How can utility companies increase profits and save time and money? How can they steer their efforts in the direction of ever-increasing efficiency and a richer, stronger relationship with the end consumer?
In this post, we’ll show how personalized videos, integrated within an organic, multi-channel marketing strategy, provide the answer to these questions and are able to make an essential contribution to achieving business goals.
Within the framework of digital transformation and in a sector of absolute strategic importance that is characterized by complex dynamics, video in the utility industry can be used to improve the customer experience, build a lasting relationship with the customer, and considerably reduce the risk of customer churn.
When we talk about utilities, we are referring to public utility services – water, electricity, gas, and waste collection – which, while they have recently been deregulated, they must always be included in a management system whose objective, together with the improvement of economic results, is still to maintain a high level of quality.
A satisfactory customer experience is the key element in ensuring success for players in the sector: we saw this during the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted how the costs associated with a failure in the level of service are increasing dangerously, and consumer expectations are becoming higher every day (in terms of the service itself and the assistance offered by the customer care department).
Personalized video can be used by utility companies to create compelling, incisive, and truly useful communications that prove decisive in building a valuable customer relationship.
The future of utility companies: How to weather the perfect storm
Until a few years ago, the strategies of utility companies revolved around the idea of a rather passive end-user, who was accustomed to having little freedom of choice and minimal opportunity to actually intervene in the relationship with the supplier. For this reason, marketing focused on the simple distribution of necessary services, proposing lower prices, generic guarantees of greater security, continuity, and reliability, and ease of access and use.
These strategies are largely insufficient because they can no longer address today’s new imperatives: sustainability, environmental responsibility, transparency, and customer focus.
In addition to a new set of values that must come together in defining a company’s identity, in terms of business objectives, utility leaders today face a number of very serious challenges at the same time: tight margins, volatile markets, growing and differentiated consumer needs, often ambiguous regulations, sometimes obsolete infrastructure, and constantly evolving technologies.
It’s a perfect storm of sorts. So they must be able to become aware as quickly as possible of the physical, technological, and process limitations of their organization, so they can make more informed system-level decisions.
They must work to ensure that a truly innovative corporate culture takes deep root and provides a new decoding device with which to fully interpret and understand the way contemporary markets function in the age of mass digitization. Only then will they be able to weather the perfect storm.
Personalized utility videos: Two-way, data-driven communication
Yes, it’s true, digitization has caused profound changes (social, cultural, economic) in an incredibly short period of time, but at the same time, it’s a source of extraordinary resources. It has provided utility companies with the right tools to open up to a truly two-way dialog, shortening the distance with their customers and engaging them individually in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. Personalized videos are rightfully among the digital solutions that enable this new one-to-one communication and are able to stand out in the sea of messages thanks to their ability to capture attention by speaking the language of their specific recipient, using the information embedded in his profile to set up and grow a conversation that is finally relevant, reciprocal, and properly informative.
Personalized videos are tailor-made, they convey a narrative where the customer is called by name. They can do this because they have access to the data collected by the company (complete master data, timely consumption trends, updates on subscriptions and payment status, reports of any behavior patterns, preferences).
From this knowledge, organized and managed through the Doxee Platform®, Doxee is able to create and send personalized microsites and videos through which an interactive version of the bill is distributed to the customers of any organization, in an automatic and programmed way. The resulting communication is more respectful of the uniqueness of each individual user and therefore able to offer better customer care, optimize results in terms of engagement and loyalty, and significantly decrease customer churn.
Italy: An evolving market
According to Intesa (intesa.it), in Italy there are around 600 suppliers of water, electricity, and gas. This represents a considerable increase of companies in the sector, and a direct consequence of the liberalization of the energy market, which took place in July 2007. From that moment on, this meant that users could choose their own supplier. We are therefore talking about a sector that has seen its protagonists multiply on both sides, all in just a few years.
For energy and utilities companies, the only way to manage and add value to the staggering amount of data resulting from this growth was to digitize processes. But of those 600 suppliers today, according to the same Intesa data, only 20% would have digitized, entirely or partially, the work of employees and the relationship with their customers. Therefore, wide margins for development still exist.
Utilities and multiutilities: Engine of sustainable development
A 2020 study promoted by the think tank Top Utility, carried out by Althesys and presented at the Milan Chamber of Commerce, revealed how in 2018, the top 100 Italian utilities and multi-utilities generated revenues of more than €114 billion, growing almost 3% over the previous year. The Italian companies considered by the research are worth 6.5% of the country’s GDP.
Also according to this research, not even the pandemic would have stopped the industry achieving–even in a period of global crisis– profit of €1.58 billion and revenues of over €23 billion. Giants such as A2A, Acea, Hera, and Iren have seen their capitalizations double, and in the last four years, their revenues have grown by 60%, a doubling of profits. The utilities – and the so-called multi-utilities in particular – have control over numerous essential services and employ over 150,000 people. They are in the midst of a powerful development phase and for various aspects we can say that they constitute an engine of sustainable development at the service of the communities in which they operate (source: borsaitaliana.it).
Why should utilities focus on personalized video?
Video continues to be the format of choice for companies because it combines visuals, sound, special effects, and text with video and voice-overs: a combination of media that gives potential customers a richer picture of what the company is trying to communicate and is able to attract attention and convey the company’s mission in a more immediate way. These dynamics allow for greater narrative involvement, especially in the case of interactive personalized videos, which involve active participation.
