There’s no denying it—we live in a connected world, one that provides increasing opportunities for consumers to engage with companies, and through that engagement, influence its products and services. At the same time, the energy landscape itself is evolving with concerns over climate change, volatile energy prices, and security of supply taking center stage.
Although it may not be initially obvious, the two are connected. An April report from Accenture explores the relationship between energy providers and the ‘new energy consumer’ as it relates to fostering engagement. Given the rapidly evolving marketplace energy providers face, the need to ‘connect’ with the consumer becomes essential, which may require moving beyond the energy-as-a-commodity mindset.
The Accenture report surveyed over 10,000 residential utility consumers in 19 countries to determine values and perceptions related to their electricity providers. Overall, the study found that consumers want products and services that align with their values, including options that encourage energy efficiency and prefer ‘low-touch’ channels for transactional interactions (e.g., online bill pay or signing up for new services), as well as the option to engage through social media.
The study found that more than one-third of the survey respondents “interact or plan to interact with their electricity provider” using social media, while 47 percent would join an online community if it offered energy-related product information or tips on how to reduce energy bills. While these figures may not be overwhelmingly high, they do suggest that interest in social media is growing and that utilities are positioned well to benefit from the interaction. While the onus seems to lie with utilities, the report ultimately concludes that the “energy landscape is increasingly defined by the values and preferences of the new energy consumer.”
This type of consumer engagement amounts to exciting times, as it fosters innovation and moves us further along the energy efficiency continuum. It also positions utilities as a key communication channel regarding energy management. A utility’s ability to use new communication avenues such as social media will be important to furthering the energy dialogue and driving additional savings.
Ecova’s Home Energy Plan initiative is an example of a true partnership between energy consumer and utility, and how an active dialogue between the two encourages the adoption of energy efficiency measures that result in widespread benefits. Still, the Accenture report is a good reminder of the need to maintain an active dialogue and that our options to ‘connect’ are only just beginning.