Have you received your contract renewal from your electricity supplier yet?
In Germany, as in many parts of the world, the game begins anew each year. Roughly two months before my old contract expires, I have to stop and think about next year and rate shopping. The question often comes down to staying with my current provider and often paying more – not exactly rewarding loyalty – or switching over to another, lower-cost provider and being prepared to play the game for another year.
Have you ever thought about how replaceable each power supplier is nowadays? Because power is standardized, and one electron looks much like another to me, there is added value in the provider having experience, and loyalty seems to be penalized on purpose.
Across the world, it’s mostly the same story: Energy suppliers’ customer experience is mediocre, at best.
Let’s have a look at the “3 Ds” that could determine the utilities’ near-future business.
Divergency from the peer group to create a moat
Great customer experience could be a barrier to differentiate against peers. According to IDC, by 2020 50% of competitive-market energy providers will drive their revenue by transforming into “convenient lifestyle” providers.
To be honest, I don’t know much about a personalized customer experience with my energy supplier because I’ve never had one.
The experience I do have usually goes like this: I choose a supplier based largely on their one-year price guarantee, and from then on the only interactions I have with the provider are the canned welcome email telling me how to access its portal, a notice telling me next year’s renewal will cost more, and a “so sad to lose you” canned email when I quit because, with a few taps on the screen, I can find other suppliers that are charging less.
The key brand experience for energy suppliers is the dispatch of annual invoices to their customers. It’s the moment where customers stay or quit.
According to IDC, 57% of all inquiries to energy suppliers are about the annual invoice, as it is not easy for many customers to understand. Is this the brand experience that makes me stay? Of course not. What should be the right answer? Utilities must create easy-to-use digital channels with short response times. They could positively differentiate from the competition by giving me hints about how to save energy, explaining how to make use of their green power rate, and inviting me to participate in their solar cloud. Some possible examples for an interactive customer experience are in the short video “Live Energy.”
Data is the pillar of innovation
Innovation starts from customer behavior. Once a supplier finds out how customers use energy, it can personalize and optimize their delivered services. The next step could be delivering valuable advice on saving energy or introducing customer loyalty programs to tidy up the customer relationship.
One condition: Suppliers have to manage internal and external data, both structured and unstructured, from a single source of truth. Energy suppliers need to bring together their business process and analytics in real time to offer customers discreet and useful energy services.
One easy example: Most customers want to be alerted on high consumption before they pay a high bill. Saving-opportunity alerts are a good way to make better use of analyzing customer usage data. Predicting maintenance needs and recommending nearby, vetted service partners are things consumers appreciate.
Decentralized power assets outside the asset portfolio
To me, the utility industry’s biggest potential lies outside of their own assets, in the roofs, facades, and unused meadows of private and professional real estate owners. Energy suppliers could recruit them to be producers of solar or wind energy. To fill the gap on rainy or calm days, they can orchestrate the power supply between these prosumers and sell them additional required energy.
This could be a good chance to build loyal customers and strengthen their brand experience.
Ready to power up your CX game? Read the free IDC Energy Insights white paper “Consumers Buy Experiences. Are Energy Suppliers Delivering?”