Utilities and Their Customers: A Guide For Moving From Transaction to Relationship


“The utilities industry is waking up to the realization that they have to evolve their customer experience, and find new ways to engage with customers and meet their changing requirements. This involves bringing the utilities customer service in line with the experiences delivered by retail, finance and telco service providers,” according to Martin Dunlea.

Utilities are struggling with being a partner with their customers. Our research has shown that while many think their electrical utility “understands my electricity needs”, far fewer feel that their electrical utility “treats me like a partner.” The gap is sizable, and points to an urgent need to better understand and connect with the customer.

“We can no longer stay in our comfort zone on our side of the meter — providing basic electric service and sending bills. We must diversify the menu, develop new rate designs to handle increased demands on our distribution grids, adapt to changing customer preferences, and prove we can be our customers’ trusted energy advisors,” according to Sue Kelly, President of the American Public Power Association.

Being perceived as trusted advisors is key to increasing participation in demand management, energy efficiency and other programs. The only way to be get buy-in is to be perceived as credible, and to communicate with credibility you must understand your customer’s wants, needs, concerns and desires.

Guiding the way

To help utilities more deeply connect with their customers, we are launching a Maru/Matchbox’s Utility Guidebook: Your Customer Voice Source. It’s a quarterly subscription-only deep dive into the hottest topics facing utilities and their customers. Over the course of 2018 we will survey 16,000 North Americans. You can also ask the same questions of customers who are part of your database.

The first topic we’re exploring is Customer Experience. We will have 4,000 North Americans rate their utilities and their perceptions of them. This will reveal strengths, weaknesses, and the perceptions that need to change to become “customers’ trusted energy advisors.”

In the second quarter we will focus our lens on Innovation, testing reaction to a variety of programs and offers, including Smart Grid technology. The third installment will look at Community Engagement. We’ll dig into awareness of community initiatives and whether these programs fit with what customers want and expect. Our final module for 2018 will be on Market Trends, including deep dives into blockchain, microgrids, smart homes and electric vehicles.

It’s going to be an exciting year, delving into the mysteries of the electrical customer. We hope you’ll join us on this voyage of discovery. To learn more about the Utility Guidebook and how it can help you better connect with your customers, contact us.

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