Energy Consumers: Quality Data Is More Important Than Quantity

UK utilities are missing key opportunities to engage their customers, according to research.
Published: Fri 29 May 2015

British utilities are failing to engage their customers and build loyalty, despite attempts to communicate more frequently, according to new research from Opower. The study, “Moments that Matter”, reveals a number of ‘moments that matter’ in the customer-utility relationship and found that utility customers typically want better communication - not more - at these critical points in their dealings with their utilities.

Personalised energy data more meaningful

The Opower study identified twelve critical moments, ranging from moving house, receiving a high bill, or experiencing a power outage, when customers wanted personalized information from their utility, yet these were some of the areas in which customers felt their energy providers performed the worst. Two thirds of the UK’s energy customers that have received unexpected high bills, for example, plan to switch utility, as a result. Two thirds of UK energy customers who have received unexpected high bills plan to switch providers so clearly it is important for utilities to warn their customers ahead of time when a bill is heading to be a shocker. This means that communication must be meaningful, therefore subjective. Our webinar with Opower, Understanding the Energy Customer: Lessons from the world's largest energy usage analytics program, discusses the importance of personalization in detail.

“Most customers think about their energy provider for just a few minutes each year, and everyone is looking for ways to break through this supposed indifference,” said John Webster, vice president, International, at Opower. “But if you listen to customers it’s clear the solution lies not in telling them about great service provided or creating new reasons to contact them, but by making the customer experience better during the existing moments that are most important to them.”

Meaningless communication could mean high customer churn

The report reveals that customers’ perception of how their utilities performed at these critical moments — especially during the billing process — was the number one factor differentiating customers who intended to switch from those who didn’t. People who said their bill was easy to understand, received helpful advice from a call centre representative, or felt that arranging a connection was easy, were less than half as likely to consider switching providers.

Opower’s study also revealed that:

● 73% of UK customer said they had received an unexpected high bill in the last 12 months and it came as a surprise and 71% said that receiving the high bill had caused anxiety.

● 61% of UK customers who said they had received an unexpected high bill said they would be more likely to switch provider as a result.

● More than 80% of customers say it is important for their utility to provide them with alerts for unusually high bills, helpful customer support, and information about rate changes. But less than half of these customers are satisfied with their experience during these interactions.

The results indicate an opportunity for utilities: while reliable service and value remain important, nearly one third (30%) of British respondents said that improvements in customer service would actually have the biggest impact on satisfaction levels with their energy provider.

Further reading:

Opower-Moments that Matter