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T&D World Magazine

Customers Increasingly Favor Web-based Interactions With Their Energy Provider

As energy providers continue to face global economic uncertainty and the need to focus on operational imperatives such as cost-effectiveness, revenue management, and customer satisfaction, new Accenture research shows that there are real growth opportunities for those companies that provide greater choice, Web-based connection options and loyalty programs to their customers.

The third installment in Accenture’s multi-year New Energy Consumer research program, Actionable Insights for the New Energy Consumer, explores how consumers want to interact with their energy providers, the products and services they value, and key drivers of purchasing and loyalty behavior. It also identifies a number of actions energy executives can take to strengthen their businesses.

“Successful providers will be those that create targeted offering and value propositions aligned with energy consumer needs,” said Greg Guthridge, managing director, Accenture Retail and Business Services for Utilities. “From commoditized energy with limited service, to premium product and service bundles, there is broad interest in various product and service offerings that will require new capabilities and innovative business models.”

For example, over half of consumers say they are interested in additional products and services from their electricity provider. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that they would be interested in products and materials that could help them lower energy consumption by making small home improvements; the same percentage said they are interested in purchasing home energy-generation products such as solar or geothermal installations.

“This presents an opportunity for energy providers and other market entrants to create bundled propositions that address a broader spectrum of consumers’ home management needs,” said Guthridge.

The study also focused on consumer interaction preferences. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer “Web-enabled channels,” such as Web portals, mobile applications and email, for the majority of their interactions. A majority of survey respondents said they prefer Web-enabled channels for changing their address (57 percent) and receiving their bill (71 percent).

Consumers are also showing increased interest in engaging with their electricity providers through some form of social media. Thirty percent of consumers interact or plan to interact with their electricity provider on social networks, posting comments or following their provider’s “tweets.” About two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents in emerging markets, such as Brazil, China, South Korea and South Africa, currently use or plan to use social media to discuss or learn about energy-related issues with other consumers or groups, compared with 29 percent of respondents from mature economies.

In terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty, most consumers in deregulated markets (55 percent) would recommend their electricity provider to family and friends, while 14 percent would not. One-quarter (25 percent) are considering switching to another electricity provider in the next 12 months.

Not surprisingly, the primary reason given for switching energy providers is saving money, as 89 percent of consumers in deregulated markets said that a reduced electricity bill would be a main factor motivating them to switch providers.

While price is important, it is not the only factor consumers consider. The study shows that 60 percent of consumers would be motivated to switch electricity providers for a rate plan that better suits their needs. Renewable energy options were also cited as an important factor in switching providers (by 33 percent), as were product and service bundles, loyalty rewards and better customer service.

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