Communication Technology, Customer Service, Energy Efficiency

A Segment of One

Issue 8 and Volume 22.

Using Integrated Analytics, Process Automation and More to Deliver a Highly Personalized Customer Experience

By David De Maio, Oracle Utilities

Electric utilities face transformative pressures from nearly every angle. Consumer expectations continue to evolve swiftly as available technology drives new trends and makes information more accessible. Conservation efforts and changing markets around the world continue to influence regulations and utility challenges. In addition, utilities faced with flat, or even declining, demand must find new revenue sources and explore new business models.

Modern consumers expect more than a bill from their electricity providers: they want a consistent and valuable experience through a variety of channels. They want more choice in how they interact, and they want more access to information on demand. This new energy consumer has fluid expectations of its utility service provider, basing those expectations with the increasing ease with which they engage with service providers in other industries.

Whether a utility is in a competitive market or a regulated market, its relationship with each of its customers is increasingly vital to its future success. Utilities must help customers manage demand, while at the same time building satisfaction and loyalty and reducing the operational costs of doing business. Today’s increasingly customer-centric service industries, which include utilities, must change the way they engage their customers. They must allow for more flexibility and agility as customers’ expectations change.

Today’s consumer wants-and expects -a highly personalized experience from his or her utility. Recent research by Accenture Consulting validates this. Accenture completed nearly 10,000 interviews with utilities’ end customers in 18 countries for its 2017 report on the new energy consumer. When these customers were asked what would make them willing to buy additional products and services from their energy provider, “products and services that are personalized to fit my needs and preferences” topped the list at 82 percent, followed by “a seamless customer experience” (81 percent) and “products and services that are specific to my lifestyle” (79 percent).

Taking a comprehensive platform approach to the customer experience can provide a win-win for both the utility and for its modern customers. For the utility, a platform approach allows streamlining of each stage of the customer lifecycle across the enterprise, from billing and back office operations to customer programs and deep customer engagement. This approach requires departments and teams across the utility to work in sync and leverage enterprise data to deliver improved customer experiences and more personalized programs.

What does this mean for the customer? It allows utilities to take a more personalized approach to their customer offerings and experiences. One popular type of utility offering-energy efficiency programs-is described here. It shows how the use of enterprise data and analytics, along with process automation can help utilities take a more personalized approach to customer offerings and experiences.

Customized Energy Efficiency Programs Better Meet Individual Needs

Energy efficiency is being used in many states for both electric utility resource planning and as a compliance mechanism to meet emission targets. Electric utilities are working hard to amplify the value of every efficiency dollar they spend to meet the goals of constrained budgets. To do this, they are turning to behavioral EE (BEE) programs to engage participants across their entire customer base, meet their (utilities’) goals, and transform customer experiences.

Utilities aren’t under pressure just to deliver greater energy savings with constrained funding. They’re also striving to meet increasing customer expectations. Customers want their utilities to deliver greater insights into energy use, effortless tools to access that information, and more programs to help them manage consumption year-round. BEE programs are helping utilities conquer these challenges by delivering the information customers want, raising awareness of other energy savings programs, and attaining significant cost-effective results. In addition, there’s even more potential than is currently being tapped.

Nearly four years ago, McKinsey & Co. reported on the results of a consumer behavior study it conducted to determine how residential energy-efficiency might benefit from behavior adjustments that don’t impact lifestyle. What it found was astounding: behavioral interventions could reduce America’s total residential energy use by as much as 20 percent. In addition, the report pointed out that providing improved information and feedback to customers, what it called “behavioral nudges,” building on energy efficiency programs already in place increased their impact even more.

Customer experiences continue to improve as utility technologies have evolved to better support customer-centric programs. Not all BEE programs are created equal, however. Designing the right programs and using the right technology are essential for success. Without these ingredients, utilities can end up with inflexible point solutions that deliver stale customer experiences and fail to get credit for energy savings.

An enterprise platform approach to the customer experience enables utilities to use enterprise data and integrated analytics to more quickly analyze data based upon numerous criteria including, demographics, usage data, behavioral data and psychographic factors. This allows utilities to deliver more personalized program experiences to customers.

This type of analysis allows utilities to: a) design highly-specific customer segments and targeted marketing campaigns; and b) categorize customers by their energy habits and use that information to generate insights and provide relevant programs during “moments that matter”-those critical moments in the customer lifecycle when a utility has the greatest opportunity to increase customer satisfaction, reduce customer service costs and introduce new services.

