Rebuilding Customers’ Trust Through Better Communication

Utilities can reach their consumers effectively by tapping into the key moments and experiences that matter most.
Published: Thu 27 Nov 2014

In this live studio interview at European Utility Week 2014, Engerati speaks to Alex Laskey, President & Founder, Opower about the value of the engaged energy consumer.

As energy suppliers move from being just commodity providers to real service providers, they know that transformation necessitates an engaged customer. Laskey says that engaging customers has real benefits to their bottom line since it improves the customer relationship (thereby reducing churn) and saves the retailer 40 Euros on average per household per year.

“Many customers stay with their retailers not necessarily because the price is good but because they trust the brand, the service is good, and they have access to tools which help them understand their consumption. To attract loyal customers, you have to improve the brand.”

Digital customer engagement

Laskey says that the digitisation of the customer experience is the way forward. Energy suppliers are lagging behind other industries which have cut their customer care costs and improved loyalty through digital interaction with customers.

The same opportunity is available to the energy sector and they don’t need a whole new set of skills or complete change in mindset since they already have a customer relationship and they have been partnering with vendors for a while now, says Laskey.

Digitisation will make it easier for utilities to pick up on unusual consumption behaviour and notify customers as well as give them suggestions on how to curb it.

Demand response through behavioural change

In the US, Opower discovered that US customers want to reduce energy usage even without incentives. By giving consumers better information, their consumption was reduced at peak by 5%. Laskey says the same opportunity is available in Europe to balance intermittent renewables which will be critical.

Information must be provided at the appropriate time and through the right channel and it must motivate customers to take action. It is therefore essential that utilities understand their customer base first. The right information will enable customers to shift their own behaviour especially when consumption is being compared to the rest of the area for instance.

“Electricity is not sexy and probably never will be but the key is to revolutionalise the key moments and experiences that matter to the customer and retailer.”

Laskey points out that utilities must first re-establish trust and improve the customer relationship. Once this is done, the relationship can be enhanced through additional touch points and they can sell other value-added services to the customer and create new “moments” and relationships.

Utilities are in the best position to snap up new opportunities to sell services to their customers for distributed generation and energy efficiency. However it is a perishable opportunity for them so they must take advantage before someone else does, recommends Laskey.