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How to Retain the 'Reimagined' Utility Consumer

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

  • Member since 2017
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  • Nov 24, 2021

The key to success is agility and adaptability, according to a recent blog on small business strategies.  I would venture to say those qualities are crucial in any business.  The pandemic has brought inescapable changes to the mindset of consumers. According to data from Accenture, the pandemic has caused at least 50 percent of consumers to re-evaluate priorities, expectations and personal purpose.  That group has been tagged the ‘Reimagined’ and they’re changing their buying habits accordingly. The Accenture report covered 14 industries, including gas and electric utilities and showed that 17 percent, dubbed ‘The Traditional,’ said they were unchanged and 33 percent felt they were still evolving.  Can utilities embrace change and adapt to a post-pandemic consumer?   Well, the pandemic isn’t over yet but what lessons learned from other markets can be applied to this industry?  Retailers are hosting virtual events to ensure safety.  Beyond virtual home energy saving audits, are there additional virtual events utilities can create to further educate, inform or assist ratepayers?  Retailers and small businesses are updating their marketing plans and pivoting to online sales.  Utilities are utilizing a measure of digital customer engagement models such as mobile apps but a J.D. Power 2021 Utility Digital Experience Study found that the more in-depth functions—such as research on energy-saving information or updating service are still not widely available online.

As the utility customer evolves, companies must adjust their approach to match consumer needs.   To attract and retain the ‘Reimagined,’ utilities and their Customer Service departments will need to reinvent themselves by; 1- Continually investing to understand their customers. Because the ‘Reimagined’ are changing their focus to supporting communities make sure they know the work your utility is doing in the community.  The blog continued, “If you are using this holiday season to start a digital marketing campaign, your campaign should stress how engaged you are with your community, and how much you have given back to it over the years. In the context of the pandemic, people are pulling together and supporting each other as never before, and ideally, you want to be a part of this!”  2 - Reimagine the experiences your utility delivers. Over 40 percent of retailers added curbside pickup to maintain sales.  How does this translate to utilities?  Can your utility increase convenience by adding customer self-service features to your website?  Examples include answers to frequently asked questions,  supplementing in-person and phone-based customer service with email and social media-based customer service or adding live chat software to your website.  In a survey by HubSport, 70 percent of companies have invested more in content and social media marketing than they did last year.  3 - Structure the entire organization (or at least the customer service department) in a way that creates experiences that meet consumer demands.  For example, how are wait times?  According to data from SuperOffice, 75 percent of customers believe that fast response times are the most crucial customer service attribute. 4 - Evolve the business model.   Amazon started off as an online bookstore and now is one of the Big Five companies is the U.S information technology industry.  

Is your utility embracing change, maximizing opportunity and meeting consumer expectations?  How have utility customer engagement strategies been reimagined so far and what should we expect to see in the near future?  


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