The flattening load growth and search for new revenue channels is old news to utilities – the question now is: What is required of your consumer engagement strategy?
The retail and service markets already exist, but products like smart thermostats and electrical vehicle charging stations are expected to be a billion-dollar market by 2030 for utilities and third-party vendors, according to a July 2018 study.
The first hurdle is engaging energy consumers. Forty percent are “selectively engaged,” and the old messaging standbys are as old news to them as the changing face of the industry is to you. They can be lured in with energy efficiency offerings, because saving money is a strong motivator for them.
It makes sense that these consumers usually have average or below average incomes and some can’t afford the upfront costs of energy efficiency, opening up an opportunity to offer on-bill financing, a little-used approach, or a web-based marketplace offering energy-efficient products.
Speaking of the bill, many selectively engaged consumers are frustrated by what they see as confusing and opaque billing practices. Lower those frustrations by making it easier to redeem rebates. Even simply educating consumers in already available rate-savings plans and how to better manage their bill or usage can improve your engagement strategy.
One of your most useful tools in engaging consumers is data – analyzing your already available data will provide insights that will enable you to personalize your messaging, and provide information that is of interest to that consumer. As more of them plug-in to smart home appliances such as thermostats, HVAC systems and water heaters, even more data will be available, allowing you to further target and offer additional products and services.
The “Always Engaged”
Another segment of energy consumers is the “always engaged,” and many are digital natives who want options and know where to look for them. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, are already part of the “subscription culture,” paying monthly fees for everything from entertainment to clothing. However, these services are highly accessible, personalized and available over multiple channels, expectations utilities need to meet.
Utilities have been slow to adapt to this digital tribe, but it’s not impossible to master if you look at the consumer experience holistically, paying special attention to billing and payments, managing usage and reporting outages – all bread-and-butter issues that have a large impact on satisfaction.
Millennials often are “green champions,” having shown an interest in solar technology and electric vehicles. In suggesting products and services that help save energy and money, utilities can play the role of the trusted advisor, framing product and service offerings as an opportunity for choice. Offering value-added services through predictive and proactive apps and websites from which a resident can monitor their usage, purchase energy-efficient products or share energy-saving tips offers another avenue for engagement.
What’s Important to Your Engagement Strategy?
You know that engagement is important, but how much of your resources do you dedicate to it when your primary goal is to maintain a safe, reliable source of electricity even as the grid is aging and evolving? Consider entering into an affinity partnership instead of managing everything yourself. You can’t do it all, but you don’t need to – there are companies that specialize in the technology and services energy consumers want with very little risk to you.