Investor-owned energy utilities have slid nearly three percentage points in the American Customer Satisfaction Index report for 2018-2019, primarily because of higher prices and outages caused by severe weather. This is called the ASCI Score.
Natural gas providers have seen a higher score – 78 to electric’s 72 – possibly because gas transmission lines largely aren’t exposed to the vagaries of weather. This was after the industry overall saw a slight jump in the prior year’s report. IOUs saw hits around goodwill or support of the community and support of renewable energy programs, which didn’t meet customers’ expectations.
You already know the country’s aging infrastructure needs to be addressed, and many utilities already have plans in place to address it, but infrastructure isn’t quick or flashy. There are other things you can do to improve customer perception and loyalty, and by doing so, improve your ACSI score.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the places where the industry didn’t meet customer expectations, and that’s a shame, because positive customer perception in this area can show up on the balance sheet.
In a survey, 94 percent of consumers said they would switch to a company that supports a cause, and 20 percent would pay more to a company that does so. Among U.S. consumers, 52 percent factor whether a company’s values align with their own, 87 percent will make a purchase from a company that supported a cause important to them, and 65 percent research companies’ CSR programs to determine whether they are sincere or “greenwashing,” putting on the appearance of social responsibility without the accompanying cultural changes.
Socially conscious Millennials spend their money with companies whose values align with their own, and Millennials have been dubbed Green Champions, those concerned with environmentalism – another area where the industry didn’t meet customer expectations.
In short, being a good corporate citizen can not only improve customer loyalty (and your ASCI Score!), but encourage them to spend more with you.
Perceived Value and Quality
Perceived value and quality, along with customer expectations, are important benchmarks the ACSI takes into account when calculating and ASCI score.
While energy reliability is an important part of the services that you deliver to your customers, you can boost this rating by offering energy services, energy efficiency products and other offerings through affinity partnerships. Offering a range of products or services can improve perceptions of success and quality.
It’s reported that customer experience will be the most important factor, above price and features, by 2020, meaning that your customer’s perception of their relationship with your utility and the quality of your service will be more important to them than cost. As noted above, customers will pay more for products and services if they can be linked to a cause that they care about.
A customer who perceives your service to be of superior quality or value, is likely to become a loyal customer. They will not only purchase your services over a comparable competitor’s, but recommend them to others.
Seventy-nine percent of utilities believe themselves to be customer-centric, when only 7 percent of customers believe the same thin, according to research. As the energy industry evolves, customer service is becoming an area where utilities can differentiate themselves from the competition. Customer service also has an impact on your bottom line with JD Power finding that improved customer satisfaction means an increased return on equity for energy providers.
Improving the customer journey can improve satisfaction. We have entered the digital age, and customers want a multichannel experience, and you can use this to your benefit. Something as simple as a push notification when a service technician is on their way to a customer’s home can improve satisfaction.
Customers want to speak to an empathetic agent at your call center, who understands their problem and provides a smooth transition between self-service to assisted service. Information can’t be siloed – your customers will be less frustrated when your agents have access to the big picture.
Partnerships with third party providers are enabling utilities to offer value-added services and new products to help strengthen customer relationships, because a utility’s core business of delivering power and maintaining infrastructure requires vast resources.
Value-added services can fall under three main categories: energy services, such as surge protection, lighting, weatherproofing and electric vehicle storage; information services, such as home energy management systems, energy reports and real-time usage information; and home services, a developing market that includes home inspection, landscaping, emergency home repair plans and bundled services, such as home security systems.
According to research conducted by HomeServe, those customers who received an emergency home repair plan through their utility rated their provider higher than those who didn’t have policies. This is just one more offering that could lead to a better ASCI Score.
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.