Utilities:Focus More on Consumer Practices

Utilities should focus less on energy consumption and more on consumer practices.
Published: Wed 12 Mar 2014

Countries are struggling to meet energy efficiency targets because they are placing too much focus on energy consumption. This is according to Dr Anca-Diana Barbu, Project Manager for Energy and Environment, European Environment Agency. In order to engage the customer more effectively in energy efficiency drives, the utility should focus more on consumer practices so that they can begin to understand how best to achieve their energy efficiency goals.

Focus must be broadened

There are many aspects which have major effects on consumer behavior towards power consumption. Technology, economic situation and culture all impact upon a customer’s consumption habits. These aspects affect a consumer’s needs, opportunities and abilities when it comes to energy efficiency. In addition to this, the aforementioned aspects are dynamic and are subject to change on a regular basis.

Currently, consumer behavior and consumption requires more resources which is creating more environmental damage.

Based on this, policy-makers must shift their focus on consumption practices instead and stakeholders should be included and involved from the very beginning. The focus must be broadened significantly, explains Dr Barbu.

Communication made easy

The way in which consumption data is conveyed is of utmost importance. For instance, smart meter projects should be viewed as energy efficiency projects instead. It’s all a matter of perception. By labeling a project as something that will be of potential value to the consumer, the customer might be more inclined to adopt it.

In addition to this, consumers should have easy access to information that the utility is sharing. The utility should take advantage of as many modes of communication as possible, including mobiles, television, telephone, and the Internet. This will ensure that the vast majority of consumers are reached. Utilities cannot make the assumption that everyone has access to the Internet. This is where it is important to understand the region’s consumers since some may not have access to various modes of communication such as the Internet.

Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are widely used and utilities can tap into these methods of communication to enhance consumer engagement.

Getting to know your customer

While there are many ways in which the utility can communicate with its consumers, it is critical that the content is well-presented so that consumers can understand it. They should not be made to feel confused or irritated by the information but instead, empowered by it.

Utilities should also find various ways of communicating with different age groups as it is possible that each group will respond differently to the same message. Each age group will have its own set of consumption habits. It is up to the utility to engage effectively and differently with each group in order to gain better customer relationships across the board.

In addition, innovativeness like gaming is guaranteed to help utilities engage better with the consumer. Again, the utility will need to really understand its customer and what appeals most to them. A focus on culture will probably help.

Consumers have differing needs and perceptions of things and these must be taken into account when reaching out to the consumer. It is important to understand your customers’ needs first and then the process of segmentation can begin since not everyone has the same situation or habits, explains Dr Barbu. It is also important to make customers feel that they are part of the bigger picture. “Consumers want to know that their actions mean something and that they are not the only ones doing it.”