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Goodbye 2022! Customer Questions to Anticipate for 2023

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Mark Wilkinson's picture
SVP Products, Ibex Digital

Helping utilities and their customer experience teams transform customer journeys,  decode customer insights  and enhance revenues for nearly 15 years.  At Ibex, I lead the teams delivering...

  • Member since 2019
  • 131 items added with 19,892 views
  • Dec 20, 2022

Three topics seem to be trending as we close 2022, so I’m sure customers will have these questions in 2023.  Are we ready to tackle them?  Are there other trends we need to be prepared for next year?

Solar Questions – Three things make me thing solar will be a growing topic for customers this year.  First, California and Florida have been in the news regarding major changes to residential rooftop solar this year.  Next, high energy bills have already caused customers budget challenges, with Questline reporting here on Energy Central that one in six homes being behind on their energy bills.  Finally, nearly every state has news items trending with reports of solar scams. Google searches of “solar” and related terms were up more than 300 percent this year, so I’d expect the topic to surge into next year as customers deal with the hangover of holiday spending and high winter energy bills.  Whether we like it or not, unregulated sellers of rooftop solar programs drive the industry, and they sell primarily as a way to eliminate electric bills or even make money by selling excess solar back to the grid.    Are we proactive to home owners where scams are prevalent about how to avoid the risks?  Does our website contain current information that’s easy to understand and helps customers avoid a scam?  Do we have reputable experts that our customers can call or credible agencies they can reach to answer questions?  Rooftop Solar can be the perfect topic for a content series or email campaign to help customers get the best available data and make informed decisions.  As a wise utility exec just told me, “if we don’t help them now, we’ll surely be left answering their questions when their solar installer leaves them hanging and their electric bill isn’t what they expect it to be.” 

EV Questions – While a new KPMG poll indicates auto executives aren’t quite as sanguine about the immediate future of EVs as they were last year,  it’s clear customers will have a lot of questions.  And, their questions vary based on their place on the EV customer journey.  Does your digital experience cover the 3 EV Personas: Shopper, Buyer, Owner?   Shoppers want to know about the available rebates, if they really need a charger, and the truth about “range anxiety.”  Buyers may need links to rebate eligible vehicles, how to submit their rebate, or special state and local programs available for EVs.  Can they finance a charger with the vehicle, and how to find a licensed installer?  Owners may also need a charger, or want to be sure to enroll in a TOU program to get the best rates on charging their EV?  Owners may also want to check trade value or local programs related to battery recycling for older EV models?  And Owners always want to know where the latest public charging stations are, or special assistance planning longer trips in their EV.  Utilities have a massive opportunity to encourage beneficial electrification, grow beyond the meter services, and expand customer outreach and engagement with EV programs by tapping into this important audience in 2023.  

The Inflation Reduction Act – I’ve been to a live seminar and watched two online webinars just in the last two weeks trying to translate policy into language for utility executives on this topic, so it’s likely a few more iterations before our customers are even aware of the implications of the IRA on their lives.  But the benefits could be dramatic, especially for some of our most at-risk customers.  Does your utility have website content and email campaigns planned that introduce those benefits to your customers?  Instead of 1:all messaging, can those programs be segmented to enroll eligible customer directly and let the broader customer base learn more about how the utility puts those federal dollars to work for the benefit of all customers?  Those direct and indirect benefits need some Public Relations support in order to get the full value that they and the utility deserve.  Don’t forget to publicize the work, or that policy message will get lost as another “too dense to read” program that benefits customers but no one really understands.

I’m tempted to call out Recession Fears as a big topic for next year, but the theme seems too big right now, and no one seems to agree on when or how long it may be, only that it’s likely to happen in 2023.  If we do get a recession in 2023, does it take over the other big issues and shift our communication and operational attention to billing and collections issues, payment assistance program enrollment, and other customer service priorities? 

What big topics do you think the industry needs to be prepared to handle from our customers in 2023?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 20, 2022

Great suggestions, Mark. I also think generally we're just going to see a greater volume of questions and utility customer interactions. So many of what you mention tie to the energy bills in one way or the other, and even though many customers hear the news and see the writing on the wall that costs are going up this winter, many others still will likely face some sticker shock as the weather gets colder. I bet that's going to increase the rate of dialogue

Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Dec 20, 2022

Matt - I'd bet with you on that trend, especially if we get any recession jitters early in the Spring.  Questline's Bethany Farchione has written about it quite a bit in terms of where customer's are headed with high bills or past-due balances.  If we get hit with high bills on top of holiday expenses and any hint of layoffs, utilities are on point for a LOT of customer questions and nervousness.  I hope we're ready as an industry.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Jan 11, 2023

Mark - great post - I would love to have you write something for our upcoming Treads & Predictions special issue leveraging this article above!  - Due date for submissions is Jan 30th - see this post for more details.  


Regarding a potential recession, I would love to hear your thoughts on how this may affect customer care teams at utilities.  Also, are they still dealing with the backlog of bills not paid from the pandemic?  

Mark Wilkinson's picture
Thank Mark for the Post!
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