HomeServe’s Biannual State of the Home Survey examines the financial impact of home repairs and other factors related to the state of the American home. The most recent survey examined the adoption of smart home devices. The majority of respondents – 56 percent – reported having at least one smart home device. Voice-controlled assistants (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home) topped the list at 35 percent, while 20 percent report using smart light bulbs. Video monitoring (e.g., Amazon Cloud Cam, Nest Cam, Ring, Arlo) came in at 17 percent and smart heating/cooling technology is used by 16 percent of homeowners. The findings make it clear that Americans are turning toward devices that can make life easier.
The survey also examined the adoption of mobile device apps to manage the home. Thirty-six percent of homeowners report using at least one mobile app, with apps that manage smart devices and appliances/electronics (e.g., Alexa, Sonos, Nest, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings) topping the list at 27 percent. Nine percent reported using home repair apps (e.g., Centriq, WikiHow, DIY Tip Genius, BrightNest) and eight percent use a mobile app to track house cleaning schedules and chores (e.g., Tody, OurHome, HabitHub). The winter edition of the online survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from Feb. 27-March 1, 2019, among 2,031 U.S. adults age 18 and older, including 1,429 who identified themselves as homeowners.
Flattening load growth is an issue for every utility. However, as this revenue stream remains stagnant, energy utilities are looking for new sources of revenue. However, your consumers may not be aware of your energy services and retail offerings.
You already have valuable assets – your relationship with your energy consumers, who see you as a reliable and trustworthy company, an infrastructure that includes not only the grid, but skilled employees, a fleet of vehicles and substations.
Customers Weigh In on Energy Services
Two-thirds of consumers questioned in a Mower study didn’t know their service provider offered services other than electric service, and the number rose to three-quarters in the Midwest. However, two-thirds of those surveyed liked the idea of receiving services from a trusted company like their energy provider. In fact, 50 percent would use their service provider for “repairs, inspections and wiring work.”
That’s a large potential client base who is willing to purchase services from you, but simply aren’t aware you’re likely already offering them. How do you get their notice? Approximately 40 percent just aren’t engaged – their only interaction is paying the bill and reporting an outage.
It’s all about the data. You have an amazing amount of data about your consumers and their daily energy usage already available to you. Analyze that data to create a customer profile that will help you determine what products or services they most likely would buy. Once you know not only how they use energy, but how their usage has evolved, you’ll have a starting place for cross-selling and upselling.
Most customers can be categorized into general groups by a host of demographic data that will help you determine, in a general sense, what services they would be most receptive to. But it’s the personalization that improves customer satisfaction, loyalty and engagement.
Since most consumers are looking at their bills, that’s a good place to offer personalization. An interactive bill available across multiple channels would allow customers to click to find out more about their charges – and how a service or product can help them save energy or money or just make their lives easier. They will be able to review their purchase and payment history, what services they’ve opted into and how much money they’ve saved.
Cross-selling can increase revenue by up to 300 percent. It also costs five to 25 times less than recruiting a new consumer and research indicates customers who switch energy suppliers may not be looking for lower rates, but for better value. In short, your consumers may leave if you don’t cross-sell to them – they want a personalized package from their dependable partner, their energy utility.
What do they want, other than repair services? They want charging for their electric cars, smart thermostats and access to apps that help them conserve energy. They want solar panels and energy storage, distributed energy management and micro-grids – and they want services to be aggregated. That means the services you offer don’t have to be directly energy-related. Energy services are a good fit for your brand and abilities, but you may want to consider affinity partnerships to provide a broader range of offerings and customer satisfaction-improving choice.
As energy enters a new era, one in which utilities partner with their customers to educate them, help them save energy and make their lives easier. New channels and data analytics have made personalizing, cross-selling and upselling easier and more convenient than ever.
Utilities are looking for opportunities to connect more deeply with customers. HomeServe helps to improve customer engagement for our utility partners through the integration of complementary home repair programs with utility initiatives such as energy efficiency and safety, offering customers greater access and choice. Partnership allows the utility to leverage HomeServe’s marketing and communications expertise to educate their customers through a variety of channels. For more information, contact us.
The flattening load growth and search for new revenue channels is old news to utilities – the question now is: What is required of your consumer engagement strategy?
The retail and service markets already exist, but products like smart thermostats and electrical vehicle charging stations are expected to be a billion-dollar market by 2030 for utilities and third-party vendors, according to a July 2018 study.
The first hurdle is engaging energy consumers. Forty percent are “selectively engaged,” and the old messaging standbys are as old news to them as the changing face of the industry is to you. They can be lured in with energy efficiency offerings, because saving money is a strong motivator for them.
It makes sense that these consumers usually have average or below average incomes and some can’t afford the upfront costs of energy efficiency, opening up an opportunity to offer on-bill financing, a little-used approach, or a web-based marketplace offering energy-efficient products.
Speaking of the bill, many selectively engaged consumers are frustrated by what they see as confusing and opaque billing practices. Lower those frustrations by making it easier to redeem rebates. Even simply educating consumers in already available rate-savings plans and how to better manage their bill or usage can improve your engagement strategy.
One of your most useful tools in engaging consumers is data – analyzing your already available data will provide insights that will enable you to personalize your messaging, and provide information that is of interest to that consumer. As more of them plug-in to smart home appliances such as thermostats, HVAC systems and water heaters, even more data will be available, allowing you to further target and offer additional products and services.
