Energy providers must look beyond simply supplying a commodity in an industry that is undergoing rapid and unprecedented change. A growing percentage of decision makers, including millennials, are budget conscious, environmentally and socially aware, utilize social media extensively, and are interested in gaining access to innovative companies providing new services and technologies.
The industry is transforming from the bottom up, and consumers expect personalized recommendations that echo their experiences with companies such as Netflix and Amazon, including recommendations based on current and past behaviors. Consumers, especially Millennials, expect the type of energy they want, delivered the way they want it. As the relationship between energy providers and consumers evolves, utilities can leverage their position as trusted advisors to provide the personalized recommendations that consumers have come to expect as part of their consumer service satisfaction model.
Many utilities are choosing affinity partnerships that allow utilities to offer both choices and personalized recommendations as trusted advisors without having to invest man-hours, money and resources into establishing new, separate programs or departments. Home solutions that are fast, convenient and tech friendly are attractive to many utility consumers.
When a resident has an electricity or heating malfunction, they often look to their provider for guidance, and not being able to offer them a personalized recommendation as a trusted advisor is a missed opportunity. Best-in-class energy providers realize the benefits of bringing home repair programs to their residents – and the positive impact it has on customer service satisfaction.
HomeServe offers a full suite of home repair plans that cover electrical service lines, gas service lines, in-home electrical and plumbing, HVAC and water heaters. In the pursuit of excellent customer service, HomeServe uses leading-edge technologies to provide an outstanding experience. Learn about how we use state-of-the-art speech analytics, real-time feedback and field service management solutions to provide customer service satisfaction.
How do energy consumers view the utilities that serve them?
They’ve had an opportunity to appreciate the essential service their utility provides and utility employees’ efforts to ensure access to reliable energy during the coronavirus crisis. Public perception of utilities has improved over the previous year, according to the J.D Power Electrical Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, but some could benefit from improved communication.
Utilities already understand the importance of engagement with energy consumers – communication not only allows them to offer an improved consumer experience, but offers utilities an opportunity to be regarded as a trusted partner, especially when that communication is established as a two-way street. In this evolving market, utilities can’t afford to be taken for granted.
Energy utilities have a connection to more homes than any other service provider, have a deep level of trust and are considered experts in energy and energy-related fields. Utilities have a clear competitive advantage, but they risk losing it by playing it safe. Energy consumers have indicated that they’re willing to leave their current provider if another company offers them better communication and service.
The industry’s evolving model rethinks the value proposition, with utilities becoming trusted energy advisors. Introducing value-added services as a trusted partner is a natural fit for utilities. Many utilities have already entered service spaces such as energy audits, online energy efficiency marketplaces and smart home services.
Consumer usage data is a valuable resource that offers an entry point for services and will only become more valuable as the Internet of Things becomes an even larger part of our lives. Data shouldn’t be regurgitated to the consumer, but presented in a way that provides value. Analyzing the data will create a portrait of the individual households and their needs, allowing utilities to segment their communications and provide more personalization.
Through data analysis, utilities can find the overlap between consumers’ needs and utility services and offer pertinent services as a solution through personalized messaging. Offering consumers a satisfying solution to their problem, especially when doing so is viewed as going above and beyond traditional utility service, is a great way to increase consumer satisfaction and retain business.
The mix of solutions will differ for each utility, based on resources, priorities and consumer need. It may look like working with local school districts to bring in electric school buses, incentivizing e-bikes or e-mowers or recommending an emergency home repair plan. Following the data, listening to consumers and leveraging existing expertise are the keys to satisfying the evolving energy consumer.
HomeServe USA offers an optional suite of emergency home repair plans, including electrical and gas service lines, interior gas and interior electric. Our licensed and insured network contractors are fully vetted and local, and our Stevie Award-winning call center is fully staffed 24/7/365. To find out more, contact us.
Electric vehicle adoption is poised for explosive growth in the next decade. Several major automobile manufacturers have pledged to stop making internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2026, focusing instead on development of electric vehicles (EV); by 2030, it’s estimated that there will be over 18 million EVs on the road and over 20 percent of vehicles sold annually will be EVs; by 2035, two of our most populous states – New York and California – plan to halt new car sales of ICE vehicles; and price parity between the cost of new ICE vehicles and new electric vehicles is expected to be achieved by 2025.
The U.S. is the third-largest market for EVs, just behind China and Europe, and several factors contribute to adoption. A greater range of vehicle options, including the recent release of all-wheel drive sports utility vehicles and trucks, is helping to generate interest. Federal, state and manufacturer incentives have contributed tremendously to adoption, helping offset cost differences between EV and ICE vehicles and making the behavioral changes required more palatable. Major metropolitan areas have an average of 450 public chargers per million residents, reducing range anxiety.
The availability of efficient public and home electric vehicle charging options is critical to widespread EV adoption. This is an area where utilities can support their customers and enhance customer engagement. The country’s charging infrastructure will have to grow by 20 percent annually to reach the 9.6 million Level 2 chargers needed. Eighty-eight percent of EV owners charge their vehicles at home, according to HomeServe’s research.
So, what does that mean for energy utilities?
Customers overwhelmingly expect information about EVs from their utilities and, before their purchase, seek out cost comparisons between EVs and ICE vehicles, locations of the closest charging stations and information about home charging options. However, this is only the beginning of customer expectations – they want their utility to be involved and communicating with them through every step of their EV journey.
Incorporating a range of helpful EV information to utility websites, adding electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to online marketplaces and providing guidance on home installation can significantly enhance the EV customer experience that is presently disjointed.
