Accenture’s 2014 report on energy consumers, along with recommendations for energy provider operations, provides valuable guidance to energy marketers and communicators. As an agency that works with energy utilities and providers to develop communications strategy and experiences for their customers and stakeholders, we combed through the report and have gleaned 8 vital insights specific to effective communication with today’s energy consumer.
- Consumer preferences and characteristics have changed dramatically: Characteristics of the new energy consumer – a “mosaic” as defined by Accenture – are detailed in the report and the references are worth review. Our simple take: Consumers have completely different perspectives than they did even five years ago, and it’s vital that communicators understand these nuances as they craft messaging for the future.
- Don’t assume total energy illiteracy: It’s commonly thought that consumers don’t care about how they get their energy (as long as the power is on). All of that is changing with the advancement of technology and information channels. According to the study, a growing number of consumers are “energy literate,” and looking to engage with their providers. This growing group is interested in understanding their options, resulting in a “…growing demand for energy information and energy education.” For communicators, this is an opportunity to reshape educational programs and make them available to this increasingly important segment.
- Bring back smart meter education: This same group of energy literate consumers is actually interested in smart meter technology and how it can impact their personal energy landscape. Many utilities have pulled back from talking about these meters over negative response during roll-outs, but this research suggests effective communication about smart meter capabilities and the control they provide consumers is warranted.
- Price-driven consumers need clearer communication strategies: Those who are not as interested in their energy landscape rely primarily on price point. Accenture’s data shows clearly that providers aren’t doing enough to communicate about price changes, which hurts overall satisfaction and trust scores. Don’t shy away from the tough price hike conversations –have these conversations in a transparent way. Be clear about why a price increase occurs, and explain or educate about the steps that can be taken by the consumer to offset those increases.
- Omni-channel experiences are king: According to Accenture’s data, consumers today expect to have a high-touch interaction on whatever channel they choose. Providers must act now to make sure they are everywhere a customer may be, and then work to integrate those many channels into a single, seamless customer experience.Communicators must carry the torch for this effort and act as the voice of the consumer, able to help improve and refine the customer experience on all levels of the company.
- Social media must be more than just customer service: Most utilities and providers have figured out that they need to “be on social media.” But research now shows that this effort must be more than just replying to issues. Be strategic and work to integrate the social media mindset into the company’s operations.
- Technology integration is not just for the tech-savvy consumer: Tech savviness is no longer the realm of just the youth or the techies. It’s pervasive in everything that consumers do and the way they live their lives.What’s more, customers are interested in energy technology such as connected home products and services. When smart homes and appliances offer ease and cost savings that simplify consumers’ lives, providers are uniquely positioned to serve as experts in this area to their customers, many of whom are eager to learn more. As communicators, we can understand and communicate these opportunities in a way that shows consumers how their lives can be simplified with connected tech.
- There’s a shifting consumer-utility relationship: Consumers are no longer just customers – Accenture puts it perfectly when they call them “business partners.” Communicators must seek to become experts on this new world, which includes distributed generation, and understand that conversations with customers must and will change over time as the relationship does.
Communicators, we’d love to hear your take on the report and what this new data means for your role. Share your thoughts in the comments below.