As utilities begin the new year, they face the critical challenges of boosting customer satisfaction scores, growing sustainability programs, and ensuring energy equity. Customer intelligence provides the data-driven insights necessary for reaching benchmarks.
Boost Customer Satisfaction Scores
Customer intelligence is a fundamental tool for increasing customer satisfaction because, in order to satisfy customers, companies have to understand their behavior. Analysis of data that companies collect based on customers’ interactions with them is the best window into customers’ actual wants and needs.
Recent benchmarking data reveals that utilities are struggling to boost customer satisfaction scores. The American Customer Satisfaction Index Energy Utilities Report, 2020-2021 states that the overall residential customer satisfaction score is 72.0 out of 100 for 2021 – virtually unchanged over the last few years. The report notes, however, that “while residential customer satisfaction is mostly flat, it is not high in comparison to many other industries. All three energy utility categories are among the bottom dozen industries in the Index.” When looking at scores from the last 18 years, this years’ score is one of the lowest recorded (see image below).
Reliability, friendly customer service, the quality of digital services, and support of green programs and the community are all part of the score, and it can be overwhelming for utilities to pinpoint exactly where to start improving customer satisfaction. To help strategize, customer intelligence provides big-picture analysis, showing companies where their customers are experiencing the most friction. At that point, customer intelligence also provides a deeper dive into specific programs, practices, and methods of outreach, showing companies what kind of information specific customers are looking for and how they want to consume it, all the way down to the household level.
BlastPoint’s Customer Intelligence Platform enables companies to create custom segments based on relevant data attributes, making personalized engagement more feasible for customer-facing teams. When customers feel seen via personalized engagement, they are more likely to be satisfied; when companies have higher satisfaction scores, they are more likely to be successful.
Grow Sustainability Programs
Speaking of customer satisfaction scores, ACSI data shows that customers gave utilities the lowest scores for “information provided for energy-saving ideas” and “efforts to support green programs that impact the environment.” The J.D. Power 2021 Sustainability Index supports this, showing that “only 23% of electric utility customers say they are aware of their utility’s goals to reduce greenhouse emissions,” while 54% don’t believe their utility will meet clean energy goals by 2050. These stats reveal a missed opportunity for utilities to connect and establish goodwill with specific customers.
The good news is that many utilities are already making progress toward improving sustainability scores by utilizing customer insights. For example, our partner Duquesne Light Company boosted their score by 3 points in 2021, according to JD Power. The company has focused on expanding its EV programs and saw a big jump in enrollment to their EV rebate incentive and variable rate program by specifically targeting customers most likely to be interested in EVs.
Another way to increase sustainability awareness and engagement is by utilizing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Guidehouse Senior Research Analyst Michael Kelly told Utility Dive that “the smart meter installed base grew by 9.3% between 2017 and 2020, while the demand response customer base grew by 7.3% over the same period.” Kelly has also suggested that the advantages of smart meters for utilities include “workforce optimization, billing accuracy, and outage detection.” Demand response enables customers to personalize their energy usage, save money, and also feel proactive about sustainable energy use.
Analyzing data collected via AMI provides even more insight into customers’ energy usage. Operationalizing these customer insights allows companies to personalize engagement even more accurately, leading to higher customer satisfaction. The difficulty for many companies is managing this high volume of data. BlastPoint’s Customer Intelligence Platform places this data at the fingertips of customer experience, service, and marketing teams so they can act upon it.
Find out more about BlastPoint’s Sustainability Solutions.
Ensure Energy Equity
Some major roadblocks to customer satisfaction revolve around issues of energy equity. ACSI reported that in addition to sustainability, customers ranked their utility’s “efforts to support the local community” lowest, which ultimately lowered overall customer satisfaction scores. But when customers are aware of “payment deferment and other good deeds offered by their utility,” according to the J.D. Power 2020 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, their satisfaction increases.
In 2022, utilities will encounter more customer-related equity challenges, including payment defaults. But perhaps a bigger challenge long-term will be the inequitable infrastructure that makes it nearly impossible for some customers to participate in energy efficiency programs and transportation electrification. Customer intelligence enables utilities to identify specific communities and customer segments that require interventions to support energy equity. BlastPoint helps our partners understand which of their customers are most at risk for energy inequity and the best ways to engage them – including forming community partnerships.
Energy equity is good for everyone, from customers experiencing inequity to the community as a whole. The resulting higher customer satisfaction benefits utility companies as they work to become more sustainable and customer-centric.
Where is EV charging equity needed the most in the US? Download our 2022 EV Adoption Outlook to find out.