Personalised and Relevant Communication Should Be Utilities’ Focus

Utilities are prioritizing a more analytics-driven consumer engagement to build trust with their customers.
Published: Fri 08 May 2015

Utilities have come to realize that a renewed focus on the customer has become critical. But, their task is a mammoth one since most European energy customers are disengaged and disinterested. In fact, the average European energy consumer thinks about their energy retailer for a mere nine minutes a year on average. Unfortunately, these thoughts are often negative and focus mostly on issues such as service faults and billing errors. This is according to John Webster, VP Marketing & Strategy at Opower, who co-presented in a recent webinar, Understanding the Energy Customer: Lessons from the world's largest energy usage analytics program.

The growing number of disruptive forces in the industry such as flat demand, competitiveness within the industry, renewables and smart technology are creating new priorities such as the reduction in operational costs, building customer loyalty and increasing revenue beyond the meter. In response to this new focus and to reach new goals, EU energy executives are prioritizing a more analytics-driven consumer engagement.

Customer-centric communications

Webster points to three best practices for energy customer-centric communications at scale:

1. Being proactive-This involves real-time usage alerts especially for unusual electricity usage. Customers should also be able to choose their preferred communication channel.

2. Personalised messaging-Involves a more relevant and targeted message which brings more value to all concerned.

3. Motivating-This involves triggering a lasting change in consumer behaviour.

Other retailers outside the energy industry have already tapped into the many opportunities that personalized and proactive messaging offer. For instance, online clothing retailer Asos goes beyond basic transacting with customers - their focus is on engaging across the entire customer lifecycle and building an ongoing two-way conversation. Their communication approach is also consistent across their various communication channels and devices. The focus is on personalized recommendations for customers. Another well-known company, Amazon, uses predictive analytics to prompt consumer engagement. For instance, customer website activity will prompt personalized marketing messages and prompts. Netflix also uses data to make personalized recommendations. They use data and digital channels to meet the customer on their terms. They give proactive advice which consumers clearly value judging by the success of these customers, explains Webster.

“A greater focus on customer service will help build consumer trust. Once this is in place, selling additional services and products will be easier once trust has been gained.”

Analysing and acting on consumption data

Utilities are at an advantage since they have a great deal of data on customers’ consumption habits and personal data at their disposal already. By analyzing this data effectively, utilities can send customers personalized recommendations and prompts which may prove to be highly valuable for everyone concerned.

“Customer data has exploded in quality and quantity especially due to the growth in smart meter adoption. Therefore, the utility has a clear opportunity to take advantage and create more value from the data,” explains Webster.

The investment in self service and digital are helping utilities understand the individual preferences of their customers. The utility’s role in a connected home is likely to settle on a model that will use the growing quantity and complexity of data to refine customer communications, explains Webster.