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Emotional factors play an increasingly important part in customer engagement

European-Digital-Energy-Summit-Day-2

Following the success of last year’s event in Berlin, we hosted another European Digital Energy Summit to continue the discussions we had twelve months ago. The Edinburgh event brought together a record-breaking number of attendees and we even saw a bit of sunshine in the Scottish capital! Most importantly, we saw a breadth and depth of insightful, intriguing and inspiring discussion from a wide range of stakeholders.

If you didn’t manage to come to the event, don’t worry – there’s always next year! Plus, we’ve brought together the key messages from the two days, which focused on Customer Data Value and the Connected Home.

Focusing on the importance of the customer in the ongoing transformation of the energy sector, they suggest a number of potential (and increasingly essential) areas of focus going forward. They have one clear thing in common – customer engagement is key:

  • The energy system will be turned upside down in the next five to ten years and taking advantage of the new opportunities will require a robust customer-facing approach. The ability to innovate is also key, keeping up in this ever-changing space.
  • Customer engagement in the energy industry is inherently difficult and achieving and maintaining customer engagement is no easy task. A deep understanding of consumer decision-making and behaviour, coupled with innovative solutions, is required.
  • Transparency is incredibly important in building consumer trust. Be open with your customer and they will learn you are reliable and trustworthy. There also remains the importance of human interaction; while home automation is convenient, customers still prefer human contact (or at least the perception of this).
  • Companies in the energy sector need to take advantage of the increased customer demand for services. The emergence of connected home especially will enable the development of new home services, but this can mean a big cultural shift in approach, with experimentation and failure part of the process.
  • Energy companies have to balance the twin challenges of meeting short term performance targets and investing in long term transformation initiatives.

What does this all mean? It’s clear that customer focus is key, but how can the energy sector take advantage of this going forward? Saving money is still a big concern for customers. Our Customer Data Value research found, in a recent survey of 560 energy customers across five European countries, that the energy insights they find the most attractive are those that allow them to anticipate and reduce their energy expenditure, thus cutting their costs.

While gamification has seen success in short-term engagement, we have seen questions regarding its value as it can be treated as a novelty. What seems to be most effective, however, involves considering the customer in a more complex way, using behavioural science theory. For instance, if people know their neighbours consume less energy, they are likely to try and reduce their own consumption. We can also try and influence behaviour through the perception of which behaviours are typically approved or disapproved of by society, using nudges such as appliance efficiency scores to encourage customers to exhibit certain behaviours.

So, it’s not as simple as coming up with new and innovative ways to save the consumer money or provide them with helpful Apps to keep them engaged with a product and/or service. Emotional factors are just as – if not more – important, with customers still looking for the interaction that an entirely automated system doesn’t allow.

Our Heat Insight Service’s recent research suggests a similar feeling amongst heating customers, who are willing to utilise online heating sales platforms but aren’t necessarily comfortable purchasing a boiler without face to face interaction. Whilst the likes of Boiler IQ from British Gas is contributing to a reduction in engineer visits, resolving issues over the phone instead and resulting in happy customers who don’t have to stay at home, to get to that point in the first place requires a much more personal experience.

What do you think? Get in touch and let us know.

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