Want to make your customers insanely happy? Of course you do. And understanding what they want from you can be a great place to start. Whether your own utility's best solution involves providing users with the right options, refining products or improving energy efficiency programs, there's a tool kit to get the job done.
Take a look a what a few experts have to say on the matter.
One thing to realize is that customer happiness is about choice. And choice is not only about price, but convenience, quality, environmental attributes, and control over energy usage, NERA energy economists Dr. Karl McDemott and Dr. Carl R. Peterson explain in their white paper "Innovation in Retail Electricity Markets: The Overlooked Benefit."
To help customers achieve choice, what utilities must do the most is step away from the “plain vanilla” electric service, the economists say, and deliver innovation like water to fire.
In fact, customers are happier when they partake in a utility’s various energy products such as e-bill payments, in-home energy audits, and rebates on Energy Star appliances—J.D. Power reports in latest utility study released Tuesday.
New retail energy products tend to fall into four categories—innovative pricing options, clean energy products, tech-based energy management, and customized products such as partial-bundling or energy-only bill charge.
Providing these options is the quickest way utilities can cultivate customer satisfaction.
But here’s the rub—only a dozen or so utilities offer their customers this wide variety of products, says Jeff Conklin, a senior director at J.D. Power.
Those winning utilities include Arizona Public Service, Clark Public Utilities in Washington, Salt River Project in Arizona, Seattle City Light, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).
To that list, I’d add the Chicago-based ComEd which reported this week that it saved customers $400 million on utility bills in five years through its Smart Ideas energy efficiency programs. While ComEd customers can take advantage of a wide variety of energy-saving initiatives, the utility has even offered to pay for 75% of recommended energy efficiency upgrades for small businesses.
As J.D. Power points out, dissatisfaction is greatest for customers who aren’t aware of—and don’t engage with these new products or programs. And these type of customers account for 19% of your clientele.
So for starters, utilities already offering various innovations can charm more customers by simply cranking up its outreach to non-participants.
"While many other utilities do a good job, far too many utilities lag behind in engaging with their customers,” Conklin says in a press statement.
While experts continue to pump out lots of intelligence about retaining electricity customers—the ball is in your hands.
Come next year, will J.D. Power be able to list your utility as one of its customer engagement marvels?
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