We recently wrapped up analysis of our 2013 Utility Pulse study, in which we uncovered a wealth of information about the sometimes rocky relationship Americans have with their electric and natural gas utilities. While I’d like to spare the feelings of our utility industry readers, it’s hard to sugar-coat the statistics: Many Americans just don’t like their utilities. Overall, 43% are less than satisfied with their electric or natural gas utility. And while there’s certainly truth in the advice my mother gave me when I was in the sixth grade, “You just can’t make everyone like you, and you shouldn’t try,” there are definitely opportunities for winning over more people.
One of those opportunities is in making your customers aware that you have rebates, cash incentives and loan programs for energy-efficient products or home improvements. Even people who haven’t taken advantage of these offers, but know they exist, give their utilities higher satisfaction scores than those who are unaware of the programs. Just knowing that they’re available – that you’re offering something that could help them better manage their monthly bills – has a positive impact on perceptions.
Another opportunity is in telling your environmental responsibility story. We often get push-back from our utility clients when we advise them to tout their environmental initiatives. They worry that this opens the door for activists and NGOs to draw attention to their shortcomings. However, we see a strong correlation between the perception that a utility is environmentally responsible and customer satisfaction scores. In particular, initiatives related to the use of renewable energy have a positive impact. Even though the vast majority of customers don’t participate in green power programs, most say it’s important that utilities offer them and generate at least some energy through renewable means.
These are just two of the many ways we’ve found for utilities to make more friends. If you’re not “feeling the love,” Utility Pulse 2013 would be a good read!