|Title:||United States survey percentages of consumers regarding preferences for interaction with an electricity provider by event in 2012|
|Source:||Public Utilities Fortnightly|
Start of full article - but without data
CONSUMER CHANNEL PREFERENCES
Please select your preferred method of interaction with your
electricity provider for the following events:
Receive Pay Learn about Learn about bill bill new home new energy energy packages strategies
In person X% X% X% (e.g., at your home or in a store)
Over the telephone X% X% X%
Online chat X% X%
Web-enabled XX% XX% XX% XX% channels
Sms/text message X%
Paper mail XX% XX% XX% XX%
Get outage Change Switch Signup information your to a new for new address/ electricity electricity move provider * packages and services
In person X% XX% XX% (e.g., at your home or in a store)
Over the telephone XX% XX% XX% XX%
Online chat X% X% X%
Web-enabled XX% XX% XX% XX% channels
Sms/text message XX%
Paper mail XX% XX% XX%
Resolve issues (e.g., billing issues)
In person X% (e.g., at your home or in a store)
Over the telephone XX%
Online chat X%
Web-enabled XX% channels
* Only in deregulated states
Base: All U.S. respondents
Note: Table made from bar graph.
For today's utilities, the only constant is change. We're in the midst of a significant transformation in the energy marketplace, and the shifting landscape increasingly is defined by the values and preferences of the new energy consumer. Energy providers face a confluence of consumer preferences, increasing technology innovation, shifting regulatory trends and the entrance of new market players looking to stake a claim as the energy value chain extends into the home. At the same time, economic challenges in recent years have driven an increased focus on the bottom line for utilities and consumers alike. Within this environment, many energy providers are being challenged to rethink their role in consumers' lives, their strategies for customer operations and, more broadly, their position in the energy marketplace. In light of the pressure to maintain or reduce operating costs, providers are in the position of having to do more with less.
The findings of recent consumer research indicate that energy providers have an opportunity to take a new approach to customer operations. (See Actionable Insights for the New Energy Customer, Accenture, 2012.) (X) This approach balances a range of strategic imperatives to reduce operational costs, enhance revenue potential, improve customer satisfaction, and deliver on demand-side management goals.
To that end, providers can focus on four critical areas of opportunity: building the relationship, changing the interaction mix, creating choice and extending the energy ecosystem.
Build the Relationship
In competitive and noncompetitive markets alike, customer satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty are complex and closely intertwined. As energy providers approach the challenges of the evolving marketplace, engaging the consumer becomes an increasingly important enabler of success. Key trends--such as smart metering, value-added products and services, and energy conservation--demand greater levels of engagement, consumer insight and understanding.
However, for energy providers, there are limited opportunities to directly engage consumers. In Accenture's study, U.S. consumers indicate that, on average, they interact with a representative of their electricity provider only seven minutes per year. Interestingly, XX percent of respondents said they had no interactions with a representative of their provider in the past year (see Figure X).
For energy providers, the limited amount of direct interaction is a significant challenge when it comes to trying to introduce new products and service, educate customers about energy conservation, or engage them in smart metering initiatives. (See Figure X.) In fact, Accenture's 2010 consumer survey found that while XX percent of U.S. consumers would instinctively turn to their energy provider to receive programs to optimize their consumption, only XX percent are aware of specific utility programs that enable them to do so. (See Understanding Consumer Preferences in Energy Efficiency, Accenture, 2010.)
The 2012 study, Actionable Insights for the New Energy Consumer also found that churn in competitive markets and customer satisfaction in all markets are negatively correlated to the volume of interaction consumers have with their providers. This highlights that energy providers typically have a low-value relationship with consumers and regardless of amount of interaction, there's minimal or even a negative impact on consumer satisfaction and sentiment.
To engage consumers, providers should develop operational and customer insights that enable an evolution beyond a one-size-fits-all service model. At the same time, providers can find new ways to build relationships, extending the set of experiences beyond traditional transactions such as address changes, bill questions or payment inquiries. Social media, online energy games and home energy management capabilities are creating new and value-added avenues for engagement.
Looking specifically at deregulated markets, it's clear that effectively engaging consumers also relies on taking a more targeted approach in understanding and delivering against consumer values and preferences. Our study found that the primary driver of customer churn is, not surprisingly, cost savings; XX percent of consumers in deregulated markets in the United States report that a reduced electricity bill is a main factor that motivates them to switch providers. However, price isn't the only factor consumers consider. Among survey respondents, customization is another consideration, with XX percent of consumers indicating they'd be motivated to switch providers for a rate plan that better suits their individual needs. Better service and support, renewable energy options, and tailored product and service bundles also are enticing for more than one-third of survey respondents (see Figure X).
It's increasingly clear that there's no typical energy consumer, and when creating strategies for the future, providers will require targeted approaches. Younger consumers provide a clear case study in this respect. In the survey, Canadian consumers in the XX- to XX-year age range averaged two minutes more of provider interaction per year; younger U.S. consumers averaged one minute more. While those figures might sound insignificant, they can have a measurable impact on operational costs.
Meanwhile, younger consumers also are more active on social media, and they express significantly higher interest in interacting with their energy provider through this channel. In Canada, more than half of XX- to XX-year-olds (XX percent) reported that they currently use or plan to use social media to discuss or learn about energy-related issues with other consumers or groups. One-third of respondents in this age segment report that they already interact, or plan to interact with their electricity provider via social media.
Even so, providers shouldn't assume that online channels alone will address the needs of younger consumers. In Accenture's survey, XX- to XX-year-old respondents have a higher preference than other age groups for high-touch channels, such as in-person or over the phone, for learning about new energy packages and home services.