Energy and utilities providers are reimagining the customer experience

Research Director, Contact Center & Customer Experience Management, Aberdeen Group
Research Analyst, Manufacturing, Aberdeen Group

By the very nature of the energy sector, the services that energy companies provide can detrimentally affect the health and safety of both workers and the natural environment. In response, the energy industry as a whole has traditionally focused on operational concerns with an eye to ensuring compliance, decreasing asset downtime and managing the workforce. Modern consumers, however, look for more than merely operational competence in their interactions with their energy providers.

In fact, research conducted by the Aberdeen Group has found that the percentage of energy and utility companies that have a primary focus on boosting levels of consumer satisfaction nearly doubled from 2012 to 2015, increasing from 18 percent to 35 percent (Figure 1). The rise of the empowered customer—and organizations’ response to this trend—has already changed the dynamics of many industries, and now the energy and utilities industry faces this same prospect.

Figure 1: A shift is occurring within the energy and utilities industry.

Rethinking the customer experience

Indeed, a shift in the energy and utilities industry is already evident. Heightened levels of competition have led customers to demand ever more from their energy providers. Accordingly, energy firms must rethink their way of handling customer interactions.

Although such organizations have historically been driven primarily by operational demands, operational efficiency has rapidly become a minimum bar in the industry. If savvy energy firms are to differentiate themselves in the long run, they must establish close ties with customers—and then nurture those ties. To do so, organizations must continually meet their clients’ needs, recognizing customer satisfaction as an integral contributor to success and making it a primary consideration in decision making.

Accordingly, decision makers in energy and utilities firms have begun asking certain questions whose answers will help drive their industry’s shift in focus:

  • is responsible for the quality of the customer experience?
  • What degree of customer satisfaction does our organization provide?
  • How can we not only meet, but also exceed, our customers’ expectations?

Putting customer satisfaction at the forefront

Such questions are largely new ones in the energy and utilities industry, but companies that have begun asking these questions are not without recourse. For example, those who turn to customer experience management (CEM) can enjoy the advantages of tried-and-true best practices for helping organizations delight customers. Accordingly, to identify best practices for CEM, Aberdeen has evaluated company performance by using four foundational performance metrics to highlight the top 20 percent of companies—the best in their class.

Compared to the remaining 80 percent of companies surveyed, these organizations are enjoying unmistakably superior performance as measured by their customer-centric metrics:

  • 51 percent greater customer retention rates (86 percent versus 57 percent)
  • 44 percent greater year-over-year change in annual company revenue (48.4 percent versus 4.8 percent)
  • 23 percent greater year-over-year change in average customer profit margins (+18.9 percent versus –3.9 percent)
  • 24 percent greater year-over-year change in response time to customer needs (28.9 percent versus 4.8 percent)

Few now doubt that the energy sector is evolving. Though operational risks such as noncompliance and asset failure remain primary concerns, customer satisfaction can no longer remain an afterthought. Companies that serve an increasingly empowered range of customers must meet—indeed, must regularly exceed—consumer demands if they are to take their place among the best performers in their class.

To learn more, read the report CEM for energy companies: The path to happy customers and greater results and discover how you can begin climbing to the pinnacle of your industry.