Engaging with the most valuable segment of the US electricity consumer market


US-based electricity providers have had the vision to become more consumer-focussed in their offerings and operations, however, this more customer-centric approach hasn’t been felt by all customers.

That’s according to a consumer survey conducted by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC), which revealed that 40% of US residential energy customers still only occasionally engage with their electricity providers, or in energy-efficient actions. The report further notes that approximately 15% of consumers mostly prefer to not engage with their utility, and a further 45% of consumers who are part of the always-engaged, “green” focussed segment, who greatly value smart-energy technologies and the positive environmental benefits that can be achieved.

These “Green Champions” are also reportedly highly satisfied with their current provider in the most part, and are looking for further technologies, programmes or services that help them become more energy efficient.

Therefore, it’s the 40% of occasionally-engaged consumers that present the biggest opportunity for electricity providers to boost their engagement throughout their customer-base. The SECC has also recently published the “Consumer Values: Moving the needle on Engagement” report, based on an online survey of over 2000 North American residential consumers. The survey included questions regarding barriers to participation in utility offerings, attitudes regarding energy usage, values related to energy, and experiences with home-improvement investments, and revealed some general attitudes and behaviours.

For instance, the “selectively engaged” segment appear not to make a strong connection between home-energy use and the environment. They report being only moderately-satisfied with their electricity provider, and whilst these consumers have average or slightly-below average household incomes, they don’t consider their energy bill to be of great significance.

Also interesting this subset of consumers prefer to visit physical stores for information on energy saving options or upgrades, and typically don’t consider their electricity provider when making upgrades. Lastly, this segment considers “keeping utility bills low” as the most important offering energy stakeholders can offer them.

The results of the “Consumer Values” report categorised respondents based on the value of the energy-related actions taken by consumers, and three categories of consumers emerged.

• The “on the couch” consumers who have made no energy-related upgrades
• The “first stepper” consumers who have invested in home-maintenance types of upgrades (lighting, a water heater, new windows or a new roof).
• The “energy investor” consumers who have taken multiple small actions or installed one or more significant energy-related measure (solar, a smart thermostat, a new HVAC system, a new appliance or insulation).

Each of these profiles should be approached differently, for instance, a customer still “on the couch” could be offered lighting buy-down, or free-lighting-kit programs. Online billing is another way to encourage energy-engagement through personalised messaging and tips.

Once consumers have started their engagement journey, basic satisfaction and education are no longer enough to answer consumer questions. Stakeholders must meet the consumer with the financial options to make upgrades, such as an on-bill financing model that removes upfront cost for consumers and marketing that alerts consumers to rebates or other available offers at the point of purchase.

Whilst these “occasionally engaged” or “selectively engaged” consumers may prove to be a more discerning and possibly demanding, the financial, security and environmental benefits of energy programs and investments matter to them. By personalising outreach and offerings that focus on specific customer needs and wants, electricity providers can help motivate the “occasionally engaged” segment on their journey to greater efficiency, savings, new services and greater customer satisfaction.