey company points out that this is “the lowest level of trust” since they started surveying four years ago. It reflects a consistent downward trend plummeting from 59 percent
  • Regardless of type of utilities services – regulated or competitive – 73 percent of the people surveyed said they “would consider turning to alternative providers.”

In fairness to the industry, storms and natural challenges to service reliability haven’t helped. Also, volatility of energy costs have piled on to add to utility company customer satisfaction problems. Also, utility companies have established online contact with their customer base — but still need to do more.

Before market forces and public pressure do it for them, it would appear that many utility companies need to take a more enlightened approach. That would be a few steps beyond just putting up a web site, where customers are basically left on their own to figure things out for themselves.

The survey shows a consistent gap between customer expectations and how they rate their utilities providers’ record in meeting those expectations, which prompted one Accenture managing director’s observation:

“Utilities need to consider radically rethinking their customer satisfaction investments with a targeted approach to simplifying the consumer energy experience, addressing the concerns of dissatisfied consumers and closing the expectation gap.”

Utilities customer engagement efforts need to recognize that they are serving a new generation of tech-savvy customers, who expect:

  • a “smarter” experience with personalized service and advice (as well as coaching) on home-energy management.
  • help with reducing the household energy bill. Customers want detailed online access to their energy usage information, as well as tips and suggestions on what to do to lower their monthly bill.
  • Extension of the mobile online experience. It won’t be long until more people will be accessing the Internet on mobile devices than by any other method. Consumers said they would like two things on their mobile devices: (1) to receive notifications on their home energy usage, and (2) to be able to remotely access and operate home temperature controls.

So if utility companies are going to dig themselves out of that deep black hole of customer dissatisfaction and lack of trust, they need to recognize that they are at a “turning point.” Again, according to the Accenture official:

“Satisfaction and trust are built on consistently delivering the basic customer experience whether through digital or traditional channels. Once in place, utilities have incredible opportunities to create digitally powered value propositions that can deliver step-change consumer engagement.”

Contact us and we’ll show you how our modern call center software can put you into closer touch with your customers and reap the value of the aforementioned incredible opportunities.