Accenture’s 12th New Energy Consumer research report is hot off the press. It draws on inputs from 500 energy providers (both B2B and B2C) across 14 countries, and lays bare the challenge and the opportunity that lies ahead.

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It also confirms what my energy provider clients are telling me every day: that they’re facing huge strategic change, with the net-zero transition + digital transformation + new customer expectations, all at once.

For a highly regulated industry, it’s certainly a whole new dynamic.

But our research shows there is scope for optimism, with 77% of the energy providers we talked to saying they are already becoming more agile and digital, and less commodity focused; and 42% already investing in digital channels to improve the customer experience.

Empirically, energy providers know that to thrive in the future, they’ll need to be low-carbon, digitally powered, and relentlessly customer-focused. So how do you get there?

The five pillars to focus on

Our research identified five areas where we believe energy providers must take action—here and now—to thrive in the future:

  1. Purpose: With consumers plugging into companies’ purpose like never before, energy providers must know what they stand for and how to articulate it.
  2. Product: Give customers the greener energy products and tools they want, and explain the impact of their actions.
  3. Platforms: To thrive, energy providers must become digital organizations, with sustained investment in innovation and technology.
  4. People: With the twin challenges of digital transformation and net-zero, you’ll need the right people and skills, supported by the right culture.
  5. Partnerships: Team up across the energy ecosystem to transform at speed.

Please read our research in full to find out more about each of these, and the actions you can take, now, to position for the future.

For me, personally, and in the conversations I’m having with my clients, here are a few themes that particularly resonate.

#1: The customer relationship is being elevated in a demand-driven future

 Looking back several years, purpose-driven purchasing was already on the rise. That much we know.

But the COVID-19 pandemic amplified this trend. Consumers began making over their energy lifestyle, and wanting a relationship with their energy provider beyond the transactional.

But thinking beyond the commodity remains a challenge for many energy providers, with 25% saying their inability to find a purpose or narrative to engage customers is a barrier to improving the customer experience they offer.

Meanwhile, customers are ready for greener, more innovative products and services on the road to net-zero, and energy providers must 1) give them what they want; 2) deliver that relationship beyond billing and 3); explain to consumers how they’re contributing to a net-zero world.

#2: To that end, data is king, but so are employees

How do you give customers what they want, delivered in a way that resonates with them individually?

By prioritizing data and analytics, as the fuel for personalization, and as part of a sustained focus on digital transformation.

And with our research showing 35% of energy providers are already investing in sales and service analytics, many are already on this path. But skills are a barrier to scale, with 54% saying they have a talent gap in AI architecture and data science skills.

And that brings me to something I’m talking to my clients about more often than not: when you’re prioritizing the customer experience, make sure you think about the employee experience (and the broader employee proposition) in the same breath. Energy providers are increasingly understanding the need to reinvent the employee experience too, as they skill, reskill and aim to retain their people for the next wave.

Because here’s the thing: if you want to become an innovative, digital, agile organization, you’re going to need motivated, skilled employees, empowered to break down silos and flex as the challenges change.

#3: Partner for transformation at speed

Increasingly, no energy provider is an island!

And that’s a good thing, with partnering key to transformation, scale, speed and agility. And never more so as energy providers play in a disrupted landscape, with new market entrants, and a new pace of innovation.

I’m counseling my clients to think about whom to play with, for what purpose, whether that’s established businesses or new entrants. And to be strategic about it (many energy providers in our research are, with 75% planning to acquire start-ups for innovation).

Partnering across the energy ecosystem is already delivering those connected products and experiences people want,and benefiting all of those partners. Think eMobility, for example, an ecosystem in which multiple players are coming together across energy, automotive, charging infrastructure and so on—watch my colleagues talking about this topic and the industry convergence we’re seeing around it at COP26.

With 74% of energy providers believing that customers are already turning away from large utilities towards new, more innovative players, it’s time to act. Contact me to talk more about the road ahead.

Scott Tinkler

Senior Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Utilities Global Lead

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