Why is nearly every major energy provider across the globe interested in customer experience transformation? The reasons couldn’t be clearer:

  • Revenue is under pressure. 58% of utility executives believe that distributed generation (i.e. generating energy near the point of consumption as opposed to centralized power plants) will cause revenue reduction by 2030.1
  • Competition is emerging from all directions and reshaping the energy provider landscape. There are 122 blockchain-enabled energy startups. Since January of last year, 54 new firms have launched.2
  • Consumers expect more of their energy providers. In 2017, 58% of consumers in competitive markets who have switched providers reported being likely to switch again.3

In addition to this marketplace context, the capabilities, culture and brand of most energy providers are not well suited for where the industry is heading. For many customers, energy providers are “the power company.” They are not top of mind with their customers when it comes to innovative products and services, such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure, rooftop solar, smart thermostats or backup generation. Additionally, leading brands across industries pay close attention to branding each interaction. Unfortunately, the most frequent interactions between customers and energy providers today revolve around receiving a bill or experiencing an outage, both of which are typically not positive. Finally, leading brands invest millions in marketing and brand awareness. Energy providers spend far less. This limited investment constrains consumer awareness and opens the door for new entrants.

In order to become more relevant to their customers, unlock new sources of growth and inform investments in new technologies, energy providers need a new approach. They need to transform their businesses by placing the customer at the heart of it. However, before embarking on a customer experience transformation journey, stakeholders need to agree on what customer experience transformation means for their organization. Customer experience transformation is both a mind-set and a discipline. It re-envisions the business with customers at the center shaping offers, experiences, capabilities, policies, channels and technology around an intentional customer strategy and experience.

Customer experience transformation is both a mind-set and a discipline

This figure depicts how customer experience transformation is both a mind-set and a discipline.  It re-envisions the business with customers at the center shaping offers, experiences, capabilities, policies, channels and technology around an intentional customer strategy and experience.

The figure above depicts the definition of customer experience transformation and its blueprint.

These four steps will position any company to begin the customer experience transformation successfully:

Step 1: Understand the customer. Without an understanding of the customer, the experience is irrelevant. In both B2C and B2B environments, customers have different needs, motivations, expectations and behaviors. Energy providers must accommodate the different ways that customers will experience the brand. Accenture Strategy research shows that 87% of consumers believe it is important for companies to personalize experiences without compromising trust.4

Step 2: Reveal why customers engage. Customer journeys represent intent. Historically, customer journeys in utilities have involved learning, moving, paying, managing accounts and consumption, attempting to save money, restoring power and getting help on issues. These journeys apply to competitive energy retailers as well. However, their customers also shop, join and even switch providers, all of which are starting to propagate into regulated utilities as they pursue growth via non-commodity offerings. As disruptive technologies emerge (e.g. distributed generation), new journeys will arise. The key is to design journeys that enable customer success, stimulate engagement, promote loyalty and differentiate the brand.

Step 3: Define where customers will engage. Many energy providers have employed a channel strategy intended to drive a mass shift to digital. This can lead to digital disappointment.5 As interaction channels proliferate, it is imperative for companies to make deliberate channel decisions that align to customer needs and journeys. There are additional considerations. First, disruptive technologies must be evaluated. For example, with over 50% of all searches being voice searches by 20206 , digital assistants must be evaluated. Secondly, “backstage” capabilities that enable “frontstage” customer interactions are critical. For example, quality management and agent learning practices in the contact center are key enablers of a positive agent interaction despite being invisible to customers. Lastly, as partner ecosystems grow, it is increasingly important to enable 3rd parties to successfully deliver the intended customer experience.7

Step 4: Establish capabilities that enable the intended experience. At this point, energy providers have established a clear picture of who their customers are, why they engage and where they experience the brand. With this foundation, decisions pertaining to topics such as technology, policies, talent strategy, culture and cross-organizational operating models can be made. Energy providers should start with the customer versus the shiny object. The implications and magnitude of “putting customers at the center” become increasingly clear.

The transformation is underway. For instance, at a North American utility with top quartile performance in managing bad-debt, executives are evaluating the impact of its tight credit policy on customer relationships, front office costs and advocacy. As part of its digital transformation, a leading competitive energy retailer is re-organizing around customer journeys in order to break down channel-based siloes and to foster collaboration. Customer experience transformation requires organizations to make decisions based not only on business and shareholder value, but also on value created for customers and communities.

1 Accenture, Digitally Enabled Grid research, 2017

2 GTM Research, Energy Blockchain Startups Raised $324 Million in the Last Year, 2018

3 Accenture, New Energy Consumer: Switch the Switchers, 2017

4 Accenture Strategy, Global Consumer Pulse Research, 2017

5 Accenture, New Energy Consumer: Totally Digital? Maybe Not, 2017

6 Campaign, "The future of search is voice and personal assistants," 2016

7 Accenture, New Energy Consumer: Partner or Perish, 2017

Neil Parekh

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Utilities


Generation P(urpose): From fidelity to future value
Utilities at a crossroads

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