3 Reasons Retail Energy Providers Should Own the Customer Relationship
Across the U.S., the retail energy market is steadily growing. In 2016 retail energy providers supplied 21 percent of electricity sold within the country, up 11 percent from 2005. In Texas alone, the number of retailers increased from 40 to 60 in just seven years.
As the market gets more competitive, and more customers across the U.S. can benefit, retail energy providers need to keep innovating to stay competitive. An excellent place to start is by taking more ownership of the customer billing relationship – to enable the customer to see and pay all of their utility accounts in one place. Here’s why:
Reason 1: Drive more revenue
If the provider owns the billing relationship, it gets more face time with the customer and more opportunities to sell products and services that would benefit the customer. Consumer behavior is constantly changing, and consumers are interested in how companies can personalize their approach. Retail energy providers should leverage their large customer bases, established brand, and scale to offer new products digitally.
Retail energy providers should leverage their large customer bases, established brand, and scale to offer new products digitally.
For example, Eneco, an energy company in the Netherlands, started offering its Toon smart-home product to existing customers, enabling them to get information about monthly energy consumption, energy saving tips, and weather information. This allowed Eneco to increase revenue and reduce customer churn.
Learning more about the customer provides the opportunity for advanced analytics – gathering data on the customer’s behavior and needs. As consumers continue to share much of their personal data online, it presents an opportunity for energy retailers to predict their behavior and appeal to their needs directly. According to McKinsey, advanced analytics has the potential to provide two to three times growth in cross-selling and a 20 to 30 percent churn reduction.
Advanced analytics has the potential to provide 2-3x growth in cross-selling and a 20-30% churn reduction.
As advanced analytics become available, consumers are more and more aware of their energy consumption and how they can reduce usage, cut costs, and focus on sustainable practices. These analytics empower consumers and open the door to more energy choices.
Owning the customer relationship also enables providers to drive leads to other business units or territories. States like Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois already have actively competitive retail markets. But more states are climbing aboard and passing regulations to allow more energy choice for customers. Acquiring the technology now to show the customer all of their utility accounts in one place will give providers the flexibility to expand to new states with the flip of a switch.
Reason 2: Improve the customer experience
Another benefit of taking over the customer billing relationship is that it improves the customer experience, which boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty. Retail energy providers can shift to a more service-oriented business model to improve customer satisfaction. If energy retailers provide customers with a seamless experience, like visiting their website and seeing all of their utility consumption in one place, customers can better manage their energy usage and save money.
In a competitive market, suppliers must make their solution clearly beneficial to the consumer. In the UK, traditional suppliers, known as the “Big 6”, have long dominated the market despite fixed-rate pricing. However, in recent years, new energy retail providers that challenge the status quo have disrupted the industry and managed to capture 20 percent of market share within five years.
New energy retail providers that challenge the status quo have disrupted the industry and managed to capture 20% of market share within 5 years.
By providing a streamlined user experience for customers and lifting the burden of multiple bill payments, customers will come to rely on your solution and be less likely to switch to another supplier. For instance, Arcadia Power successfully streamlined the user experience for customers to become more competitive. Customers can now easily pay their bills, view energy consumption, and purchase renewable energy. In Texas, digital disruptors like Energy Ogre and Griddy Energy use blockchain to automate payments and offer online customer switching services.
Reason 3: Increase renewable energy adoption
Owning the billing relationship makes it easier to offer innovative renewable energy purchasing options, which has already increased adoption. Out of 77.9 TWh of clean energy sold in 2015, 15.4 TWh was purchased as a result of retail electricity choice.
With consolidated billing, retail energy providers can offer and promote more options for renewable energy purchases, like PPAs (power purchase agreements) or RECs (renewable energy credits), that are easier and often more cost-effective for customers.
As energy resources become more decentralized, consumers have more opportunities to take control of their consumption and energy sources. Innovations within the industry have led to the increased popularity of solar and wind energy. Yet as solar and wind adoption grow, the billing relationship often needs to adapt.
Consolidated billing for community solar projects is expected to reduce billing and customer-interface costs by as much as 85%.
Many community solar programs are beginning to require supplier consolidated billing from the retailer, so customers can easily see how much solar energy is saving them. With consolidated billing, the energy provider will collect the costs of the solar project and add them as a charge to the customer’s monthly utility bill, along with energy credits received. This is expected to reduce billing and customer-interface costs by as much as 85 percent.
Retail energy providers can improve customer relationships with the right tools
Retail energy providers should jump at the chance to take over the customer billing relationship to drive more business, improve the user experience, and advance clean energy adoption. You may think this is easier said than done. But with a technology partner, the process can be straightforward.
Urjanet provides secure user interface tools that can enable your customers to link their utility accounts to your billing platform, creating a seamless experience. To learn more, reach out to one of our utility data experts.
You might also be interested in:
- 3 Trends to Watch in Strategic Energy Sourcing
- What is Summary Billing?
- Partnering with Utilities in the New Energy Era
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About Ma-Keba Frye
Ma-Keba Frye is a Content Marketing Associate at Urjanet, assisting with content development and execution. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, listening to music, and volunteering.