Digitalisation, utility-consumer communications and the pandemic

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US utility customer engagement solutions firm Questline has released a new report exploring how energy companies are marketing their services through digital solutions and the consumer perceptions around these programmes.

The 2021 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report has found that energy utility customers are engaging with digital communications from their energy providers more than ever before.

Dave Reim, CEO and president of Questline, said: “Energy utility customers looked to their service providers for aid and education during the 2020 pandemic.

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“They opened more emails and engaged with more content than ever before. The true value of a digital customer relationship was realised as utilities that did not have established lines of digital communication struggled to reach customers with important messages during the outbreak. Maintaining and growing these digital relationships will be a priority for energy utilities in 2021.” 

 Key study findings:

Utilities accelerated the use of paperless billing and owing to consumers’ willingness to digital solutions for safety and convenience, there was a 53% click to open rate on e-bills campaigns in 2020 compared to 2019.

Consumers are actively looking for more energy savings evidenced by an increase in customers opening emails sent by their service providers about energy efficiency. During the initial months of the pandemic customers engaged with promotional emails with an 18% higher open rate and 27% higher click-through rate than the previous year.

Overall rise in digital engagement: Overall email open rates hit an all-time high at 28%, a 14% increase from the previous year. Digital adoption accelerated among all audiences as they looked to their energy service providers for help.

Personalisation liked by customers and helping utilities to improve customer services evidenced by a 22% increase in open rate compared to unsegmented e-newsletters. Energy customers are looking for communications that match their specific needs and utilities are seeing success with more sophisticated and personalised marketing. 

Virtual events effective for utility business customers: Webinar production for energy utilities increased by 86% in 2020. Popular events were related to safety and money-saving programmes, resonating most with facility managers and key accounts. 

Articles remain top content format, with video on the rise: Of top content consumed by residential and business customers, articles made up 62% and 74%, respectively. Video consumption continues to rise in popularity, particularly with residential audiences. 

The seventh edition of the benchmarks report explored some 450 energy companies and 356 million email messages to analyse performance and trends across the utility industry.

The report is available for download.