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Report Finds that Utilities Fall Short in Consumer Expectations

Communication between individuals and utility companies is primarily done via phone (70%) Only 27% of Americans who've interacted with utility companies say they provide personalized offers or services based on their personal preferences Seventy-two percent expect their energy provider to offer renewable energy solutions

Salesforce has released its "2016 Connected Utilities Report," surveying more than 2,000 adults, ages 18 and older, in the United States, to better understand how they communicate with and select services from their utility companies.

A sea change is occurring within the utilities industry today. A lack of modern technology, aging infrastructure and changing weather patterns are putting pressure on utility companies to upgrade their facilities and systems. In addition, consumer expectations are changing, as they are now looking to their utility companies to provide more personalized services and experiences, mobile apps, smart meters and green energy solutions. The Salesforce "2016 Connected Utilities Report" found that utility companies need to change the way they engage with their customers through more modern communication channels and investments in green and smart home technology, or risk being left behind.

The study was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Salesforce, Sept. 7-9, 2016. To download the Salesforce "2016 Connected Utilities Report," click here: https://www.salesforce.com/assets/pdf/industries/connected-utilities-report.pdf.

Key Report Findings

  • Communication between Americans and utility companies is still primarily done through traditional channels.
    • Americans generally interact with their utility companies -- such as scheduling service, reporting a problem or connecting with customer service -- over the phone (70%).
    • Despite the proliferation of mobile devices, only 31% of Americans who have interacted with utility companies say they offer mobile apps. Among those whose utility company does offer a mobile app, they primarily use it to view account balances (46%) and pay bills (42%).
    • There is a generation gap when it comes to mobile app usage, as millennials (18-34) are more than twice as likely to view their bills (60%) and six times as likely to troubleshoot technical issues (24%) with their utility companies via mobile apps than their baby boomer (55+) counterparts (27% and 4%, respectively).
  • Americans are generally dissatisfied when dealing with utility companies' customer service departments.
    • Americans who have interacted with utility companies overwhelmingly (90%) believe their experiences could be improved, with millennials (35%) almost four times more likely than baby boomers (9%) to say that better technology offerings and capabilities could improve their experiences.
    • When asked when they receive the best customer service/prices/promotions from their utility companies, 29% of Americans who have interacted with utility companies said during the initial sign up process, and 37% said they never receive quality service.
    • Only 27% of Americans who have interacted with utility companies say they offer personalized offers or services based on their personal information, usage or preferences.
  • Americans expect modern, green and connected offerings from utility companies.
    • Americans who have interacted with utility companies want them to modernize their service offerings, with 72% expecting their energy provider to offer renewable energy solutions and 58% saying they would be open to purchasing smart devices from their utility companies if they offered them.
    • Nearly half of Americans (45%) would be willing to pay more for renewable energy, mainly to help the environment (69%) and to save money in the long term by making an up-front investment (65%).
    • More than twice as many millennials and Gen Xers (both 23%) plan to purchase a smart device to help manage their energy use in their home in the next 12 months as baby boomers (9%).
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