Shocker! Three-fourths of all consumers don't trust their utility!

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By: SGN Staff

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Quick Take:  A new study from Accenture highlights a major problem for utilities. Customer satisfaction is dropping – from 59% in 2012 all the way to 47% in 2013. That would be terrible at any time, but especially now when more and more utilities are spending significant time and money on customer engagement programs.

 

Spending money to make your customers hate you even worse is NOT a great strategy for long-term success.

 

As bad as the numbers are for overall satisfaction, they are even worse for trust. Accenture’s research shows only 24% trust their utility to inform them of actions to optimize energy consumption – a decrease of 9% from 2012.

 

Don't think it matters much? According to Accenture: "Consumers are ready to turn to alternative providers... If given the choice, 73%... said they would consider alternative providers for purchasing electricity and alternative energy-related products and services."

 

Accenture's Greg Guthridge explains below the steps utilities can take to stop the slide before it's too late. Read what he says. And then build your own action plan. Right away. - By Jesse Berst

 

Consumers’ Trust in Utilities Lowest in Four Years, New Accenture Research Shows
NEW YORK – Less than one quarter of consumers trust their utilities, according to an annual survey by Accenture (NYSE: ACN) of more than 11,000 consumers in 21 countries.

Accenture’s New Energy Consumer research shows that just 24 percent of consumers trust their utility to inform them of actions they can take to optimize energy consumption – a decrease of nine percentage points from 2012. This is the lowest level of trust since the multi-year global research program was launched four years ago. Furthermore, customer satisfaction has drifted lower globally, falling from 59 percent to 47 percent over the past year.

Across both regulated and competitive energy markets, consumers are ready to turn to alternative providers for energy and energy-related products and services. If given the choice, 73 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would consider alternative providers for purchasing electricity and alternative energy-related products and services.

“In the evolving energy marketplace, many utilities are at an inflection point at which they should redefine their role in consumers’ lives and refocus on building a base of trust,” said Greg Guthridge, Accenture Energy Consumer Services managing director. “The first step is making interactions simple, in particular getting the basics right the first time. Each touch point with the consumer is critical – whether it involves mobile or digital options for straightforward transactions, or higher-touch interactions to resolve issues.”

Despite the fact that many utilities have increased spending on consumer-centric programs, such as online self-service, this has yet to translate directly into improved trust or satisfaction. Storms, challenges with service reliability, and price volatility have all contributed to decreasing customer trust and satisfaction. However, Accenture’s research shows that there is a growing gap between customer expectations and the energy experience they receive from their providers today.

The research shows that delivering the basics of the customer experience is key to building consumer trust. The vast majority of consumers surveyed said that consistently getting the bill correct (92 percent), receiving reliable energy delivery (91 percent) and getting clear and easy-to-understand pricing information (91 percent) are the factors that matter most in building their trust with energy providers.

“It’s becoming clear that utilities are at a turning point when it comes to serving the new, tech-savvy consumer,” Guthridge said. “Satisfaction and trust are built on consistently delivering the basic customer experience whether through digital or traditional channels. Once in place, utilities have incredible opportunities to create digitally powered value propositions that can deliver step-change consumer engagement.”

Methodology
Accenture’s annual global survey was based on questionnaire-led interviews with 11,154 residential consumers in 21 countries, conducted online in native languages for Accenture by Harris Interactive. It is a quantitative survey with a sample statistically representative of the general population in each country, with the exception of Brazil, China and South Africa, where the sample was representative of the urban populations.

The New Energy Consumer Handbook (http://www.accenture.com/us-en/Pages/insight-new-energy-consumer-handbook.aspx) draws upon four consecutive years of end-consumer research, analysis of consumer and technology trends, insights from leading energy providers, cross-industry experience and Accenture’s knowledge of managing utility customer operations. The handbook is designed to offer energy providers fresh ideas and actionable insights to help frame the journey ahead and inspire dynamic new approaches that can lead to success in the evolving energy marketplace.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 266,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page is www.accenture.com

About Accenture Energy Consumer Services
Accenture Energy Consumer Services provides customer care solutions for competitive and regulated energy providers globally. We help our clients to develop and implement full value-chain solutions that achieve three key business imperatives: cost effectiveness, revenue assurance and customer satisfaction. Through new energy customer transformation, next generation customer solutions, transformational outsourcing and asset-powered services, we bring world-class industry-specific management consulting, technology and business process customer-care capabilities to our electricity, gas and water clients.

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.

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