European survey points to choices for utility customers

LONDON, July 23, 2002 — Recent numbers suggest that utilities are best placed to attract and retain consumers if they permit them to choose among service and billing alternatives, according to Andrew Dean, vice president, sales for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at SPL WorldGroup.

Dean’s conclusion is one of several resulting from an SPL-commissioned survey of utility consumers conducted in May/June by independent marketing-research company Ipsos/Capibus.

The survey asked utility consumers in the UK, France, and Italy about:

* Factors that would lead them to switch suppliers.
* Preferences for single or multiple suppliers.
* Benefits they expect if they choose a single supplier.
* Non-energy services they would consider buying from a single supplier.
* How they use the internet, with emphasis on interactions with utilities.

Based on the survey results, SPL has concluded that:

— Price is still the main driver of customer choice. However, some consumers already see service as a primary reason for switching suppliers.

— Contrary to some expectations, the internet is not currently a vehicle to service the majority of customers.

— While much has been made in the utility trade press of the advantages available to utilities that offer multiple services and consolidated billing, the majority of consumers prefer to receive separate bills for each utility service. Although they expect that sourcing all products from the same supplier leads to a better price, they are split in their preference for single or multiple utility suppliers.

— There are education and marketing opportunities for utilities among the substantial minority of consumers who “don’t know” if they would consider buying telecom, financial, and other services from their utility supplier.

“The numbers we’re seeing suggest that there is no single ‘formula for success’ in the evolving European utility and services market,” Dean concludes. “Our market has given consumers many new choices, and they’re not all choosing the same ones. In fact, some are uncertain as to what, if anything, they will choose in the future.

“These uncertainties give clear positioning advantages to utilities with flexible customer management systems,” Dean says. “When utilities record and respond to customer preferences, then alter practices and procedures to meet those preferences both now and as preferences evolve, they can offer consumers the right products and services through the right channels. It’s a path toward attracting and retaining customers for the long run.”

The entire SPL analysis “Utility Consumer Preferences in the UK, Italy, and France: A Report by SPL WorldGroup Based on a Survey Conducted by Ipsos/Capibus,” the supporting Ipsos/Capibus data are available by email request through splinfo@splwg.com or by calling (800) 275-4775.

About SPL WorldGroup

Established in 1994, SPL WorldGroup is a provider of customer management solutions to the energy and service-related industries in regulated and competitive markets worldwide.
Visit SPL WorldGroup at www.splwg.com or call (800) 275-4775.

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