Driven by frontrunners like Coolblue and Spotify, customer expectations are exceedingly high. Utility retailers are working hard to live up to today’s standards. But change requires investments. How can you measure if your efforts to increase utility customer engagement are paying off?

Today’s Customer Behaviors and Preferences

Before we jump to these indicators, let's go back and recap the results from the New Energy Consumer Report 2017. In it, we identified five consumer trends:

Trend 1: Totally Digital? Maybe not

When it comes to digital, energy providers need to address a wide range of diverse consumer needs, expectations and levels of engagement. Broadly speaking, most consumers fall into one of two opposing segments: active digital users and sleeping giants.

These sleeping giants are a loyal group - less willing to switch providers than other groups. It is this segment that provides you with a stable revenue base and comparatively low cost to serve. Just as well, because the active digital users require appropriate engagement!

Trend 2: This Time It Gets Personal

The way to keep consumers engaged, loyal and satisfied is through relationships that are:

Meaningful - Customers are looking for experiences that suit their lifestyle. A great example is Powershop, an electricity company from New Zealand that presents itself as a shop, thus offering an innovative and fun approach to their services.

Individualized - Customers expect personalized interactions that align with their lifestyle. Did you know that no less than 54% of customers would consider switching providers if they were not receiving personalized offers? And that a whopping 82% would be willing to buy additional products and services if they were personalized?

Why not, for example, gather information about the electricity use and location of your client’s house to make a highly relevant solar panel offer?

Relevant – German Sonnenbatterie offers an energy storage solution that enables users to share their excess solar energy in the community of other Sonnenbatterie owners.

Trend 3: May the Bots Be With You

Customers expect instant service. Fortunately, providers are no longer on their own facing these demands. Artificial intelligence enables a whole new customer service experience.

Take British EDF Energy. They use Alexa to deliver complex functionality in customer service. Account balance information and meter reading submission, for instance. Although a great service in itself, they then added Amazon Echo, an easy to use a speaker that enables people to manage their accounts by using just their voice.

We expect that within as little as 5 years – up to half of the calls will be deflected to digital assistants, and up to 80 percent of queries will be resolved by virtual assistants such as the Alexa/Amazon device.

This does require a different skill set amongst your staff. Experts of various backgrounds will need to join forces to develop new concepts, leveraging, for example, the digital and virtual assistants in order to increase utility customer engagement. New talent may need to be attracted.

Trend 4: Partner or Perish

Energy providers are about to make a major shift from commodity provider to orchestrator of an innovative, fluid ecosystem. The winners will form partnerships, collaborations and alliances. A great example is the partnership of Dutch Essent and NEST from Google. They introduced an energy contract in combination with the ‘Nest Learning Thermostat’, an auto-adaptive thermostat. The device is said to lead to 12 - 20% energy savings.

Partnerships will spur innovation, drive product and service development, accelerate culture change and capture new opportunities.

Trend 5: Switch the Switchers

Transient consumers are nothing new. But due to market shifts, regulatory changes and disruptive technologies, their dynamics are accelerating. UK based Flipper has responded to this trend beautifully, offering an energy switching service that compares energy providers and swaps clients to the best deals.

Agile and multispeed solutions are required to understand, act on—and profit from—individual consumer preferences and behaviors.

Organizational Transformation Appears to Be Difficult

So far, we noted the changing customer behaviors. We explained the need to respond to them to increase utility customer engagement.

We also described a number of actions to take in order to get there. But let’s face it: most, if not all retail energy companies are already implementing solutions. What they are struggling with, however, is how to measure the results of these implementations. Are they making the right changes? And are they going fast enough? How do they make sure innovations don’t get in the way of profitability? Are investments paying off?

To find out the answers to these and other questions, proper operational KPIs need to be set.

The Two Operational Indicators That Will Provide Insight Into Utility Customer Engagement

Many companies focus on KPIs such as churning percentages, billing time and correctness. These are great KPIs, but they are not predictive.

In order to respond to market changes, it pays off to focus on customer experience and organizational transformation.

Customer Experience

You will be familiar with measuring customer satisfaction and engagement. Net promotor scores will tell you how happy your customer is with you. But they don’t tell you which improvements to make.

This is where the Love Index comes into play. This multidimensional approach measures the entire customer brand experience. Focusing on the following five dimensions, this indicator systematically explains why people love specific experiences:

  • Fun: it holds people’s attention in an entertaining way.
  • Relevant: it makes it easy to find clear and customized information.
  • Engaging: it identifies people’s needs and adapts to their experiences.
  • Social: it helps people connect with each other.
  • Helpful: it is efficient and easy, and adapts over time.

Notice how these dimensions cover many of the aforementioned consumer trends? By mapping them, you will gain insight into the current market standards. Following this, you will be able to find out how to differentiate from your competitors.

Organizational Transformation

The second operational KPI involves organizational change. We typically divide this indicator into three measures. Today, we will add a fourth:

  1. Volume

How many new concepts or prototypes have you created? And how many have been marketed? The more you create, the bigger the chance that you will strike gold. Therefore, this is an important sub-indicator.

  1. Speed

What is your time to market a new product? What do you need to optimize the speed? These are critical components in today’s rapidly changing market.

  1. Finance

What is the profitability of a new idea? Measure the profit margin of newly introduced services as this will help you understand the success of your innovations. We advise you to add this information to leadership dashboards, complementary to the number of customers, the billing correctness and so on.

  1. Mindset

Remember when we mentioned the importance of attracting new talent? And of monitoring the success of new concepts? This is where the Mindset indicator can be of help.  

Your staff is encouraged to develop new concepts. But if you make them accountable for their success, people will shy away from delivering. You will stop short any creativity they might have.

Therefore, measure the investment that has not been made. In other words, find ways to carry out customer research on a small scale, instead of starting out by making huge investments. For instance, take a promising concept to a customer panel and ask to what extent it solves their problem (see how partnerships pay off?). Using their feedback, you develop a prototype within, say, two weeks and present it to the panel again. In this way, you can test a concept in a highly cost-effective way.

Conclusion

The need to live up to today’s customer expectations necessitates organizational change in the utility industry. But the struggle to retain control of the implementations is real. In order to keep a firm hand on the tiller and measure utility customer engagement, we advise the application of operational KPIs. By focusing on customer experience and organization transformation, companies will effectuate timely change, without compromising profitability.