At present, dealerships and special financing are structured with the purchase of ICE vehicles in mind, and incentives that could save buyers thousands can require research and detailed paperwork and take months to recoup. Many dealers do not stock EVs, and, among those who do, a surprising number are ill prepared to answer basic questions and rarely provide guidance on home charging and related utility offers. Utilities, leveraging their position as a trusted advisor in this space, can help fill these gaps and increase customer satisfaction and engagement while doing so.
Ratepayers have long indicated their preference that their electric utility be involved with the installation of EVSE, whether it means the utility’s employees or a third party recommended or engaged by the utility. They are likely to contact you for information on local contractors who are available to safely install their chargers – HomeServe’s research found that nearly 30 percent will turn to their utilities for charger help. However, having a charger close at hand doesn’t completely relieve them of anxiety, because nearly three-quarters worry about their Level-2 charger malfunctioning or breaking.
A charger installation isn’t the end of the customer journey, especially with new EV adopters who are navigating the space for the first time. While many energy utilities offer special EV time-of-use rates and provide rebates and incentives for EV purchases and installation of Level-2 chargers, fewer than half of EV owners were aware of them, according to HomeServe’s research. Of those who were aware, better than 80 percent took advantage of these programs – a great opportunity for increased customer engagement.
Engaging regularly with customers about their EV ownership gives you an opportunity to communicate about charging management – EV owners have shown strong interest in managing their charging in order to take advantage of the best rates and utilize clean energy. In a study commissioned by GE, researchers found that three factors came into play: a desire to be more environmentally conscious, cost savings and enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology.
While utilities and state commissions wrestle with execution of EV-related programs – and who will pay for what – the Alliance for Transportation Electrification and Plug In America are advocating that utilities should be able to recover the costs of EV adoption programs, noting that energy utilities are trusted advisors, uniquely placed to educate the largest potential pool of EV drivers. Utility commissions are paying attention, and the Edison Electric Institute is regularly seeing EV programs as part of proposals and estimates that, to date, 40 utilities have been granted funding for EV programs.
A partnership with HomeServe can be another tool to help encourage the adoption of EVs as we roll out first-to-market EV charger protection and installation solutions.
For information on how HomeServe can complement and amplify your EV programs, contact us.
Energy efficiency is an important part of many utilities’ demand-side management and outreach efforts, but your message may be ignored, or your customer simply may not be able afford the repairs, replacements or upgrades needed to make their homes more energy efficient.
There are three types of homeowners who are less likely to pursue energy efficiency measures: those who are unaware of the value of regular home maintenance and have an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality; those who are aware of the issue, but are low- to moderate-income households who can’t afford home maintenance or upgrades; and those who are newer to home ownership and have little experience with maintenance.
After putting off home buying longer than the previous generation, Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, have entered the housing market in big numbers – nearly 40 percent of those buying homes fall into that cohort, according to the National Association of Realtor’s Generational Trends Report 2020. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent regret buying a home, citing unexpected home maintenance costs.
In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, more than 40 percent of Millennials expressed embarrassment over their lack of home maintenance knowledge. An astounding one-third were uncomfortable with the prospect of changing a light bulb, and more than 40 percent said they would rather spend the day at the dentist than do home maintenance projects. Is it any wonder that, when it comes to seasonal tune-ups for their HVAC systems, many are not up to speed?
Low- to moderate-income homeowners
On the other side of the spectrum, homeowners without cash to spare may be all too familiar with the benefits of home maintenance but unable to afford it. These homeowners will frequently make “Band-Aid” repairs, even though upgrading to high efficiency gas equipment or an electric heat pump system would be more cost effective and provide greater comfort in the long run.
Even before the economic downturn, 71 percent of those working a minimum wage job had difficulty meeting their basic bills, according to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Financial woes are not limited to those at the bottom of the wage scale, with nearly 80 percent saying they lived paycheck-to-paycheck at least sometimes. Debt is up and savings are down across the board, with just over 50 percent saving $100 or less each month.
Those who are on fixed incomes also are at risk. One in six older adults live in poverty and half of those facing retirement have less than $10,000 in savings. The median income of retirees 65 to 74 is approximately $47,000, and that number is $37,200 for those between 65 and 69, according to U.S. News and World Report.
In a Federal Reserve survey, 40 percent of adults said they would have to borrow from family and friends or go into debt for an unexpected expense of only $400. More than 10 percent said such an expense would prevent them from paying all their bills in that month.
Some homeowners are comfortable with the status quo or are suspicious of their utility’s motivation in encouraging energy efficiency upgrades and don’t believe they will recoup their investment. It’s not altogether surprising that some homeowners are resistant when considering human beings are evolutionarily hardwired to see change as a threat.
To effectively build trust with these resistant homeowners, communications must convey how the change will benefit them, address their concerns and provide concrete, achievable steps toward the goal. Resistant homeowners want to communicate with someone who has relevant knowledge and expertise – they want a trusted advisor who will inform them of the pitfalls they may come across and of available options.
With an aging housing stock, it is becoming increasingly important to inform and protect homeowners unaware of, resistant to or unable to afford important maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades to their home systems. A HomeServe program that educates customers and offers affordable repair plans can be part of this solution while amplifying utilities’ energy efficiency program results.
HomeServe home repair plans provide affordable ways to address nagging home maintenance issues, both shielding low- and moderate-income homeowners from financial shock and providing opportunities for our vetted, licensed and insured local contractors to discuss upgrade recommendations to enhance energy efficiency, safety and comfort and improve customers’ awareness of available utility programs.
To learn more about how we can help you educate your customers and bring them peace of mind, contact us.
With the energy industry in the midst of an evolution, utilities are more clearly understanding the need for transformation from a role of commodity supplier to “ratepayers” to a trusted advisor on a range of energy issues to a more and more sophisticated and...