Late last year, Opower’s research team published a white paper exploring how European utilities can unlock more value from their customer relationships. The key finding: by leaving consumers unengaged with their energy use, retailers are leaving €40 of revenue per customer, per year on the table. Today, we’re rolling out a blueprint to get those euros back. It’s called Moments that Matter. After months of deep, cross-disciplinary research, Opower’s analysts have identified 12 make-or-break moments in the customer lifecycle when people want their utilities to deliver a higher level of service. By investing in customers’ experience at these critical junctures, retailers can dramatically bolster engagement, boost satisfaction, and build loyalty — and ultimately lower their cost to serve. Accenture famously wrote that customers spend nine minutes a year interacting with their utilities. This is about making those nine minutes count. Because improving the customer experience at the Moments that Matter isn’t about creating new touchpoints. It’s about enriching the touchpoints that already exist — the conversations about tariffs, smart meters, and billing that customers really care about. The research behind Moments that Matter is deep and global, reflecting in-depth interviews with utility CCOs, call centre data from 15 utilities worldwide, and survey data from more than 7,000 customers in seven countries. But it’s worth taking a closer look at how the framework applies to utilities in Europe, where customer satisfaction and trust have plummeted in the wake of high energy prices and years of poor service.
In our panel survey, nearly 3,000 European consumers validated what other industry studies have shown: the utility-customer relationship has a lot of room for improvement. Less than half of them are willing to recommend their utilities to others (41 per cent), and less than half trust their utilities (47 per cent). The problem is particularly acute in Spain, where just 29 per cent of customers would recommend their utilities, and trust lags at 38 per cent. Consumers were nearly unanimous when they told us what’s wrong: their utility bills are a source of anxiety, and they don’t feel like they’re in control of their energy use. Services that would improve their experience — things like proactive high bill alerts, helpful tariff information, and energy management advice — are either insufficient or absent altogether. And that, in turn, is driving churn. When we asked thousands of Europeans whether they intend to switch energy providers in the next 12 months, those who agreed were overwhelmingly people who reported difficulty with billing or customer service. In every European country we surveyed, how utilities performed at the Moments that Matter was the number-one factor separating customers who end their contracts from those who renew.
The solution, then, is clear: deliver exceptional service during the core interactions that customers care about most. What does that mean in practice? In countries like Italy and Spain, where bill shock is especially common, utilities should do more to ensure that consumers understand what they’re paying and don’t feel surprised. Once those services are available, they should go a step further by improving the call centre experience and sharing personalised energy management tips. Every utility’s approach will be a little different. But worldwide, Opower’s research indicates that investing in the Moments that Matter is the fastest, most cost-effective way to raise the bar on customer experience. And as we’ve shown previously, there’s a real, quantifiable business case to do so. Effective engagement makes customers feel more loyal toward their utilities, which can reduce the costs associated with retention and churn. Digital engagement — which customers prefer for the vast majority of touchpoints — unlocks additional cost savings by replacing traditional paper and voice channels. Energy management services, like behavioural energy efficiency, can deliver even more value. By enriching their customers’ experiences at Moments that Matter, European utilities can boost the value of their customer relationships by as much as 55 per cent.