Utilities want to be customer-centric, but what's centric to your customer?

Posted by Energy Wire on April 30, 2015 at 4:46 PM

Last week at the ACEEE Market Transformation conference, the conversation around the changing utility landscape continued. We heard a representative from the Department of Energy state, “If utilities don’t change, and get out of the paradigm of the past, their business will change for them.” And utilities and energy efficient product companies discussed the need and transition to a customer-centric business model.

One of the biggest industry challenges this revolution brings is customer engagement. It’s necessary, yet can’t be mandated. It’s something that has to be done right or will be disregarded.

It’s becoming a widespread industry goal, but the big question remains: how do you get there? How do you get customers to stop thinking of you as a monthly bill and start looking to you as an influential brand? Or better yet, a trusted advisor?

Of course, the answer to this question is a combination of many things - utilizing the right customer data, providing the customer the right information and tools to understand and control their consumption, optimizing customer service, the list goes on.

But one overarching theme and place to start: STOP thinking like an engineer and START thinking like your customer.

As a firm specialized in energy efficiency marketing, our focus is on the customer and their motivations to purchase E.E. products and participate in E.E. programs. What makes them say “yes”?

After recently surveying of 1,345 homeowners on their relationship with energy efficiency, one thing is loud and clear: we need to re-frame the conversation.

More than ever before, people are aware of energy efficiency (both as a feature and an action), but only 18% participated in a utility program last year. While this increase in awareness is important, building the customer’s desire to participate is where the industry is lacking.

To do this, we need to make energy efficiency relatable and tangible. We need to frame the conversation around the things customers prioritize most – home, health, and family being among the top. By tapping into the lifestyles of your customers, customers will see the value for himself or herself and in turn, this will trigger the desire to act.

A major theme from our research: “It’s not about energy efficiency. It’s about improving my home.”

What would happen if you had to remove “energy efficiency” from your communications? What if you replaced it with “home improvements”, “home efficiency” or “home performance”?

It’s already feeling more relatable.

(Read more on customer perceptions of the term “energy efficiency.”)

Home improvement retailers and networks like HGTV have reinvented the DIY world over the last decade. (In fact, 60% of homeowners stated they actually enjoy taking on DIY home improvements.) How have they done this? They’ve empowered consumers to WANT to take on these projects. They’ve tapped into the real motivators (or barriers) for purchase vs. the savings or even the products.

Look at Lowe’s and Home Depot, they focus on the benefits that actually matter to customers. Maybe it’s the easy install or durability over the actual savings or product itself.

Our newest consumer research uncovered what matters most to customers when it comes to energy efficiency upgrades and purchases. In an effort to move utilities to communicate in a more customer-centric way, utilities need to know what’s actually centric to the customer.

To learn more, get in touch with Lauren Bell.

Lauren Bell / Engagement Manager / lbell@ksvc.com / 802.862.8261