To help energy providers build better relationships with their customers, we’re sharing a three-part series on What Matters Behind the Meter.
In its latest research study on energy consumers, Accenture outlines nine characteristics of the new energy consumer — a list that clearly demonstrates we are no longer the “ratepayers” of decades past, or even the friendlier, more human-toned “customers to be served” of these transitional years in the energy industry. The new energy consumer, according to Accenture, is one that now views energy as “more than a commodity — it has become a product, a lifestyle and a service enabler.”
As such, energy providers must start thinking about themselves as purveyors beyond the plug.
But how? Creating relationships takes time. For an industry that’s just learning how to court and care for its customers after decades of simply collecting their money, the idea of “providing a lifestyle experience” may seem daunting.
It doesn’t have to be. By applying the principles of EMA’s Brand as Friend philosophy (wherein we help brands forge meaningful relationships with their customers through nine scientifically proven friendship drivers), energy providers can begin thinking of everyday ways to build affection, relevance and trust with their customers.
In our three-part series, What Matters Behind the Meter, we’re sharing tips on getting your customers to see you LESS as a power-providing necessary evil, and MORE as an energy-providing lifestyle enhancer. In Part One: Building Affection, we covered the basics of creating meaningful communication with customers by going above and beyond the bill with an approach that inspires customers, rather than infuriating them. This week we’re sharing tips on how to develop/create communications that truly resonate with your customers.
Part 2: Building Relevance
When it comes to connecting, community is king — and not just in the “boots on the ground in the local scene” way, either. Online communities established through social media prove that “bytes in the cloud” can be just as fruitful for building relationships with consumers. Breaking Energy even declares that, Social Media For Utilities is Becoming Indispensable in an article outlining the way social media can “blur the line between communications and customer service.” As for the local scene, a major electric utility in the United States with over six million customers recently completed a private study proving that its consumers felt more trust and connection with their local utilities, than with the parent company representing them. Proving that while social media can give you the convenience of anytime-reach with consumers, social appearances still matter when it comes to truly making connections.
Customers are used to seeing numbers from their utility company — after all, the primary form of communication between them has been the “the bill” for decades. As energy companies strive to strike up a conversation with consumers BEYOND outages and overages, it’s important to keep in mind that people tend to gravitate toward things they can emotionally relate to — and for many, numbers ain’t gonna set the mood. Does your company have an interesting history? Have you done noteworthy and innovative things that lend themselves to a comfortable chair and a cold beer? Think of how you can talk about your company in a narrative, engaging way, rather than a business description. Maybe it’s a focus on the people who work in the company — the receptionist who has been there for 40 years and could tell you a thing or two about how the industry has changed within her four walls, or the service team that has climbed every pole on the block within 40 miles of the plant. Humanize the business by painting a picture of people for consumers to connect with.
Is your image as dated as your business model? As utilities become more engaged with consumers, it’s becoming imperative that they find ways to stay current and engaged with the people they serve. For example, having a social media presence is great, but if it’s pumping out content that says, “we’re just doing this because we think we should,” it will miss the mark. Find ways to freshen up your feeds with timely information, or perhaps offering the energy take on current trends. Beyond social media, it’s important to remember that anywhere you’re talking to consumers, you’ll get further with a style and tone that resonates with them. Use slang, try on the local vernacular or find simpler, more human ways to say things. Keep the corporate voice in the board room!
Stay tuned for our third and final post in the series, on how energy providers can build TRUST with customers — a key component to keeping the lights on in any relationship!