The business case for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) can’t be justified alone on operational savings to the utility. But critical assumptions involving process improvements and system...
Customer Service: Doing More With Less
Balancing operational cost and consumer value creation.
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.) 1 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, 60 percent of respondents said they had no interactions with a representative of their provider in the past year (see Figure 1) .
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 1.) In fact, Accenture’s 2010 consumer survey found that while 88 percent of U.S. consumers would instinctively turn to their energy provider to receive programs to optimize their consumption, only 34 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