Consumer surveys explore interest in targeted payment, program options

Energy consulting firm DEFG You are leaving has released two new consumer survey reports that could be useful to power providers looking for ways to improve service and satisfaction among different customer groups.

The Best Service for Utility Customers with the Least explores the need for more payment options and programs serving low-income households. These consumers continue to have trouble paying electric and heating bills and struggle to reduce their energy consumption. Respondents expressed concern about paying fees and penalties on their electric bills, and also showed interest in community solar programs. The survey indicates that there are opportunities for utilities to offer this customer group more and better ways to help them manage their energy budgets.

Prepayment appeals to a more segmented audience than low-income programs, but Prepay Energy: Past the Tipping Point and Scaling Up for Success finds that certain customers would welcome this option. Consumers who have adopted prepayment, such as gift cards and reloadable debit cards, and mobile bill payment would like to see their utilities offer them the same convenience. The reasons respondents gave included wanting more control over their energy costs and eliminating surprises by paying for energy as they use it.

An emerging theme across both reports is that consumers across income spectrums are open to utility programs that could help them gain more control over their energy bills. Both reports can be downloaded with a simple email registration.

Source: DEFG, 2/1/17

Shelton Group releases Energy Pulse 2014

We have been hearing it for years now: The utility industry is changing in a fundamental way. Yet many power providers are still waiting to see how the new energy landscape shapes up before deciding how to react.  Energy Pulse 2014: Navigating a Rapidly Changing Residential Energy Environment You are leaving makes a strong case for seizing the moment.

According to report author The Shelton Group, dozens of companies are now competing for control of the American home energy market in a sandbox where only utilities used to play. Moreover, these upstarts have the consumers’ attention. The data from the annual consumer survey points to the need for utilities, builders and manufacturers to develop a proactive strategy for customer engagement.

A key point in Energy Pulse is that utilities can no longer assume their customers will remain loyal in a marketplace of new options for acquiring and managing energy. Other findings reveal:

  • Which Americans aren’t thrilled with their utilities – and why that doesn’t necessarily matter
  • How many Americans would actually leave their utility if they could – and where they’d like to go instead for their electric service
  • Why consumers aren’t participating in energy efficiency programs – and what can be done to change that
  • Which home energy needs are crying out to be filled by utilities, builders and manufacturers – and how to get residential customers on board
  • What Gen Xers and Millennials say about technology and energy consumption ­­­­­– and why they may hold the utility’s success or failure in their hands

The good news is that power providers can emerge as winners in the new energy game —if they take steps to build rock-solid customer relationships. The report suggests strategies such as:

  • Disrupting consumers’ denial ­– because a growing economy and lower fuel prices have given them amnesia about why they need to make energy-efficiency improvements.
  • Revamping incentives – because most consumers don’t know they exist and too many layers of red tape keep them from participating in utility programs.
  • Learning to speak the customer’s language – because consumers rarely make energy-efficiency improvements for the reasons utilities think they do (hint: most consumers can’t even explain what the term “HVAC” means.)
  • Inventing new products and services to win customer loyalty – because with the home energy market up for grabs, utilities need loyal customers more than ever.

Download the executive summary for a free sneak-peek, and while you are there, consider signing up for Shelton Insights newsletter.

The Energy Pulse questionnaire surveyed a total of 2,009 Americans online, using members of Survey Sampling International’s online panel of over three million U.S. Internet users. Based on the total population of U.S. households (116,291,033), results from this study have an overall confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percent.

The Shelton Group is a marketing communications agency dedicated to the sustainability and energy-efficiency sectors. Founder Suzanne Shelton has been a frequent and popular speaker at the Utility Energy Forum and the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange.

Source: The Shelton Group, 12/16/14