The “Always Engaged”
Another segment of energy consumers is the “always engaged,” and many are digital natives who want options and know where to look for them. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, are already part of the “subscription culture,” paying monthly fees for everything from entertainment to clothing. However, these services are highly accessible, personalized and available over multiple channels, expectations utilities need to meet.
Utilities have been slow to adapt to this digital tribe, but it’s not impossible to master if you look at the customer/member experience holistically, paying special attention to billing and payments, managing usage and reporting outages – all bread-and-butter issues that have a large impact on satisfaction.
Millennials often are “green champions,” having shown an interest in solar technology and electric vehicles. In suggesting products and services that help save energy and money, utilities can play the role of the trusted advisor, framing product and service offerings as an opportunity for choice. Offering value-added services through predictive and proactive apps and websites from which a customer can monitor their usage, purchase energy-efficient products or share energy-saving tips offers another avenue for engagement.
What’s Important to Your Engagement Strategy?
You know that engagement is important, but how much of your resources do you dedicate to it when your primary goal is to maintain a safe, reliable source of electricity even as the grid is aging and evolving? Consider entering into an affinity partnership instead of managing everything yourself. You can’t do it all, but you don’t need to – there are companies that specialize in the technology and services energy consumers want with very little risk to you.
HomeServe USA (HomeServe), a leading provider of home repair solutions, has announced the findings of the summer 2018 edition of its Biannual State of the Home Survey. The bi-annual survey reports on the financial impact of home repairs, including homeowner readiness for a home repair emergency. It also addresses the state of the American home. The summer edition of the online survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from Aug. 27-29, 2018, among 2,012 adults age 18 and older, including 1,377 who identified themselves as homeowners.
It might not feel like it right now, but colder weather is right around the corner. That makes it the perfect time to make sure your customers’ heating systems are prepared to handle the inevitable – plummeting winter temperatures. Waiting until the first cold day of the season is not the right time to find out if a heater is functioning properly, so it’s time for furnace tune up services.
Did you know that, on average, a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems together run over 2,000 hours each and every year and that replacement of either a heating or cooling unit can cost thousands? That’s why we are working to promote National Tune Up Day, a yearly reminder that scheduling an annual furnace tune up takes just a few minutes but can save a whole lot of money and hassle in the long run.
During a tune-up, a competent technician typically goes through the following important check-list of system tasks:
Check safety systems and controls
Check/clean gauge and flush low water cut-off
Check filters and belts
Check flue pipe and chimney draft
Check oil motors and pumps
Check/clean blower assembly
Check condensate line if applicable
While many Americans don’t expect to have to deal with a home emergency, over half of the respondents in a 2018 HomeServe survey reported having a home repair emergency just in the past year – and furnace tune up and HVAC repairs topped the list. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To learn more, click here.
State after state is deregulating electricity, forcing utilities to offer lower prices to be competitive with retail providers. Homes boasting more energy efficiency and a growing interest in green technology flattens load growth, and many energy utilities have sought new revenue through value-added services.
Utilities that are recognizable, trusted brands with broad consumer relationships are in a unique position to offer services that will improve customer satisfaction and retention. Studies show customers want choice, so offering services customers can choose to participate in increases their satisfaction, and J.D. Power has found increased customer satisfaction means improved ROE.
Innovative Energy Sources
The proliferation of electric-hungry devices and smart home technology has increased demand for energy, but emerging technologies make it easier and cheaper than ever for homeowners to incorporate green energy. Solar panel prices have dropped more than 70 percent since 2009, and saw an increase in global implementation by 50 percent in 2016.
Device-addicted Millennials, who spend 90 hours a month using smartphone apps – also have the greatest interest in smart homes. Eighty-six percent are willing to pay up to 20 percent more in mortgage or rental payments for smart home technology, such as smart thermostats, according to a Wakefield Research study. Millennials have also passed Baby Boomers as the largest component of the U.S. workforce, and are interested in green energy. Fifty-six percent indicated a desire to incorporate solar panels, according to an Accenture consumer survey.
The stage has been set for partnerships between utilities and affinity partners in offering new services to customers, between technological advances and grid modernization. Value-added services can fall under three main categories: energy services, home services and information services. Energy services can include items as simple as surge protection, lighting, weatherproofing or as complex as energy storage and electric vehicle charging.
Energy services goes hand-in-hand with information services, such as home energy management systems, energy reports and real-time usage information through analysis of smart meter data. Customers can manage consumption and costs through real-time data. Fifty percent of Millennials will pay more for real-time information and 61 percent want an app that remotely monitors their energy usage and controls home elements.
Home services is a developing market that includes home inspection, landscaping, emergency home repair plans and bundled services, such as home security systems. Utilities can use collected data to anticipate customer needs and move into that space before startups.
Home Repair Plans Popular Value-Added Services
Customers who received an emergency home repair plan through their utility rated their provider higher than those who didn’t have policies. This was an increase of 40 percent for gas providers and 36 percent for electric providers, according to a HomeServe USA survey. In addition, 59 percent of those who don’t currently have policies would have an improved opinion of their utility provider if they did offer a repair plan, while more than half said it would be appropriate for their utility to offer one. More than 80 percent said a utility should inform customers what repairs won’t be covered by the utility.
Utility companies have a leg up on services in all of these areas through their connections to customers’ homes and the huge amount of data collected regularly. Investing in value-added services can increase operating margins and reduce attrition.
HomeServe USA partners with utility providers to offer home warranties, complementing other energy services offerings and providing reliable and convenient repair services for home electric, gas, water and sewer lines. To find out how HomeServe can expand your home services offerings, contact us.