While residential consumers have typically viewed their relationship with energy providers as low-value and low-touch, this is changing. With financial services and telecommunications companies offering more and more diverse and easy to use contact options – consumers are expecting more from energy providers – especially when presented with new product options and emerging smart technologies.
- The social media imperative—Of those consumers surveyed in our research, 60 percent indicated that their behavior or purchasing decisions had been influenced by social media in the past year, an impact even greater in respondents between 18 and 34 years of age. Customers are interested in receiving consumer reviews on energy programs and appliances, cost savings advice and outage information via channels like Twitter and FaceBook. However, in many cases, energy providers have yet to fully harness social media as a primary customer contact channel.
- The resurgence of face-to-face interaction—In an era of Web connectivity, self-service and increasing mobility, retail storefronts in the energy industry are few and far between. Yet, 60 percent of respondents in our survey expressed the desire to purchase an energy management product at a retail location. An additional 13 percent are interested in purchasing an energy management product from a salesperson in their home. While many utilities spent years closing down local offices – it is apparent that personalized, high touch service is a capability necessity when engaging consumers in value-add products and services.
- The complexity of channel convergence—While energy consumers are interested in personalized interaction through multiple channels, most still don’t want unsolicited contact more than twice per month. And regardless of the channel, two thirds of consumers say they only want to be contacted with information about specific issues, like cost-saving tips or reviews of new smart home appliances. While consumers demand more options, they are also explicit in it being on ‘their’ terms. The challenge for energy providers will be to provide consistent, yet tailored, messaging across channels.
I believe that with the rise of digital consumerism, value-add products and services, increased mobility, next generation social media, and increasing competition for consumer mind-share – the time for energy providers to rethink their approach to channels is now.
What are your ideas how utilities can create and manage the dialog with consumers?