The energy and utilities sector is shifting away from its old ‘call centre’ culture. 

This is largely due to the adoption of new technology within the industry, plus a new wave of challenger brands using it to drive operations.

But it’s not just a case of shifting customer service online. Rather, brands are embracing technology across the board, with a number of new innovations impacting how the industry is evolving (and how consumers are responding).

Econsultancy’s latest report on Energy and Utilities delves into this in much more detail, but in the meantime, here are few key examples of how brands are driving and adapting to change.

Changing brand purpose

Energy and utility brands have typically marketed themselves as companies that supply power. 

However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards the ESP model (energy service provider), with an emphasis on reducing energy consumption rather than merely supplying it.

This looks to be in response to the rise of the conscious consumer, as a growing number of people now recognise the importance of being energy-efficient. In a recent Enervee survey of 600 UK consumers, 90% of respondents agreed that they should be using energy-efficient appliances. 

What’s more, 80% said they think their energy supplier is crucial in helping them make better choices.

Challenger brands like Bulb and OVO are capitalising on this belief, offering smart meters and green energy sourced from renewable generators. This means that they offer intrinsic value for consumers, and as a result, are creating more incentive to move away from the Big Six.

Alongside this core value proposition, some brands are investing further to build on a promise to combat climate change. For example, OVO has partnered with technology company Ubitricity to transform 50 London lamp posts into charging points for electric cars. 

By providing a solution to a common barrier – i.e. the fact that owners don’t have anywhere to charge their electric cars at home – it shows the brand’s dedication to creating a larger and long-term shift in behaviour (rather than merely cutting consumers’ energy bills).

 ovo energy instagram

Embracing CX

As well as delivering on the demand for a different kind of supplier, brands are beginning to recognise the importance of customer experience (and how it can help them to compete).

A study by Jaywing recently found that 73% of telecommunications and utilities marketers rank improving their customer contact strategy as the top priority for data-driven marketing. They also rank improving customer retention strategies much higher than other sectors (68% compared to 56% overall). 

While this shows that customers are becoming more of a priority, there’s still a long way to go before the majority are able to match up to expectations for a seamless, dynamic, and top-quality experience across all channels. 

Meanwhile, challenger brands are again making their intent clear, focusing on other factors such as transparency, clarity of communication, and digital customer service to deliver a superior CX.  

For First Utility – the largest brand outside of the Big Six - a data-driven customer experience has been a big factor in its own success. Its digital ‘My Energy’ platform allows each customer to understand their energy consumption, using visual graphs to convey information as clearly and concisely as possible. In turn, this (and other features of the app) gives customers a greater sense of control, as well as more convenience thanks to on-the-go access.

first utility mobile app

Making data-driven decisions

While companies are placing more emphasis on building their data capabilities, there is the recognition that these efforts are only scratching the surface of the opportunities at hand. 

In 2017, 43% of telecommunications and utility companies said they did basic or no channel personalisation, showing that there is a long way to go before the sector catches up with other industries such as travel or retail (where it is typically a priority).

One of the biggest reasons for this appears to be internal infrastructure, with IT and marketing teams failing to work together in conjunction. Similarly, with companies only drawing from one or two meter readings a year, consumer engagement and personalisation remains on the backburner.

In order to change this, marketers need to ensure that data is put in one place, so that it can be accessed and made use of quickly. One example is if a customer contacts a call centre - that interaction should be reflected by all relevant areas of the organisation so that data is consistent, accurate, and used in the same way.

Again (as seems to be the trend), challenger brands are also capitalising on technology to achieve this, drawing on smart appliances, apps, online customer service and so on to harness data in more relevant and meaningful ways. 

For more, subscribers can download Econsultancy's 'Embracing Technology and Innovation in Digital Marketing – Energy and Utilities'.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 11 May, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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