Utility customers receive a thick stack of mail and other communications every year from their energy provider, about 40 pieces in total. One needs to ask: is 40 pieces really the optimal number? It’s unlikely. Not to say that customers don’t want to hear from their utility. In fact, 75 percent of customers still want to hear more from their utility. However, they aren’t looking for more communications — they’re looking for better communications. Communications that are well-timed, more personalized, easier to act upon, and delivered via the right channel. But, it’s easier said than done. Identifying the times, offers, and channels that work best for customers can be a difficult task for utilities. Fortunately, predictive analytics — similar to those used by Netflix and Amazon to make personalized recommendations to customers — can help demystify customers for utilities.
They aren’t looking for more communications. They’re looking for better communications.
A powerful application of this approach can be found in America’s favorite pastime: baseball. For years, the Oakland Athletics used predictive analytics to identify undervalued baseball players and assemble a better, more cost-effective team. The well-documented strategy — also known as Moneyball
— was so groundbreaking that Brad Pitt portrayed Oakland general manager Billy Beane in the story’s adaptation for the silver screen. While utilities certainly aren’t fielding a baseball team, they have an opportunity to use predictive analytics and win over their customers: by tailoring communications to specific customer needs and desires. And not just with basic customer data like name, monthly energy usage, and demographic information — but also with other key variables that are less obvious, but equally as powerful. Advances in data analytics and automation technology mean that utilities don’t have to be generic anymore. In the 21st century, they can be leaders alongside other innovative tech and retail companies by customizing communications based on people’s unique attributes: hourly power usage patterns, thermostat temperature preferences, online engagement levels, mobile channel adoption, and interactions with utility call centers. Why are these types of analytics so valuable to the utility customer experience? Because in one way or another, the approach is rooted in the reality of past customer behavior.
What do smarter communications do for a utility’s bottom line?
By gaining a more accurate understanding of a customer’s past behavior, utilities can better gauge their propensity to participate in utility programs and take advantage of specific offerings — like demand response, community solar, and new rate plans. That in turn allows utilities to segment customers based on their specific characteristics, and target timely communications (high bill alerts, solar offerings, etc.) to the customers that are most likely
to act, rather than sending generic communications that are often discarded. What do smarter communications do for a utility’s bottom line? They eliminate the cost of extraneous communications, they enable higher participation in utility programs, they increase trust and loyalty, and they boost customer satisfaction. Of course, correctly segmenting customers and delivering timely, automated insights can’t happen without the right technology. That’s where the Opower 6 platform comes into play. It gives utilities a proven, cost-effective method to perform all the necessary steps to make smarter communications a reality, from analytics to automation to delivery. Plugged into a platform that’s adaptively built upon the world’s largest collection of energy data — spanning more than 350 billion meter reads and hundreds of customer attributes — utilities are positioned to better understand customer behavior, segment them based on unique attributes, and deliver communications and offerings that are more personalized than ever before. That not only leads to happier customers and more cost-effective utility operations — it’s also a lot less junk mail.
Banner image credit Christian Schnettelker/Flickr.