How we process and use water and how we create and use energy is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Over the past three years we have seen a revolution in the way we use our resources and the way suppliers interact with their customers. But customers expect more from their suppliers than ever before. Only those businesses that can adapt, innovate faster and engage with their customers on a new level, will succeed during this transformational era.
Over the summer of 2021 we reached out to 1000 energy and water professionals around the globe. We wanted to assess the current state of play across the industry – specifically in relation to customer engagement and service levels. Here we report on the results provided by almost 800 industry managers who engaged with our survey – outlining the key trends and priorities for energy and water suppliers across the world.
With customer engagement being an area of expertise, we also use this report to respond to the trends and challenges, highlighting the digital innovations and opportunities available to help organisations improve customer engagement and transition successfully into this exciting new era.
Trends and challenges
More needs to be done to personalise user experiences
The rise of personalised consumer experiences, especially through the medium of social media, has set a new standard of customer engagement for utility companies. Energy and water professionals who responded to the survey recognise that the energy and water sectors are not yet providing the level of personalised consumer engagement that today’s digital savvy customers expect.
Energy and water companies must empower customers to reduce their consumption if we are to achieve Net Zero. Delivering a personalised user-led consumer experience based on an individual’s data is proven to help customers make sustainable behaviour changes. Find out more about why empowering customers is critical to energy transition.
Our industry still favours traditional communication channels
According to our survey respondents, traditional communication channels, such as phone and email, are still the default means of communication with customers across the industry. Whilst new communication tools such as WhatsApp and Apple chat have been tested by some companies, these do not appear to be gaining traction. Instead, most companies prefer to use communication channels and tools that they can control, such as self-service web tools, webchat or online contact forms.
Customers are busy people. They need communications to reach them at the right time and via the right channel. That’s why having a multi-channel (or omni-channel) engagement solution and approach is essential. Simply relying on customers to download and interact with an app is not enough. Communication options and channels must include post, text message, email, social channels, apps, as well as online portals – and customers should be asked to choose how they hear from you. At the same time, communication channels and user experiences must be simple and intuitive. Explore why multi-channel customer engagement is the new business-as-usual.
Accessing data and surfacing insights is too labour intensive
Our survey revealed that water and energy companies still face an intense labour effort to surface and analyse data – especially the large amounts of consumption data provided by smart meters. When asked ‘how quickly can you get the following analytics?’ (i.e. campaign results, online engagements or segmented analytics), less than 20% of respondents said they are able to access meaningful data within 24 hours.
At the same time, less than 20% of energy experts surveyed, and only one out of three water experts, confirmed that their company’s field and call agents can access key customer information within three clicks.
The technology is now available to access, process and present meaningful data insights for energy and water professionals to view – whether that’s customer consumption data, campaign response rates or online engagement metrics. Management Analytics saves time and delivers real time visibility relating to customer behaviour, to assist decision making and communication. Discover how our behavioural insights can help your teams improve customer engagement.
Content creation and deployment is too complicated and takes too long
Only 16% of energy professionals who responded to our survey and only about 33% of water professionals, are able to deploy approved content within a 24 hour period. The majority of respondents said it takes up to two weeks to deploy approved content. At the same time, respondents complained that the process to release content is too labour intensive, with 22% saying that more than five people are required to deploy a message or a campaign. This excludes quality assurance or testing, which often requires additional manpower.
It’s time to simplify processes! Content management libraries can be linked seamlessly to engagement portals to ensure that approved content is available when required. Integrated portals such as our content and communications engines enable more ‘oven ready’ campaigns and reduce resource and cost constraints.
Your key priorities…
Smart meter deployment – water and energy
As part of our survey we asked respondents about their organisation’s priorities going forward.
Across water and energy sectors, smart meter deployment is identified as a key priority, as well as a challenge. Within the energy sector, smart meter roll-out is generally more advanced. The main challenge energy suppliers are experiencing is motivating households to make use of the consumption data provided.
The water sector has rolled-out a smaller number of smart meters, but has been able to exploit the data to start tackling network issues, leaks and to empower users to save water and money. Both sectors are seeking new solutions to improve smart meter penetration and customer conversion; and they broadly recognise that more focus on customer experience and new tools are key to making the most of this new technology.
Motivating customers to adopt smart meter technology and utilise the data can be achieved by leveraging the right customer engagement platform and deploying the right information to the right customer at the right time. Water and energy companies need to approach their smart metering roll-out with expert partners and the user experience in mind. Behavioural science based theories have proved very impactful, especially when using social norms and carefully crafted behavioural design messages. For example, offering energy customers an opportunity to “unlock smart insights” by accepting a smart meter is a promising approach as it taps into intrinsic motivation. Explore how behavioural science can support smart meter deployment.
Tackling waste and leaks
Reducing the waste/leaks caused by defective water, electricity and gas networks is not just a safety and legal requirement, it is a key factor in our ability to deliver Net Zero and can save organisation’s a lot of money. Smart meter data is helping suppliers and customers identify and tackle leaks, as well as act upon any abnormal usage alerts.
Creating new revenue streams
The highest reported priority for energy companies is to ‘create new revenue streams via tailored offers’. As most of our survey respondents were based in the UK, this is explained by the current nature of the market, where a price cap is in place. This measure restricts suppliers’ ability to make a profit from supplying energy. Therefore it is no surprise that promoting related products and services is top of the agenda. Discover how Advizzo supports utilities product promotion efforts.
Empower customers to become more sustainable with their consumption and carbon footprint
As the world turns towards delivering Net Zero ambitions, energy professionals state that empowering customers to make sustainable changes and optimise their consumption is a top priority.
Helping households become better, more efficient consumers has long been heralded by scientists as a requirement to tackle climate change. Historically programs and campaigns introduced by utilities have focused on economics – demonstrating to consumers that they’ll save money if they reduce their consumption. However, it’s been proven by studies around the world that the motivation to be more virtuous than one’s neighbour may be an even greater incentive than the prospect of lower bills. And that’s why we combine the power of analytics with nudges – the behavioural science theory that sits behind our customer engagement programs. Explore how a nudge can help your customers save energy.
Identify and serve vulnerable customers better
Water and energy experts recognise that on the back of the global pandemic, which has had a detrimental impact on many household’s finances, whilst also seeing a rise in energy and water consumption, suppliers need to take a proactive approach to identify and support their increasing numbers of vulnerable customers. This priority demonstrates, not only a sense of ethics and societal responsibility, but also a common commercial sense, as water and energy experts recognise that improving customer services is key to sustaining relationships and growth. Explore how you can provide proactive and better support for vulnerable customers.
Whether it’s to offer a more holistic service to customers, find new sources of revenue or help customers reduce their consumption, more and more utilities around the world are actively offering more personalised customer experiences. Advizzo is leading the way in this space and has been offering combined content, analytics and research to leading water and energy companies across the globe.
Do these trends, challenges and priorities resonate with you and your organisation? How are you tackling customer engagement issues and meeting these challenges? Check out how Advizzo’s customer engagement platform and analytics solutions will work for your organisation and get in touch today!