Earlier this year Accenture published the results of their 3rd annual global survey of energy consumers titled, Actionable Insights for the New Energy Consumer. This report provides energy organizations a detailed perspective into the current drivers influencing the shift in consumer needs and behaviors.
“The energy consumer landscape is constantly shifting with smart technologies, new products and services and challenging economic realities.” — Greg Guthridge, Global Managing Director Accenture Retail and Business Services for Utilities
The above quote from Greg Guthridge highlights the multiple external factors influencing the consumer today and the leading role technology has been playing in driving this change. As seen in many other industries, technology is making the daily lives of consumers more convenient and ‘mobile’. Whether it is a new gadget, or a new software solution, today’s consumers are increasingly online and expecting convenience and transparency in everything they do. This key shift in consumer behavior has made its way into the Utilities industry and is high-lighted in the report as the need for Energy providers to offer the consumer ‘choice’. Choice in what products or services consumers can buy, choice in how they pay, choice in how they save, and choice in how they can bundle everything into one packaged tailored to their specific needs.
The bottom line is it is not enough to just provide energy anymore. Consumers are looking to energy providers for information on complementary products and services to improve convenience and solidify the relationship. The top three ranked responses in the report around what additional services consumers would value was information on: products and materials to make simple improvements to their home to save electricity, home energy generation products, and home energy audits and consultations. These responses reflect an increase in ‘awareness’ for conservation, ‘loyalty’ as they want to contribute to supply generation, and ‘service’ to help them learn and become smarter about consumption and conservation. These shifts are the beginning of the transition from traditional one way relationships to a two way open relationship build on trust and common goals.
An additional consumer ‘choice’ insight offered by the report is the willingness and openness of consumers for additional products and services not directly complementary to energy, but rather provide the consumer great convenience. A few examples as found in the study are: 52% of consumers are somewhat, or very interested in, receiving home repair services (ex: plumber), and 49% of consumers are interested in receiving telecoms products from a Utilities. It appears that energy consumers are becoming more interested in a wider, and more diverse portfolio of products and services. Supporting this new idea of extending consumers ‘choice’ beyond the traditional energy products and services is the direct correlation found in the report between number of products offered and the level of customer satisfaction. A key challenge for Utilities companies will be to strike the balance between offering those extended products and services to drive customer satisfaction while not increasing the internal complexity and costs to effectively deliver the traditional versus the non-traditional energy products and services.
So how can Utility’s best approach the challenge of consumer ‘choice’? Two key takeaways from the various findings supported by the research are:
- Know your consumer!
- What are they willing to pay for? (ex: premium products & services)
- What are they willing to forgo in order to obtain a discount? (ex: default self-service)
- Offer solutions bundled to the needs of the consumer or provide them the choice to create the bundles!
- What complementary services do your consumers value? (ex: energy consultation, plumbers, free weather stripping, etc.)
- What partnerships are needed to ensure effectively delivery of those products and services outside the core business of the Utility? (don’t fall into the trap of trying to do it all yourself!)
Doesn’t this all sound familiar? In essence we have found ourselves back at key themes such as: Customer Analytics (know what to offer), Customer Service Differentiation (deliver the choice), and Operational Excellence (execute it seamlessly). The good news is the report supports previous research found in many other industries (ex: Banking and Telecommunications) which means Utilities companies can learn from their best practices.
For more information on the survey results download the full report here.