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 /  Antti Hämmäinen

Four reasons why utilities should invest in digital customer experiences

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Digital, as a disruption agent, is not new, as it has been reshaping industries for years. Most recently, post-pandemic, a new commerce paradigm appeared with physical and digital retail, as the lines between these two environments merged, and in-store retailers had to revamp their online experience swiftly to meet the needs of consumers.

However, when looking at the energy retail sector, it needs to be faster to embrace digital transformation. Similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, the European energy crisis in 2022 is now accelerating new consumer behaviors primarily shaped by converging trends such as reducing environmental impact, cutting energy costs, and managing electricity consumption.

Digitalization is at the center of this shift. This transformation is motivated by the changing needs of modern energy consumers and regulatory requirements, such as the EU’s electricity market reform, pushing nations to invest more in renewable energy.

This pushes some of the most established energy providers to change how they acquire, interact, and retain customers. In this article, we will delve into four compelling reasons why utility companies should prioritize digital customer experiences in 2024 and beyond:

1. Rising Customer Expectations

Customer expectations have soared recently, and the utility sector is no exception. Formerly passive consumers are now more involved in all their energy matters. With the proliferation of digital services in other industries, customers now expect seamless, personalized experiences from their energy providers. And, with a plethora of energy suppliers to choose from, more than competing on price alone to attract customers is needed.

Source: Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report

Thus, utility companies must keep pace with these changing preferences to remain competitive and retain their customer base. Since electricity retailing is a competitive industry, investing in digital customer experiences is one way to provide additional value to customers. Using tools like customer journey mapping can help spread out all customer’s actions, emotions, and behaviors within the company, helping to identify pain points and potential solutions. Then, utilities should prioritize the following steps based on the customer’s most pressing needs and search for the digital tools and technologies most fitting to solve these.

2. Energy consumption “smartification” through DER’s

The demand for DERs, such as EVs, heat pumps, and solar, is rising as consumers crave for more energy efficiency and independence at home. This increased demand has created business opportunities for many utility companies that have started to sell these energy resources as part of their offering. On the other hand, what affects every utility company is that more and more households have these devices, and they significantly affect the consumption profiles of families. Utilities must cater to this new wave of consumption, as more and more DERs are connected to the grids every day.

Sources in order: IEA, EHPA, European Commission, IEA

The growing adoption of DERs is reshaping energy consumption patterns, posing challenges and opportunities for utilities. However, with the right digital strategies, utilities can harness these changes to promote smarter energy use and enhance the value proposition for consumers and the grid. Utility companies can also incentivize consumers to use electricity at certain hours, creating a win-win situation for both parties.

3. Gathering quality data to enhance customer understanding

Households are becoming “data-rich” as DER adoption increases, and most of these resources are connected to the internet. Understanding customers better becomes crucial as we move into more volatile energy systems. Investing in the right digital services can generate vast data on customer interactions, consumption habits, and preferences.

This data leads to high-quality insights about customer behaviors and needs when effectively harnessed. With granular, real-time information, utilities profoundly understand individual and portfolio-level energy consumption patterns. This knowledge enables them to offer more personalized solutions and proactively address customer concerns. Additionally, it enhances demand forecasting accuracy, optimizing resource allocation and supply management.

Sources: Power Grid International & Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative

Utilities can also provide customers with intelligent tools to help them move their consumption to the best hours, and with this, forecasting becomes even more accurate and predictable.

With better data, they can also understand the customers who are the most important to them and deploy more resources to retain them. Ultimately, utility digital services improve customer experiences and empower utilities to make data-driven decisions.

4. Increasing customer satisfaction

Digital services offered by energy providers can significantly enhance customer satisfaction by delivering convenience, transparency, and personalized experiences. First and foremost, digital services streamline essential processes such as bill payments and customer support. Customers can easily monitor and even optimize their energy consumption with digital services.

Furthermore, digital platforms provide real-time access to detailed energy usage data, empowering customers to monitor and control their consumption patterns. This transparency helps customers make informed decisions to reduce energy costs and promotes energy efficiency and environmental consciousness.

Personalization is another crucial aspect of digital services. Utility companies can tailor recommendations, offers, and communications based on customer preferences and behaviors. This level of customization enhances engagement and fosters a sense of being valued, which leads to higher satisfaction and loyalty. Utilities can strengthen customer relationships and drive loyalty in an increasingly competitive landscape by offering modern digital customer experiences.

Synergi offers turnkey digital solutions to help optimize your customers’ home electricity usage

With Synergi, you avoid costly software implementations, lengthy internal product development roadmaps, and staying behind the competition as we enable you to launch a co-branded smart electricity app in just a few weeks.

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Antti Hämmäinen