Information key for utility firms to regain trust

IN SCOTLAND the mere mention of the term “utility provider” is likely to spark anecdotes of negative experiences from disengaged consumers, who are struggling with rising energy prices and feel that utilities are not providing them with information and advice to manage this.

Utility companies face negative reaction from their customers. Picture: TSPL

Accenture’s New Energy Consumer Research, which questioned 634 people across the UK, revealed that just one in eight British consumers trust their utility to inform them of actions they could take to optimise energy consumption. This is the lowest level of trust since our global research program was launched four years ago.

Utility companies in Scotland face a major challenge to restore the broken link between consumer and provider, but it can be done.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Our research shows that delivering the basics of customer experience is the key to rebuilding trust.

The vast majority of consumers we surveyed said that consistently getting the bill correct, providing reliable energy delivery and getting clear and easy to understand pricing information were the factors that mattered most.

There’s a clear opportunity for utilities to step up to the role of trusted adviser, since 77 per cent of surveyed consumers said that informing them about actions that they could take to reduce energy use was important to building trust. However, at the moment, only 65 per cent of consumers reported that their utility was actually doing this well.

It is clear that providers are at a turning point when it comes to serving the new tech-savvy consumer. Satisfaction and trust are built on consistently delivering the basic customer experience, whether through digital or traditional channels. Once in place, utilities have incredible opportunities to create digitally-powered value propositions that can deliver a step change in consumer engagement.

Utility companies across Scotland – indeed throughout the world – need to consider radically rethinking the investments they make that are specifically designed to deliver consumer satisfaction. They must also deliver a more targeted approach to simplifying the consumer energy experience, addressing the concerns of dissatisfied consumers and finally closing the expectation gap.

• Bill McDonald is managing director of Accenture Scotland