Utility companies are getting better at customer engagement

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Introduction

According to research conducted by Capgemini, 15% of domestic customers will switch supplier every year in the US.

With these churn rates, utility companies have to work hard to win customers and more importantly keep customers.

Utility companies and customer engagement

Utility companies leverage product offering to improve customer engagement

A recent study by J.D. Power explores the different ways that utility companies can engage with both business and residential customers. The study included more than 51,400 responses from residential customers of 137 of the largest electric utilities throughout the United States.

The study highlighted the need to leverage product and service offerings. A strong programme of offers would help drive awareness, motivate customers to participate or avail of the offers and, most importantly would provide value that encouraged continued usage.

The key findings from this study were:

  • Electric business customers are more motivated by a strong utility programme offering than residential customers, with a participation rate of 44% vs. 16%, respectively. 
  • Communicating and driving awareness of a programme of offerings provides a greater lift in satisfaction among business customers, compared with residential customers.
  • Among the electric utility customers who participate in at least one product/service offering, 9% say they are "delighted," compared with 7% of those who participate but say they are "not delighted"
  • The top three program offerings with the highest levels of awareness among residential customers are in-home energy audits (22%); rebates on Energy Star appliances (22%); and old appliance/refrigerator recycling (20%).
  • The top three program offerings with the highest levels of participation among residential customers are tools that compare a customer's usage to other households (3.7%); central air conditioning cycling control (3.1%); and high-efficiency light bulb rebates or discounts (2.6%).
  • Awareness of products/services is higher among electric business customers than among residential customers with respect to pricing and billing (63% vs., 33%, respectively); energy management (54% vs. 28%); and rebates (49% vs. 39%).  

The business case for providing products and offerings that resonate with customers was all made. The more customers participate in program offerings, the more positive mentions they make, which help improve a utility's brand image.

 

So what can Irish Utility companies learn from this study and how can Irish Utility companies improve customer engagement?

A strong programme of offerings that resonates with customers is key to improving customer engagement

Most Irish utility companies offer a host of services and product offerings including up to 15% on bundle products and discounts on energy saving products.

Irish utilities companies conduct extensive research into their customer base, measuring the impact of these product offering and their level of customer satisfaction and engagement.

We have to assume that these offerings are scoring high with customers as they continue to be central to all utilities companies’ product offerings.

Irish utilities companies offer In -house energy audits but not a facility for recycling old electric appliances. Retail outlets such as Powercity offer this service.

By including recycling old electric appliances could be very popular with Irish consumers, given its popularity in the USA. Perhaps, Irish Utility companies should consider adding this offer to the suite of product offerings.

 While most utility companies including Electric Ireland, Airtricity and Energia, all provide in house energy audits, there is undoubtly an opportunity to drive great awareness of these offering and perhaps supply incentives for customer to avail of this service more.

 Irish Utility companies could go a bit further by recommending ways to reduce your utility consumption for those households that are above the average.

 This also provides a lovely message that utility companies will help you save money and thereby achieving a higher than average customer engagement.

Conclusion

Winning new customers and keeping existing customers continues to be a challenge for the Irish Utillity industry. This is evident from the increasing churn rate experienced by many of the leading utility companies in Ireland.

 While loyalty programmes play a role in improving retention and customer engagement, utility companies could leverage their product offerings more to improve customer’s awareness and customer satisfaction.

 Providing product and service offering that resonate with customer will go along way to improve customer engagement and loyalty.

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