Making the Most of Moments That Matter

Content quality is critical when engaging with utility customers. Messaging that’s generic and redundant-with no personalization-fails to provide much value. BEE programs that follow that same formula often will realize a similar fate: ineffectual results. To capture customers’ attention and achieve long-term energy savings, program managers must talk to their customers as individuals, sharing highly personalized content that mirrors their own experiences and preferences.

Timing is also critical. Customers don’t often notice or think about their electricity, unless it isn’t there. They notice it when the lights don’t go on, or when they receive an unexpectedly high bill for their usage.

Oracles research has shown that customers want more from communications sent to them by their utilities, and more from the touchpoints they already have with their utilities. With this information, Oracle worked to try to identify the existing moments of utility-customer interaction, and the existing moments of stress and anxiety created from customers’ experiences and relationships with their utility. What were these key moments that matter in the utility’s relationship with its customers and, more importantly, in customers’ relationships with utilities? The moments that matter are: when the bills arrive, when there’s an outage, when the seasons change, and when customers move into new homes.

Moving into a new home or apartment, for example is a good opportunity for customers to change their energy habits. This moment is a golden window not only to set customers on a path to savings with helpful tools, insights and personalized energy savings or energy efficiency programs, but also to start off their relationship with their new utility on the right foot.

Driving More Than Energy Savings

The most effective BEE programs drive more than just energy savings. By capturing customers’ interest across different content channels-paper, email, web and others-effective BEE programs also prime customers to notice subsequent utility communications and participation opportunities in other EE programs. Coupled with the highly targeted messaging described above, the result is a powerful marketing engine that improves a utility’s entire demand-side management (DSM) portfolio.

Again, a complete customer platform allows utilities to deliver flexible and customized engagement through all channels. Using communication preference management tools, customers can define how and when they want to receive communications from their utility, and what type of information. With these preferences clearly indicated, teams across the utility can work together to offer customers via the channels they prefer, the best new value-added services, from energy efficiency programs to prepaid billing and more.

In turn, this more personalized engagement tends to drive customer sentiment and satisfaction, as well as customer “stickiness” in competitive markets.

BEE programs also boost customer sentiment and satisfaction. An analysis of home energy report, or HER, programs at several dozen utilities found that statements such as “my utility helps me manage my monthly energy usage” raise customer sentiment, as well as J.D. Power metrics by 5 percent on average.

Finally, in addition to driving offline behavior, BEE programs also motivate customers to engage online-raising their likelihood to log into the utility’s web portal or complete an online audit. These tools give customers more information about programs and ways to save energy, and they benefit the utility by shifting customer interactions to lower-cost channels.

Designing BEE Programs That are Personal

There has been a lot of discussion about customer segmentation for utility program planning over recent years. Of these, attitudinal segmentation (consumer perception of the utility or offering) and psychographic segmentation (defined by lifestyle, activities and interests) have been effective.

The utility that can integrate this customer data with demographic data (age, gender, income, etc.), electricity usage data from its meter data management system, and call center and billing data on a common enterprise platform will have an advantage. It can then analyze the integrated data and begin to offer highly personalized recommendations for utility value-added programs and services in a unified manner.

This is the type of seamless engagement a utility wants with each of its customers. With a lot of the work being handled by collection, integration and analytics processes that provide the utility with a 360-degree view of each customer’s needs and wants, the utility can support customers in the same ways they are supported by retail, banking, transportation and other service sectors.

Customers want their utilities to deliver greater insights into energy use, effortless tools to access that information, and more programs to help them manage consumption year-round.

With a lot of the work being handled by collection, integration and analytics processes that provide the utility with a 360-degree view of each customer’s needs and wants, the utility can support customers in the same ways they are supported by retail, banking, transportation and other service sectors.


David De Maio is group vice president, customer solutions, for Oracle Utilities. De Maio is responsible for guiding the ongoing direction and strategy of Oracle’s utility customer-focused solutions. Previously, De Maio was group vice president for Oracle’s professional services team, and has spent the past 22 years driving innovation in the utility industry. Prior to his work with Oracle, he held consulting delivery leadership positions with Black & Veatch, Accenture and more.