Utilities: No secret formula for new customers
There is no magic recipe for utilities to attract new customers, according to SPL WorldGroup's survey of European utility consumers, which was conducted during May and June 2002 by research company Ipsos/Capibus.
The survey suggests that utilities are best placed to attract and retain consumers if they allow them to choose from a range of different service and billing alternatives. The survey asked utility consumers in the UK, France, and Italy about:· Factors that would lead them to switch suppliers;· Preferences for single or multiple suppliers;· Benefits they expect if they choose a single supplier;· Non-energy services they would consider buying from a single supplier;· How they use the internet, with emphasis on interactions with utilities.
- Price is still the main driver of customer choice. However, some consumers already see service as a primary reason for switching suppliers.
- Contrary to some expectations, the internet is not currently seen as a vehicle to service the majority of customers.
- While much has been made in the utility trade press of the advantages available to utilities that offer multiple services and consolidated billing, the majority of consumers prefer to receive separate bills for each utility service. Although they expect that sourcing all products from the same supplier leads to a better price, consumers are still split in their preferences for single or multiple utility suppliers.
- There are education and marketing opportunities for utilities among the substantial number of consumers who "don't know" if they would consider buying telecom, financial, and other services from their existing utility supplier.
"The numbers we're seeing suggest that there is no single formula for success in the evolving European utility and services market," said Andrew Dean, EMEA vice president for SPL WorldGroup. "The utilities market has given consumers many new choices and they're not all choosing the same options. In fact, some are uncertain as to what, if anything, they will choose in the future."
Conclusions These uncertainties give clear positioning advantages to utilities with flexible customer management systems. If utilities record and respond to customer preferences, and alter their own practices and procedures accordingly, they will be able to offer consumers the right products and services through the right channels. The survey highlights this approach as the obvious path toward attracting and retaining customers in the long-term.