Companies in the utilities and energy sector are facing some unique challenges when it comes to ensuring customer loyalty—an ultimate goal given the current landscape of new competitors and new energy options.

Customer experience is where many companies see the opportunity to differentiate their brand and their services to customers, and new tools such as personalized video and interactive communications platforms are an essential part of that strategy.  

In this post, we’ll take a look at how energy companies are using new technologies such as Doxee Pvideo® to transform the digital customer experience strategy.


New customer expectations

Greater competition from new suppliers and a more cost-conscious and environmentally aware consumer base are two important factors that are influencing how companies in the energy sector interact with their customers. A survey conducted by British regulator Ofgem revealed that as many as 18% of UK users changed their energy supplier last year, nearly 1 customer out of 5. In 2016 the percentage was 15%. In 2015, 13%.

Another issue is service. While reliability and price used to be the key factors, the expectations for customer service and customer experience—how customers perceive their interactions with your company (as defined by Forrester)—are more important than ever before. This is driven in large part by the customer-centric approach that other sectors are taking, which in turn is influenced by the elevation of the customer’s voice via social media channels and the availability of data on customer behaviors and preferences.

Today’s energy customers are not only more informed, they also expect more information from their provider on usage habits, tips for cost savings and energy efficiency, smart options for temperature control, and even data on where their energy is coming from. According to a survey of 600 energy consumers, 80% want their supplier to help them make better energy choices.

So, it’s clear that energy companies must be able to be more user-centric in their approach, which means communicating with the individual customer (and using what you know about them to do so). It’s also clear that they need to use digital tools and digital channels to do so–they need to be where customers are: online.


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”.


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

A survey conducted by Ofgem revealed that as many as 18% of UK users changed their energy supplier in 2017. Almost 1 customer out of 5. In 2016 the percentage was 15%. In 2015, 13%.

The trend is clear. The most urgent question that must be asked to anyone involved in marketing and customer care in the utility sector is: in such a dynamic and constantly changing scenario, what is the most effective digital customer experience strategy for retaining customers?

One: understand the needs of the individual customer.

Two: address the customer as an individual.


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.