Last month Distributed Energy Financial Group (DEFG), a utility customer experience management consulting firm released the “Annual State of the Customer in the Utility Sector Survey.” DEFG surveyed over 1,000 consumers as part of the Utility Customer Research Consortium (UCRC). The survey examined trends in customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and customer preferences related to various facets of customer service in the utility sector–ultimately finding many strengths and weaknesses in the utility customer service model.
Some of the most interesting findings of the survey include:
- While only one-third of customers contacted their electric utility in the past 2 years, most customers are happy with their utility customer experience–a slight increase from 2017.
- About one-third feel that they are getting a comparatively better value from their electric company compared to their entertainment/streaming service and mobile providers.
- Twenty-two percent of customers are very likely to switch to another energy provider other than their utility. Another 48 percent (mainly younger Americans younger than 55) may consider switching if the offer was right.
- Customers would get the most value if their utility offered lower prices or other ways to lower their utility bill such as different types of payment plans, cost adjustments (discounts/rebates, lower prices, and free energy), and different payment options (credit card payments and online payments).
- Nearly half of these American consumers think it is extremely or very important that their electric utility offer the ability to pay their bills using a mobile phone or other mobile platforms in the future.
“Probably the biggest challenge facing customer service executives is a generational one, with the preferences and needs of younger Americans being very different than the traditional service model in the utility sector,” concluded Jamie Wimberly, CEO of DEFG. “The traditional model of utility customer service is great for senior citizens, not so great if you are in your twenties trying to deal with the utility.”
DFEG’s report points to a critical point in the utility customer experience equation. While many utilities are taking important steps to improve the experience, many customers are expecting even more of their utility. For example, many want their utility to be a leader on climate change, support renewable energy and electric vehicles, or provide a more personalized experience.
DFEG’s research further proves the importance of improving the utility customer experience. Fortunately, modern utility personalization software enables utilities to do so without a big IT lift, in a matter of weeks, not years.
Originally published in EnergyCentral.