A new report from Accenture explores the evolving nature of the energy consumer experience, concluding that when it comes to the connection between utilities and customers, changes in technology and the continued consumer move to online channels are shifting the traditional preferences for interactions. Specifically, low-touch channels and self-service have reached a tipping point where consumers prefer these options, and consumers in many areas are interested in engaging with their electricity providers through social media.
“The consumers participating in our study report a dramatic move toward low-touch channels of interaction such as e-mail or web portal,” explains the report describing the evolving consumer preference for self-service. The only area in which consumers expressed a small preference for high-touch channels such as the phone or in person was for the more complex issue of billing disputes.
“Encouraging consumers to use self-serve channels and delivering an effective experience are increasingly important. To better understand expectations, we explored what characteristics are most important for consumers when they consider using self-service. Ninety-one percent of consumers cite simplicity and ease of use.”
When it comes to social media, it is important for utilities to remember that consumers can use these online networking tools to interact not only with the utility itself, but also with each other and other sources of information. “More than one-third of our survey respondents use, or plan to use, social media to discuss energy related issues with other consumers or groups.”
Utilities who recognize this use-case scenario can easily act as moderators or providers of systems based on social media that allow customers to interact with each other, getting advice or even competing to save the most energy. This is a simple way for a utility to leverage the power of social media with little to no effort provided by the utility itself.
For example, almost fifty percent of respondents say they would be “encouraged to join the conversation if an online community was managed to provide more information about energy-related products and tips on how to reduce bills.” Platforms that leverage social media to encourage competition between customers have also been shown to be highly effective.
Finally, for utilities who do want to manage social media directly to interact with their customers, there are a variety of use-case scenarios in which this could prove compelling to consumers. “Possibilities for social media continue to grow.”
“To understand consumer interest in using social media as a source of information, we presented consumers with a hypothetical situation: If electricity prices fluctuate throughout the day, how would you prefer to be notified? Younger consumers are the most interested in being notified of changes in electricity prices via social media.”
Read more in the full report from Accenture.