Videos also allow the viewer to virtually experience a product or service through simulations that project alternative scenarios on the screen (different offers, expected results, possible scenarios).
The amount of time spent watching videos online is increasing again
It will be for all of these reasons that the amount of time consumers spend watching audiovisual content online has increased consistently. According to Zenith’s Online Video Forecasts 2019 report, between 2013 and 2018, the amount of time people spent watching online video grew rapidly worldwide, at an average rate of 32% per year, thanks to improved display size and quality on mobile devices, faster data connections, and the spread of smart TVs. It is estimated that by the end of 2021, each person will have spent an average of 100 minutes each day watching online video, the equivalent of viewing that continues uninterrupted for 25 consecutive days. This is compared to 84 minutes in 2020.
It’s not surprising, then, that videos are increasingly used by marketers, in any sector, who appreciate their explanatory quality, transparency, and ability to create an engaging story. The powerful narrative dimension that characterizes video contributes significantly to a broader understanding by users of the product or service (according to 94% of video marketers surveyed by Wyzowl) and to a net reduction in the number of support calls to customer service (according to 43% of the same sample). Customers are also able to remember around 95% of the information contained in videos. (Source: Forbes)
These are valuable features from which utility companies can gain an undeniable competitive advantage.
Towards a more mature personalization: From tactical segmentation to strategic individualization
Personalization does not seem destined to exhaust its innovative charge: instead of slowing down or normalizing on the levels already achieved, its definition is expanding and it is moving from tactical segmentation to strategic individualization. Designing personalized initiatives according to a higher level of maturity means starting first of all from data, which is indispensable for understanding one’s own customers and being able to provide them with a contextually relevant and value-added experience.
If, as Forrester reports, 89% of digital companies are currently investing in personalization (companies such as Coca-Cola, Netflix,and Sephora) the reason is that users have become accustomed to being known and recognized by brands and do not intend to abandon their status as participating consumers: 80% of them prefer to buy from brands that offer personalized experiences, while 63% would not think twice to stop buying from brands that use poor personalized communications (Source: Neal Schaffer).
Personalized utility video, smart metering, interactive billing: Synergy for serving the consumer
In order to meet the needs of this new consumer-user, companies that produce and distribute energy, water, and gas and manage waste collection and disposal services are equipping themselves with the latest generation of digital technologies, which allow for more accurate, real-time control over the quantity and type of consumption. Among these technologies are smart meters, which carry out remotely and without any intervention in the field a whole series of activities (such as readings, connections, and disconnections, etc..) and report actual user consumption trends in a timely manner and in real time. Smart meters are successfully used to modernize infrastructures, increase efficiency, and monitor costs.
From the smart meter to the interactive bill: A new approach to institutional communication
An interesting application of the smart meter is including it in a more extensive system of personalized digital interaction that reaches the end user in the form of the interactive bill. The interactive bill takes users beyond the idea of the digital format and the classic PDF, and imposes itself as a digital object. In this sense, it completes the redesign of some of the core processes of the utility world: from the process of issuing the bill to its payment, from the communication of the customer situation to the sending of reminders. The personalized video is part of this new multimedia approach to “institutional” communications, until now perceived as distant, impersonal, and annoying.
Utilities and video: Increasing customer loyalty and decreasing customer churn
In the personalized video, the integration of consumption data with billing data or data coming from company databases or related to payments, statements, and contracts is used to enrich the dialog with the customer and consequently optimize profiling activities. Using a more friendly and colloquial tone of voice and through a direct communication, interactive videos can provide a detailed explanation of the expenses, proposing a specific call to action (from online payment to accepting promotional offers), all immediately actionable with a click or tap.
With Doxee Pvideo®, bills and invoicesare transformed into multimedia tools that engage consumers. Going the personalized video route means choosing a solution designed to generate retention, brand awareness, and differentiation. If they want to gain a competitive advantage over their competitors, companies operating in increasingly crowded consumer markets, such as utilities, must abandon the price-based positioning logic we mentioned at the beginning of this post, and start building lasting value.
Utility video: Powerful and flexible solutions to optimize utility processes
We could call them “utility videos”: personalized videos capable of optimizing some essential processes in the energy, water, gas, and waste sectors, which were created as a response to the specific needs of an increasingly customer-centric market.
Personalized videos are proving to be extraordinarily effective as part of the digitization of the energy and utilities sector, as a result of a paradigm shift that has seen a profound transformation in communication with the consumer and the emergence of three specific trends, namely:
- The dematerialization of documents and processes related to taxes and to billing and archiving;
- The transformation of transactional documents into tools for developing relationships with clients and the processing of company data to optimize document production and distribution processes;
- The valorization of customer data to create a digital customer experience that can meet consumers’ expectations, reaching them with personalized communications wherever and whenever they prefer. The impact of this trend is particularly formidable in the case of those utilities that choose personalization.
Utility videos, sent via email and framed in an omnichannel communication plan, are powerful and flexible tools with which to enhance customer data, making them available in a timely and transparent manner. They combine the immediacy of moving images with the ability to perform essential services, resulting in soaring engagement, retention and loyalty rates, and decreasing customer churn.