Have you received your contract renewal from your electricity supplier yet?
In Germany, as in many parts of the world, the game begins anew each year. Roughly two months before, I’ve got it on my calendar, my old contract expires, and I have to stop and think about next year and rate shopping. The question often comes down to staying with your current provider and often paying more – not exactly rewarding loyalty – or switching over to another, lower-cost provider and being prepared to play the game for another year.
Have you ever thought about how replaceable each power supplier is nowadays? Because power is standardized, and one electron looks much like another to me, there is added value in the provider having experience and loyalty seem to be penalized on purpose.
Across the world, it’s mostly the same story: Energy suppliers customer experience is mediocre, at best.
Let’s have a look at the “3 Ds” that could determine the utilities near future business.
Divergency from the peer group to create a moat
Great customer experience could be a barrier to differentiate against peers. According to IDC, by 2020 50% of competitive market energy providers will drive their revenues by transforming into “convenient lifestyle” providers.
To be honest, I don’t know much about a personalized customer experience with my energy supplier because I’ve never had one.
The experience I do have usually goes like this: I choose a supplier based largely on their one year price guarantee, from then on the only interactions I have with the provider are the canned welcome email telling me the contract data access to its portal, and a notice telling me my next years renewal will cost more, then, finally, a so “sad to lose you” canned email when I quit because with a few taps on the screen, I can find other suppliers that are charging less.
So the key brand experience for energy suppliers is the moment of the dispatch of the annual invoices to their customers. It’s the moment where customers stay or quit and run away.
According to IDC, 57% of all inquiries to energy suppliers are in terms of the annual invoice, as it is not self-explaining to many customers. Is this the brand experience that makes me stay? Of course not. What should be the right answer? Utilities must create easy-to-use digital channels with short response times. They could positively differentiate from the competition by giving me hints how to save energy, how to make use of their green power rate and invite house owners to participate at their solar cloud. Here are some possible examples for an interactive customer experience in a short video “Live energy”.
Data is the pillar of innovation
Innovation starts from the customer behavior. Once a supplier finds out how their customers use the delivered energy, they are able to personalize and optimize your delivered services. The next step could be to deliver valuable advices how to save energy or to introduce customer loyalty programs and tidy up the customer relationship.
Condition: suppliers have to manage internal and external data, both structured and unstructured from a single source of truth. Energy suppliers need to bring together their business process and analytics in real time to offer their customers discreet and useful energy services.
One easy example: Most of the customers nowadays want to be alerted on high consumption before they pay a high annual bill. Saving opportunity alerts is a good way how to make use of better analyse customer usage data. Predict maintenance dates and recommend the best evaluated service partners next to your home are topics, consumers are open to.
Decentralized power assets outside the own asset portfolio
To me personally, the biggest power asset potential of the utility industry lies outside of their own assets. These are the roofs, facades, and unused meadows of private and professional real estate owners. Energy suppliers could attract customers and make them to producers of solar or wind energy. To fill the gap on rainy or calm days they can orchestrate the power supply between these prosumers and sell additional required energy as well.
In the same way, this could be a good chance to build up loyal customers and strengthen their brand experience in the end.