Irish consumers want new energy-related products and services and most are demanding a seamless, digital and personalised experience, new research from Accenture shows.

The research, The New Energy Consumer: Thriving in the Energy Ecosystem, Accenture’s seventh annual survey of energy consumers across 17 countries, revealed that Irish consumers are interested in the next generation of energy offerings such as automated home energy management (77 percent) and connected home (71 percent).

In addition, the consumer experience is now paramount to drive uptake of new offerings and increase satisfaction with energy providers. In fact, 96 percent of consumers would be more satisfied if their energy provider could personalise their overall customer experience.

Digital tools are emerging as the route to increase satisfaction and engagement, with 75% of consumers indicating that they would use more digital channels if they were provided with a personalized experience across these channels e.g. a substantial majority expressed an interest in personalised services like a customisable digital bill (80%) or a website or app that signs them up to the best available offer based on their real-time energy usage (85%).

Conversely, 81 percent of consumers would be discouraged from signing up for additional products and services if their energy provider was not able to provide a seamless experience. For 83 percent, it would negatively impact their satisfaction if a seamless experience wasn’t provided.

Customers open to energy innovations, if it makes their lives easier

When it comes to the energy innovations that Irish consumers would like to see implemented over the next five years, the greatest call out from customers was for a smart thermostat that learns what temperatures they like, automatically adjusts the temperature when they’re away, and allows them to make adjustments from anywhere via a smartphone (58%). Other asks include:

– A switching service that roams the web to identify the best possible electricity offers based on usage and switches them automatically to the best offer (57%)

– An application that enables them to remotely monitor and control elements of their home (55%)

– A programme that credits their bill when their provider makes minor adjustments to their smart thermostat during peak usage hours (55%)

– An electric or plug-in electric vehicle that can be bought or leased (34%)

Looking at alternative energy sources, 42% of Irish consumers are planning to sign up for rooftop solar panels (buying or leasing) in the next five years.

71% of Irish consumers are interested in the concept of the connected home i.e. a bundled service including an automated ‘home energy management’ service, plus home monitoring and automated control services, plus connected car services and connected media and entertainment services. However, just one in five are willing to pay extra for it (22%).

Switching presents a threat to energy providers

On average, Irish consumers spent just 11.5 mins interacting with a representative from their energy provider over the past 12 months, and 7.4 mins engaging with them over digital channels. When asked about the types of experiences that they want from their energy providers, most consumers wanted them to be ‘effortless’ (94%), 93% called for consistency, and 91% asked for ‘intuitive’ experiences.

If consumer expectations are not met, energy providers may face a constant struggle to retain customers in face of increasing competition from other energy providers and new market entrants, amid the challenge of serving perennial switchers.

Indeed, more customers are considering switching in the next 12 months. In 2016, 39% percent of consumers in competitive markets reported being likely to switch to a different energy provider. This figure increases to 77 percent, who would consider switching, if a seamless experience could not be provided.

In addition to direct competition from other energy providers, non-traditional players and new market entrants also pose a risk. 89 percent of all consumers would consider alternative providers, including specialised energy services companies, phone and cable providers or retailers, when purchasing not only energy-related products and services but also electricity.

“One of the key callouts from the research is that the new consumer wants a personal connection with their energy provider. They want companies to know their lifestyles and usage patterns, and offer innovations and deals that are custom-made for their unique set of circumstances – all of which go beyond the traditional energy experience. Digital consumers have higher expectations and demand a compelling customer experience, or else they will seek it elsewhere,” said Hilary O’Meara, Managing Director of Resources for Accenture Ireland.

“Energy providers are tasked with navigating a rapidly evolving marketplace, while simultaneously enhancing how they interact with their customer. New energy supply options are coming on stream, and while established companies have considerable resources at their disposal, including customer trust and decades of institutional knowhow, they need to adopt new models to meet customer’s expectations and fend off the competition,” added O’Meara.

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