Carbon emissions, energy efficiency and grid reliability are just a few of the major issues facing the energy industry today. What’s more puzzling and challenging for utility providers, however, are the elusive, human customers lurking behind them all.
Humans can be a finicky bunch.
Gauging what utility customers think about power resources, anticipating the actions they will—or won’t—take in response to those attitudes, predicting the best way to interact with them meaningfully, and keeping customers satisfied, and therefore loyal, continue to persist among the top challenges facing energy providers today.
As advancements in technology make alternative power sources more widely available, competition demands that utility companies adjust by developing fail-proof customer satisfaction strategies. As business author and management guru Michael LeBoeuf famously says, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”
But with the homeowners and business leaders of today more tech savvy than any previous generation, and with more choices available to them than ever before, getting—and keeping—their attention requires precise messaging with guaranteed delivery.
So, how can utility companies reach and engage their customers to keep them satisfied and loyal? As every marketer knows, the journey begins with knowing your audience.
Unfortunately, power companies often know very little about the people they serve, and that limits their ability to interact meaningfully with them. For too many customers, communicating with their utility company comes only when there’s a problem with their service or a complaint to be lodged.
Power companies should engage first, and positively. But how? Certainly, getting the word out about a power outage, boil notice or service interruption is commonplace, and utilities have no problem alerting the public through radio and TV announcements when these emergency issues arise.
But informing customers about service upgrades, insurance programs, power-savings plans, or available rebates remains somewhat elusive. Yet it’s these kinds of supplemental programs and services, which fall outside of the regulated rates utilities are allowed to charge by law, that allow them to grow revenue.
To spread the word about profit-increasing programs, sales and marketing teams could and should design beautiful web pages with snappy headlines and great graphics that outline all the benefits of special programs. But it’s difficult to get customers to spend any time perusing those pages, regardless of their content.
“Even for traditional energy-efficiency programs that have been around for decades,” says K.C. Boyce of Marketstrategies.com, “fewer than two-thirds (61%) of customers say they’re aware of their utility’s offerings.”
It’s no wonder. According to Greentechmedia.com, the average person spends as little as eight minutes per year interacting with their utility company’s website. People want to pay their bills and get on with their lives.
Utility marketers know this, but they’re often forced to resort to snail-mail inserts that get sent out with monthly bills to reach their customers. It’s a one-size-fits-all solution, akin to shooting arrows into the dark, that’s both expensive and unreliable.
Unless, of course, companies know who, exactly, they’re targeting. Yet energy providers typically have access to very limited customer information, like names, addresses and usage data.
What’s actually available, however, with the help of data companies that use analytics and digital assets, is so much more. Data that’s powered by geographic insights, culled from Census information and rich online histories, now make it possible for utility companies to learn more than they ever thought possible about the people they serve.
BlastPoint’s user-friendly platform reveals real-time insights that give utility companies “A-ha moments” about their customers and their not-yet customers, making it clear how best to reach them. Using heat maps, scoring algorithms, segmentation, ranking and filtering techniques, the shroud of secrecy between companies and customers has finally been lifted.
Armed with this new information, utility companies are determining which type of customer will respond better to a Facebook ad versus direct mail. They’re targeting environmentally-conscious customers with green messaging, and budget-conscious customers with cost-savings messaging.
“In the near future,” writes Jeff Hamel, Director of Global Energy and Enterprise Partnerships at Google, on Utilitydive.com, “utilities will be able to provide a richer, more personalized energy management experience to consumers—from alerts about storms and outages to reminders to pay a bill and easy ways to further save energy—to offer a more holistic view of home energy use. This is the level of transparency and engagement consumers are craving.”
Energy providers and their marketing teams don’t need to wait for the future. The ability to understand more about their customers already exists. The time to start building tactical strategies that reach them effectively, keep them engaged and prompt them to adopt revenue-building products and services is now.