In brief

In brief

  • The Fjord Trends 2021 are about mapping out new territory, with the events of 2020 upending so much of what we had, until then, taken for granted.
  • For energy retailers, this shake-up of the status quo is an opportunity to redefine relationships with customers and businesses and how they deliver services.
  • It all adds up to a new space to reposition from commodity provider to innovative collaborator as the energy transition becomes ever more pressing.
  • We think five of the trends are particularly relevant for energy retailers. Here’s why and how energy retailers can capitalize on them.

A new conversation-starter for utilities

In 2020, the world moved. Established norms about what businesses are, and how customers communicate with them, fell away overnight. And the result? A new openness and space for brands and industries to redefine themselves and their relationships. For energy retailers, it’s the space they have looked for to reposition.

To move from commodity provider to innovative collaborator; from transactional biller to engaged contributor to people’s lives; and from business to business (B2B) electricity provider to trusted partner in the energy transition. All in all, it’s a new conversation-starter and a releveling of the playing field that speaks to energy retailers' strengths.

Listen to Accenture Interactive’s Mark Curtis and Essent’s Suzan Schakenraad talk us through this year’s Fjord Trends and what they mean for energy retailers.

View Transcript

Collective displacement

When the world moved in 2020, so many norms and assumptions fell away. And now, looking ahead, for energy retailers it means a window of opportunity to reinvent how they operate, and design a customer relationship beyond billing. In years gone by, people just didn’t “get” the energy retailer as an engaged partner. Now the status quo has been shaken up so much, they just might.

When millions of people worldwide started working from home during lockdown, formerly intimate spaces took on a new professional function.

Displacement creates a new opportunity for energy retailers, from basic commodity provider to innovative electric vehicle (EV) charging partner; or from B2B electricity provider to trusted partner in the energy transition.

And channels will matter more than ever, with a huge opportunity for energy retailers to redesign how they interact with customers and businesses, online, by video, or in entirely new ways. Meanwhile, operational norms will also need to evolve, with daytime outages for routine maintenance increasingly a thing of the past, and residential consumption patterns changing forever.

Do-it-yourself innovation

We’ve witnessed a surge in lockdown innovation, with people redefining spaces and re-envisioning the home as the “multiverse”(school, party venue, study, investment management space).

In the UK, 50% more businesses were created in June 2020 compared with the same month in 2019.

Energy retailers are powering this trend, with extension cords electrifying home offices at the end of the garden. And it all adds up to an opportunity for people to upgrade their energy lifestyle at home, and a conversation-starter for energy retailers on the innovations they’ve been developing for years. Just consider: demand for online tutorials and how-to videos rising dramatically from March 2020, with Google reporting a 65% increase in watch time for “step by step” and “for beginners” videos.

Sweet teams are made of this

In 2020, energy retailers became a virtual workforce overnight, with roles and functions moving off-site in short order. But now there’s a bigger opportunity for energy retailers than the virtual, newly-flexible workforce: redefining how they provide service. At the simplest level, it’s about operating flexibility: The 9-5 call center may be gone, with a good percentage of employees bound to be putting their hands up for evening or early morning work, or even 24/7.

Working at home comes with features and challenges that companies will need to work through with their employees. How might we reimagine the employee experience in 2021?

Meanwhile, the call center is the tip of the iceberg, with Zoom-ready customers newly open to different ways of teaming with energy retailers. Think virtual boiler diagnostics by video, with the engineer in Scotland and the customer in London (with faster service, lower GHG emissions, better workforce management). Sounds far-fetched? It’s already happening.

Interaction wanderlust

Against the backdrop of 2020, big brands are finding connection counts. It’s now less about corporates versus individuals, and more about organizations being more human in the way they communicate. Energy retailers provide a fundamental human need, and are operating in a strong space as a result.

But how do they strive for humanity, connection and meaningful engagement with customers? For one, democratize customer communication. Consumer behaviors are key to the energy transition, but do they (we) understand how? Energy retailers may understand net zero targets, renewables, the GHG emissions impacts of moving to an EV…but do consumers?

It’s about connecting the dots for customers and personalizing the conversation. And that will naturally lead to new opportunities to showcase the breadth of what energy retailers can do for them.

Liquid infrastructure

Infrastructure and supply chains have come into stark focus in 2020. Meanwhile, with online ordering surging, delivery has become the point of human connection and the face of the customer experience. It transforms the conversation from last mile delivery to “last few feet” delivery as a differentiator and a way to engage.

Forget the last mile. Now it's all about the last few feet and inches of the customer experience.

Now think about the role energy retailers play, with their field forces among the most trusted people in the community. The engineer as a lifeline. This positions them uniquely to check on vulnerable customers; help people save money on their bills with services or technologies (scouting for the right location for an EV charging point, for instance); connect them to other organizations if they need help.

Extend the humanity to the contact center. Why should the customer need to speak to a new person every time they call a contact center? With the right routing infrastructure, the customer can be connected back to someone who has dealt with them before (even if that means a call-back, with agents working flexible hours at home). It’s about making the personal connection.

Energy retailers are mapping out new territory. And the time is right to reinvent how they provide service, and the innovations they bring to bear.

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