Updated on 21/12/2022

The challenges of the utility industry

One of the main challenges for today’s marketers in the utility sector is the involvement and retention of their customers. With the most advanced tools available you can win it.

This is the logic behind tools such as Pvideo, Doxee’s personalised videos: taking advantage of the most effective medium – video, in fact – you can interact with the individual customer, tailor-made messages, contact him by name, keeping in mind its history and its characteristics. Therefore, offering the best possible customer care: personalized communication. And in this way achieve the best results in terms of engagement and loyalty.

Is the client always right?

Perhaps the customer is not always right: however, today, is more informed than ever. And he has before his eyes a range of options to choose from – perhaps with a couple of clicks – that until a few years ago was not even imaginable. The trend is global, unstoppable, and involves all types of business. But it has had and has a particularly overwhelming impact in the utilities and energy sector.

The market has opened up in a short space of time. In Italy, as well as abroad. Operators have multiplied. The digital revolution has changed all the cards on the table and provided innovative tools for marketing and customer care. Ignoring all this means staying behind; therefore losing customers, credibility, turnover.

The watchwords have changed: it is no longer a question of competing on the basis of pure economic convenience for the customer, often limited to narrow savings margins. That time is over.

Today it’s all about fundamentally rethinking your brand identity. Revolutionizing how you reach potential customers. And – most importantly – the way you interface with them, the moment they become users.

How is changing the digital customer experience strategy in the Utility Industry?

The giants of the utility sector are doing just that: Enel has changed the way it communicates (its logo, slogans, advertising) and it has invested heavily to make its digital customer experience strategy more efficient and smart. It is no coincidence that, precisely in these phases of change, Enel has relied on a company like Doxee, which makes innovation and customer-oriented communication the center of its business.

Shell recognizes the importance of how the brand is conveyed to customers Maik Neubauer, the German head of Shell PrivatEnergie, stated: “The image that the brand gives of itself is one of the main factors that make the difference, especially when the prices and products on the market are more or less identical. A well-defined brand image is reflected in high-quality services, transparent products and all this generates trust in users “.

So, main operators of the sector (big and small, old giants and new start-ups) are re-building their image with innovation, attention to the environment and sustainability and digital customer experience strategy. “It is essential for Enterprise Industry companies to recognize that the only way to continue to succeed in this new context is to embrace this transition phase and the changes it brings with it,” said Kevin Lane Keller, Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. “To implement this change it is necessary to put in place a radical rebranding process. And the change must take place in a dialogue between the company and the outside world to which it is addressed”.

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Forget the past and look to the future

Until a few years ago the companies that supplied water, electricity, gas, telephony were viewed as distant, impersonal. To resolve an issue, customers had to deal with long waiting times, with little recourse if issues were not resolved.

Today, things are much more customer centric. Companies like Amazon or Uber resolve customer issues in a few steps, avery effective digital customer experience strategy.

Not taking advantage of this opportunity can have negative consequences. This is what happened to Scottish Power, a company with more than 3 million customers, which in 2016 was forced by Ofgem (the British regulator) to pay a fine of £18 million for its lack of customer service. In an article published in The Guardian noted that the company had accumulated over one million complaints from users between June 2013 and December 2015, no doubt fueled by social media.

The voices (above all those of the customers) in the digital transformation era, travel quicklyand they can rapidly transform into major problems that companies must resolve.

Today, Scottish Power has revolutionized its digital customer experience strategy, with anentire section dedicated to “Our customer engagement plan”, complete with infographics and video animation to support individual customers. No doubt about it: the company has been able to learn from its mistakes.

The future is already here

The future of the utility sector is under everyone’s eyes: an increasing opening of the market and an increasingly accelerated and simplified fluidity in the transition from one operator to another.

Today runs the habit more and more common to change often supplier, in order to grab the more valid offer, but also because to make this type of operation has become much simpler regarding the past.

The trend is clear. And the most urgent question that anyone who deals with marketing and customer care in the utility sector must ask, therefore, is this: in such a dynamic and constantly changing scenario, what are the most effective strategies to retain customers? The answers are two, almost disarming in their simplicity and valid since trade exists:

  • understand the needs of the individual customer;
  • turn to him as an individual.

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Knowing how to analyze data is essential

Know your client, understand their needs and anticipate them. It is easy for the small grocery store to learn the names and preferences of its customers, anticipate their wishes, to talk to them about their products. In a word: to inspire loyalty. For those who deal with marketing and customer care in the utilities and energy sector, it is very different. How can one think of addressing individuals when the audience to whom one is “talking” is made up of thousands, or millions of individuals? It is a difficult challenge, but today the most advanced digital marketing technologies offer useful tools to win it.

The logic to be adopted is data-driven marketing: gathering feedback from users in the simplest and most immediate way and then trying to understand them by analyzing the customer journey, which today is more complex than before. Above all, is important to know how to collect all this data or “digital traces” left by every single user and how to analyze it carefully. Today it is no longer just a matter of “big data,” it is better to talk about “smart data.”

Based on this data, it is possible to segment and cluster the audience. In this way, targets are becoming more and more precise and delineated, and brands can communicate with them in the right place and at the right time. The customer is satisfied and, then, loyal.

Personalized customer care: the new digital customer experience strategy

In the United States, a group of creatives that dealt with animations for Disney has decided to embark in the utilities and energy sector.

“Energy companies struggle desperately to engage their users,” said Dean Schiller, one of these creatives who later became the founder and CEO of CEIVA Energy, a company that provides innovative and customized customer experience for the utility sector. “With our background, we thought we knew how to attract consumers’ attention.”

Again, the most efficient way to communicate with customers is “talking” to individual users, providing them – with the utmost transparency and clarity – information on their consumption and attitudes and then offering tips on how to change them for the better. This process has impressive results (in a survey of 100 users, 83 said they had changed their behavior, thanks to the new awareness the result of a personalized storytelling!)

One-to-one communication in the utility sector is unbeatable and is essential when providing services such as light, gas, water, internet or telephony, which are essential and impact people’s daily lives.

So far we have talked about “ever more precise targets,” “clusters,” “segments” of customers who share certain characteristics. But now you can go further to communicate with the individual user through digital tools.