“Intelligent” consumers of energy and utilities
Companies in the energy and utilities sector need to cope with complex challenges, from effects of economic fluctuations, critical changes in supply and demand, political changes, to frequent mergers and acquisitions.
All these reflect on customers, the central point for utility companies. If so far the relationship with the client was characterized by the monthly invoice issued or by several technical problems solved by call center teams, things have changed now. Consumers become increasingly aware of the need to efficiently use energy and utilities, compelling people in the above mentioned companies to evaluate the relationship they have with their clients, as the latter become increasingly “smart”.
There are numerous factors which led to increased knowledge about energy among consumers: energy conservation, CO2 emissions, increased energy costs, as well as other social, political and environmental factors. Our generation is certainly more aware of the effects generated by the above mentioned factors than the people were ten years ago, just as the future generations will use both energy sources and utilities proving a greater degree of responsibility than the present generations.
Due to the interest in energy, companies will have to show increased transparency in the process of supplying utilities if they want not to loose customers, as they will be ingreasingly aware of the energy source they use, the process by which it is delivered or the costs involved.
What is it that utility companies need to do in order to keep their customers? First of all they need to adapt to new business models, to understand consumer behaviour and customers’ feelings, then to adopt the change within the environment in which they operate.
It is easy to imagine the profile of the utility customer 10 years from now. They will build their own houses with an efficient energy consume, properly isolated and built to maintain and increase heat during winter and preserve coolness in summer. These houses will have at least two forms of own energy generation from renewable sources (like solar panels), as well as “smart” electronic devices.
These consumers, more aware of the energy conservation, will understand wherefrom the energy they pay for comes, and will push utility companies for renewable energy generation. Moreover, energy quality and disponibility will no further be tollerated, as they currently are. Customers will be expecting not to pay for occuring issues, including technical and non-technical losses through transmission and distribution.
New elements like climateric change, conservation of energy natural resources, volatile energy prices or technological soar also influence the degree to which customers are informed.
Emergent area of interest are:
- Consequences of the financial crisis and political instability within key regions for energy supply are upsetting for everybody. Practical, the future safety of energy supply regions is given by bringing the aim of national economic self-sufficiency to the foreground;
- Energy prices went back to the same level they had before crisis, emphasising energy’s impact on household expenses;
- Catastrophic natural dezasters have emphasised the fragility of the present energy infrastructure
To summarize a study conducted by IBM Global Utility Consumer Survey, several important factors can be taken into consideration in order to constitute the prerequisites for tomorrow’s actions:
- One of the most important factors which lead to changes in the behaviour of using energy is money saving;
- 50%-60% of the respondents are not familiar yet with complex concepts like TOU (Time of Use) tarriffs or “smart” systems for recording electricity consumption ==> consumers can be educated to become smart energy consumers.
- Among younger age groups, social networks as well as the video online content are the main sources of information ==> it is important for companies to use and consider communication through multiple channels. The challenge will be to influence consumers in all demographic areas with messages from information sources outside their area.
- Customers’ perception is an important ingredient for players in the utility sector. According to the study, customers’ highest expectations are related to reliability and correct delivery of energy services.
Utility companies are beginning to understand how important customer proximity is. Where and how companies will choose to invest in people, processes, technologies and partnerships will make the difference.