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.

Customer 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 customer 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.

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