In today’s rapidly changing world, utility providers play an increasingly important role in ensuring that people have access to the vital resources they need to power their homes, businesses, and communities. From electricity and gas to water and internet services, these providers are responsible for delivering critical resources that are essential to our daily lives.
As the world continues to shift toward a more sustainable future, utility companies are faced with a challenge. They must balance the needs of their customers with the need to reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their impact on the environment. Many providers are turning to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to help meet these challenges. In addition to environmental concerns, businesses must also navigate the complex regulatory landscape that governs their operations. From safety and security standards to pricing and consumer protection laws, utility providers must abide by the rules to operate legally and ethically.
Despite these challenges, they also have a unique opportunity to drive innovation and lead the way toward a more sustainable future. By investing in new technologies and exploring new business models, providers can help to create a more efficient and sustainable energy system that benefits everyone. By working together, sharing knowledge and best practices, and collaborating with other stakeholders, utility providers can help to create a more sustainable and resilient energy system that meets the needs of customers and communities.
The utility industry is constantly evolving, and providers are always looking for ways to improve customer engagement and retention rates. Across demographics, consumers are keen for more personalised, relevant marketing communication from utility brands, with 50% overall feeling what they receive currently is too impersonal. Data tools might provide a solution—offering insights into households, allowing providers to have more personalised communication with their customers.
Go Inspire, powered by Outra 360, is among the companies that can provide household data on a huge proportion of households—in this case, 30 million out of 33 million in the UK. This could be instrumental in helping utility service providers balance the needs of their customers with the need to reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their impact on the environment. With access to detailed household data, utility providers can identify households that would benefit from specific services, like air-source heat pumps, that can help reduce carbon emissions.
There are a couple of direct potential benefits of this. For one, providers can use the tool to identify households with a high level of energy grid usage, indicating a potential need for energy efficiency upgrades. By targeting these households with messaging that emphasizes the benefits of reducing energy consumption, providers can encourage more sustainable behaviour among their customers.
In addition to reducing their environmental impact, utility providers can also use data to better serve their customers and increase customer satisfaction.
Perhaps more pertinently, the tool allows providers to identify vulnerable customers. By knowing, for example, when a customer might be struggling financially with their utility bills, providers are able to communicate with empathy and add in touch-points as needed. This, naturally, enhances customer retention and satisfaction.
Power to the People
A recent survey of 1,005 gas and electricity account holders in the UK shows that consumers value both traditional and digital customer service and communication. This survey highlights the importance of building trust with digital customers while acknowledging the sections of the customer base that still prefer traditional offline marketing. There are significant differences in attitudes and behaviors between different groups, and utility brands can use this information to provide an excellent experience and prevent people from switching to rivals.
The results also indicated that almost half of the fuel customers surveyed (48%) are eager to receive information from companies more frequently. This shows that utility companies need to optimize their communications in order to retain and acquire customers.
By analyzing readily available consumer data, utility providers can determine the optimal communication frequency for each customer to ensure that they are not overwhelming them with too much information or, as seems to be the case, not providing enough.
The same survey discovered that the ease of contacting customer services and the overall customer experience are of equal importance to consumers. Access to data can help utility providers improve the overall customer experience by providing energy plan transparency, contract flexibility and energy-saving guidance. By analysing customer data, utility providers can identify pain points and areas for improvement and create a better customer experience.
Furthermore, the survey found that the highest proportion of customers (35%) prefer to access their gas and electricity account features via an app. Utility companies should invest in digital solutions that provide seamless, fast, friction-free digital experiences to meet the growing demand for personalized, relevant marketing communications. With access to data, utility providers can optimize their channels to ensure that they are meeting the preferences of their customers.
Data is Key
With access to more household data, the possibilities are endless. Utility providers can identify households that may be at risk of fuel poverty. By identifying these households, providers can offer tailored solutions, such as flexible payment plans or assistance programs, to ensure that all customers have access to the services they need to maintain a comfortable living environment while minimizing their carbon footprint.
This also allows providers to up their customer retention rates. Understanding the data allows us to identify house moves or renewals, which gives providers the opportunity to be first to market.
Overall, by using the data to identify and target specific households, utility service providers can understand and cater to their customers while simultaneously reducing their environmental impact. And by providing tailored solutions and messaging, providers can encourage sustainable behavior (which will, in turn, help their customers save money on energy costs), while also contributing to the larger climate aspirations.
Customer satisfaction is taking a hit—Ofgem data stated it was 66% in Q4 2022, one of the lowest levels recorded since the survey started in 2018. The time is nigh for utilities providers to power up their messaging.
—Harrison Cassidy is Business Development Manager at Go Inspire.