How to engage utility customers in an on-demand culture
Engaging customers in utility programs has never been more important—but it’s also never been more complex. Rapid advances in technology have changed nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we shop to how we form relationships to, yes, how we use energy.
As consumers adapt to these changes, wise utilities are paying attention—not just to advances specific to the energy sector, but also to the new ways people communicate and consume information.
New technology changes how customers use energy
Energy-specific technological advances have changed how customers can use information to manage energy. They also offer opportunities for utilities to engage their customers like never before.
Utilities now have the ability to deliver reliable, energy-efficient solutions and balance the grid in real time with distributed energy resources (DERs), demand response (DR) programs and energy efficiency measures. That means consumers can now be personally involved in saving energy and money—and optimizing the grid—in truly innovative ways.
But with rapid progress comes the potential for massive confusion. Which may be why, despite stated interest in conserving energy, most consumers never take the plunge and sign up for the energy-saving and energy management programs their utilities offer.
Smart utilities are targeting that gap between interest and adoption. They’re taking cues from marketing experts about how today’s customers expect to receive information and interact with their service providers. And by meeting customers where they are on their journey, these utilities are able to engage customers and lead them toward the programs and services that will transform the way they use energy.
What customers want from their utility
In our increasingly networked world, customers expect to be able to interact with their utility in the same way they do Amazon, Netflix or Instagram. Utilities and energy providers must adapt in order to engage customers in this new digital frontier. Key to doing that is an expertly designed website and account portal that’s crafted to provide what customers want from their utilities:
- Simplicity. At the core, people want services and solutions that simplify their lives. As their energy decisions become more complex, they want their utility’s website to be a comprehensive platform that can solve multiple problems for them in an intuitive way.
- Instant gratification. In this age of on-demand access to information, consumers expect it from their utilities too. Utilities need to provide immediate, easy access to bills, usage data, energy-saving products and services, and customer support.
- Control. Customers want to be able to control their energy usage. They want texts and in-app alerts that tell them when their energy use is surging, when they can take advantage of time-of-use rates or demand response events, and how they can control their home settings for smart devices.
- Personalization. Gone are the days of blast emails that begin, “Dear <first name>,” or worse, “Dear valued customer …” Today, people expect tailored messages, via the communication method they prefer, at every touch point—meaning apartment dwellers don’t want to see promotions for insulation rebates, and people who prefer text messages don’t want to get a note that their energy auditor is on their way via email. Personalization is essential, and it’s only possible with customer journey–focused market segmentation, omni-channel communication technology and integration to all your utility’s programs and services.
“Innovative utilities have tremendous opportunity here,” explained Paul Schueller, CEO of Franklin Energy. “They can engage customers in ways never thought possible—but only by stepping away from their traditional role as an energy-only provider and confidently moving into the role of trusted advisor and partner, educating customers about programs and offers that feel custom-designed for them.”
How can utilities keep up with changing customer expectations?
Understanding changing expectations and knowing what customers want is only half the battle. Most utilities don’t have the resources or flexibility to bring together the marketing, technology, customer care and implementation expertise needed to maximize customer engagement in today’s rapidly evolving market. This makes it even more important to choose a trusted partner for implementing your grid optimization programs with experienced staff, cutting-edge technology, innovative products and the ability to connect them into a meaningful experience for your customers