Utility brands: Adapt your CX to a new type of utilities consumer

Utilities has been tackling tall orders the past few years, and it’s never been more important to seize the opportunity to partner with consumers and provide superior experiences. But what does it mean to partner with your consumers? Let’s break it down.

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Published ·January 29, 2024

Reading time·4 min

As more people aim to reduce their carbon footprint and shift to Net Zero by mid-century, a burgeoning new community has formed and continues to grow: the prosumer.  

A prosumer is someone who uses and produces energy.  

At the heart of the prosumer’s relationship with energy is a desire to take advantage of technologies — such as solar power, electric vehicles, wind turbines, battery storage and smart meters. These advancements interweave a personal energy experience at home and in-vehicle to promote sustainability.   

There’s a massive opportunity for utility organizations to think through utilities customer service, specifically for a new generation of consumers — millennials and Gen Z will make up 60% of the consumer population globally by 2031.  

Four ways to evolve your utilities CX  

So how can your utility brand partner with prosumers and create valuable experiences for them? Here are four tips.  

1. Focus on personalization

According to Foundever™ research, 38% of consumers would be prepared to share data in order to receive more personalized service, and one key reason utility consumers are currently frustrated is that they know utility companies have their data but don’t use it to enhance and personalize their experience. 

While more households shift to using smart meters, many utility organizations have barely scratched the service when it comes to using that valuable data to give their consumers insights into their usage and habits. As people are more engaged in how they consume energy, data from smart meters will be invaluable.    

What does it mean to partner with your consumers? In short, it means to be a guide and steward for them to consume energy in a cleaner, more efficient way. Use their data to show them their energy habits, provide ways for them to generate their own power and track interactions with CX analytics to understand what they need. In a 2021 Oracle energy consumer survey, 47% of Gen Z consumers indicated they would turn to their power company to purchase solar panels and are interested in renewables. 

2. Show empathy and transparency

Communication is tough in utilities — prices are surging, customers are angry and contact centers are overwhelmed.  

Not to mention, there’s often a lack of communication in general between consumers and providers, where contact isn’t as consistent as in other industries. Typically, consumers are the ones to engage with utility providers when they have a billing problem or question, and utilities will send a notification when there’s an outage. Other than that, there’s little communication between the parties.  

But that doesn’t mean it’s unnecessary. And unfortunately, as technology comes in, the element of emotional support that only humans can bring goes out, and customers can feel it.  

Your brand should put a heavy emphasis on hiring the right talent, empowering the workforce with empathy training, and constantly implementing new ways to share data and make communication and information accessible.   

3. Meet your customers where they want 

The way you engage with consumers can help re-patch the disconnect that’s currently leaving them unsatisfied. There needs to be a greater emphasis on technology balanced with empathetic utilities customer service agents who deliver information clearly.  

The need to balance tech with humans is great in every industry. According to Foundever™ research, consumers crave technology when it’s convenient, and a person when it’s not. But where’s the line? What tech do you need to incorporate?  

The key here is an omnichannel approach to give your customers a healthy blend of options. A positive CX will start with self-service and chatbots and escalate to a call with the contact center when there is a need for it. It’s important to monitor all your interactions so you can understand at what point in the customer journey you need to escalate.   

4. Automation and AI

Not only can automation streamline the workflow and increase productivity and efficiency, but it can also help significantly cut costs in the contact center. And at a time when utility companies need to both cut costs and improve CX, the need to incorporate smart automation is significant.  

But that doesn’t mean your brand should immediately flock to the trendiest technology at the time — there should be a tactical onboarding strategy for new tools.  

Kickstart your CX strategy with the right leaders 

Take steps now to build experiences for the future. Provide better utilities customer service and apply strategies that deliver integrated solutions that span the entire consumer journey — including omnichannel customer support and automation. Foundever is part of the utilities ecosystem that works together to improve experiences and outcomes for people. 

To learn more about how to supercharge your CX to meet customer expectations, read our best practice guide now: “Utilities CX: Harnessing a new kind of power.”