Opower (NYSE: OPWR), the global leader in cloud-based software for the utility industry, has released new research indicating that customers want better communication - not more - at important moments in the utility-customer lifecycle.
The survey identified a dozen critical moments, ranging from moving into a new home, receiving a high bill, or experiencing a power outage, when utility customers are looking for personalized information from their utility provider. At the same time, these were some of the areas in which customers felt their energy providers performed the worst.
The results indicate an opportunity for utilities: while reliable service and value remain important, nearly half of all North American respondents in a global survey of 7,000 utility customers said that improvements in customer service could have the biggest impact on satisfaction with their energy provider.
“Most customers think about their energy provider for just a few minutes each year, and everyone is looking for ways to break through their supposed indifference,” said Timur Hicyilmaz, Director of Consumer Insights at Opower. “But if you listen to customers it’s clear the solution lies not in telling them about great service provided or creating new reasons to contact them, but by selectively enriching the customer experience during existing moments that are most important to them.”
More than 8 in 10 customers say it is important for their utility to provide them with alerts for unusually high bills, helpful customer support, and information about rate changes, according to the survey. But fewer than half of these customers are satisfied with their experience during these interactions.
The billing experience shows the greatest disparity. Over 40 percent of customers received a high bill in the last year, and nearly three-quarters of them said it caused them to feel anxious. Almost half of these customers ultimately called their energy provider for more information, driving up utility service costs. But only about one-quarter had received early notice of the high bill, or help and advice to prevent high bills in the future.
Opower’s product strategy is increasingly focused on bringing value to the most important interactions of the customer experience while driving important outcomes for utilities in energy efficiency, demand response, lowering cost-to serve and increasing customer satisfaction. Last month, Opower announced its newest Customer Care solution, the Billing Suite, which reduces high bill call volume and call center handle times, while increasing customer satisfaction. In early tests, utilities using these products have reduced billing-related calls by up to 19 percent.
Click here to access the Opower Moments that Matter utility customer engagement white paper.