Winning Customers Hearts & Minds by Managing Their Perceptions

The Total Energy Makeover

52 Steps Utility Communicators Can Take to Increase the Perceived Value of Utility Service

Utility customers hold perceptions about the value of utility service received for the energy dollar paid. These perceptions color the way customers view their utility and significantly influence their relative level of satisfaction, at least as measured by the annual J.D. Power and Associates surveys. Like all perceptions, the customer’s perceived value of their utility service is subjective, which means it can be measured and therefore managed. To bolster residential customer satisfaction performance, a growing number of utility communicators are working harder to manage value perceptions.

This effort has become more important given various strategic developments—like building new infrastructure or generating stations—that are pushing up retail energy prices. A number of utilities have achieved or sustained high price/value scores despite recent price increases. We interviewed communicators at those utilities to learn what they were doing to manage their residential customers’ perception of the value of utility service.

Sometimes it was as easy as simplifying the copy used to promote various utility programs, or talking about utility issues in language that customers understand and prefer. A few utilities have gone out of their way to incorporate the voice of the customer into their decision-making process. Several are relearning the art of managing issues strategically using a process called issues management. A growing number of utilities are speaking more candidly to customers about how their various purchasing decisions will affect their monthly utility bills.

Utilities also are ramping up their investment in, and promotion of, various customer programs like online bill-payment, renewable energy, alternate pricing options, and energy-efficiency and demand-response programs. Customers want to have those options even if they don’t take advantage of them. Offering these programs to customers sends an important signal that the utility is investing time and effort to provide value as defined by customers. We agree with one of our sources who opined, “Utilities are in the business of providing options to customers.”

Our research shows that utilities are pursuing a variety of paths as they seek to more effectively manage their customers’ perceptions about the value of utility service. Successful utilities have been, and will continue to be, guided by a keen understanding of what their customers want and expect.

©2008 E SOURCE Companies LLC
Author, John Egan, 720-949-4906, johnegan1959@gmail.com.
This report excerpt has been reproduced and posted by permission of E SOURCE. To purchase the full report, contact E SOURCE at esource@esource.com or call 303-444-7788. Please reference UCS-1.

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