Most Traditional Energy Retail Utilities Lag Disruptor Brands in Delivering Customer Experience, Accenture Research Finds

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Improving customer relevance and adopting new customer-centric
capabilities is key to securing a competitive advantage

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Most traditional energy retail utilities lag behind disruptor brands —
new energy-market entrants and service providers from other industries —
when it comes to delivering an engaging customer experience, according
to a new
from Accenture (NYSE:ACN). In the face of disruption, these
companies should invest to deliver a more satisfying customer experience
and exceed liquid customer expectations.

As part of its New Energy Consumer research program, Accenture surveyed
approximately 70,000 consumers across 36 energy retail utilities and six
disruptor brands in multiple markets worldwide. The study, conducted by
Accenture Research in partnership with Fjord,
the design and innovation unit of Accenture
, intended to identify how customers feel about their
experience with these companies and measure their affinity for the brand
across physical and digital interactions. Disruptor brands included
firms in the retail banking, telecommunications home services, retail
insurance and energy retail industries.

Respondents were asked to rate one of nine key moments of interaction
with their utility, ranging from initiating their service and adding new
services to terminating their service and receiving disruption
notifications. The customer experience for each moment was scored on a
10-point scale, representing the aggregated scores from across six
experience dimensions:

  • Authentic – Conveys distinct personality and stays true to self
  • Fun – Holds people’s attention in an entertaining way
  • Relevant – Creates relevant consumer touchpoints
  • Engaging – Identifies with individual needs and wants
  • Social – Connects people with each other
  • Helpful – Is intuitive, clear and easy to understand

Individual customer scores were aggregated to derive overall brand
affinity scores for every moment, brand or region. The brand affinity
scores indicate overall how connected customers feel to energy retail
utilities and service providers from other industries.

The study found that traditional energy retail utilities’ score of 6.3,
aggregated across all key moments, lags disruptor brands’ score of 6.8.
For each key moment evaluated, the customer experience scores for
disruptors were higher than the scores for traditional energy players,
with the largest gap for receiving communications from their provider.
With customer experience at the heart of value creation for these
utilities, this is a cause for concern but also presents opportunities.

The study found that the 25 percent of customers in competitive markets
with the highest customer-experience ratings (6.8 or higher) are 20
percent more likely to stay with their current brand, 37 percent more
likely to recommend their energy retail utility and 22 percent more
satisfied than other customers surveyed.

The need to improve customer experience is particularly important for
utilities in competitive markets, which are under increasing threat from
disruptor brands. Among traditional energy retail utilities, competitive
brands were less loved than non-competitive ones across all but one key
moment: receiving proactive communications from their provider. The
largest gaps were noticed during moments of sign up, including
initiating basic energy services or adding a new product or service.

“In the new energy ecosystem, energy retail utilities must invest in the
customer to create a connected energy experience,” said Tony Masella, a
managing director at Accenture who leads its Energy Retail and Customer
Services practice. “This need is increasingly urgent, as new market
entrants, energy industry convergence and even consumers themselves are
disrupting the status quo. The risks of not improving customer
experience are substantial, but the value in doing so is equally
significant. To improve customer relevance, energy retail utilities must
become ‘Living
,’ continuously evaluating and adopting new
customer-centric capabilities such as automated customer service and
personalized and targeted digital messaging.”

Three transformational levers could enable mastery of customer

The study notes that while identifying the interactions that are most or
least loved is important, the real value of the research lies in
identifying the moments that matter — i.e., those that drive clear
business outcomes. Based on an evaluation of customer satisfaction,
likelihood to remain a customer, and likelihood to recommend a company
to others, the study identified three key moments that matter the most
across all energy retail utilities surveyed: service initiation,
billing, and providing help with specific queries. It is here, the study
notes, that these utilities should prioritize improvement.

The study also suggests three transformational levers that companies can
use to deliver more satisfying, effortless and unique customer
experiences, particularly in the moments that matter most:

  • Use artificial intelligence (AI) to enable intelligent service. AI
    can help improve customer satisfaction while reducing operational cost
    via the shift to digital. As consumers increasingly accept AI, energy
    retail utilities should use it to provide relevant and contextualized
    digital support.
  • Personalize with hyper-relevance. Energy retail utilities can
    execute a hyper-relevant experience through a variety of tools and
    techniques, including proactive alerts and auto adjustments of in-home
    technologies that take things off consumers’ “thinking list,” and
    personalized subscription services, for example.
  • Target for value, target for growth. Identifying further value
    in existing products and services is key, as is pursuing untapped
    value in new ones. Energy retail utilities must pivot wisely by
    recalibrating business portfolios to specifically target new customer
    preferences and opportunities.

“Focusing on these areas can set energy retail utilities on a course to
sustainable growth and competitive advantage,” Masella said. “Activating
a new energy experience requires more than just meeting customer
expectations — it calls for exceeding customer demands by a significant
margin. Leading utilities create hyper-relevant customer experiences
where every customer interaction is an opportunity to deliver a
connected energy experience that goes beyond the commodity. Those that
focus on experience can become trusted providers and true partners in
delivering what a customer wants.”

Research methodology

Accenture surveyed 69,685 consumers globally across 36 energy retail
utilities and six disruptor brands to identify how they feel about their
utilities across nine key moments of interaction: initiating their
service; adding new services; moving their service to a different
residence; reviewing their bill; getting help with queries; terminating
their service; receiving communications; receiving irregular
billing/activity notifications; and receiving disruption notifications.
Survey respondents were selected based on screening questions to ensure
sufficient recent experience corresponding to a specific experience
moment for a specific brand. The online survey was conducted between
February and April 2018.

About Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a
broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital,
technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and
specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business
functions — underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network —
Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help
clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their
stakeholders. With 459,000 people serving clients in more than 120
countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world
works and lives. Visit us at

Accenture Interactive helps the world’s leading brands transform their
customer experiences across the entire customer journey. Through our
connected offerings in design, marketing, content and commerce, we
create new ways to win in today’s experience-led economy. Accenture
Interactive is ranked the world’s largest digital agency in the latest Ad
 Agency Report, for the third year in a row. Fjord, Accenture
Interactive’s design and innovation unit, reimagines people’s
relationships with the digital and physical world around them, using the
power of design to create services people love. To learn more follow us @AccentureACTIVE or @fjord and
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