With energy prices at a historic high, Australian energy retailers have struggled to gain and retain the trust of the consumer; an issue the Australian Government is currently addressing through industry consultation, along with new policy and regulation.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) recent retail electricity inquiry report highlighted the need to enhance the customer experience and lower costs, in a bid to restore consumer confidence.

The reality is customer expectations are shifting, and there is a new ‘normal’ in what is expected from the service provided by energy suppliers. Consumers are balking at one-size-fits-all approaches that create confusion, and increasingly, dissatisfaction. What was once considered an acceptable level of service is rapidly shifting and evolving, which is true for energy retailers and industries beyond.

To transform the customer experience, energy providers must focus not just on touch points but on ‘trust points’. Data is central to winning over tech-savvy consumers who are demanding faster and more personalised services.

Accenture’s New Energy Consumer research found that most consumers (92 per cent) would be more satisfied if their energy provider could personalise their overall customer experience. What’s more, 78 per cent would use more digital channels if this offered them a personalised experience. There is a clear demand for customers to learn more about their energy consumption and to directly manage usage over time, driving down cost and their environmental footprint.

A staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced every day across the globe. In addition to providing businesses with information about consumer behaviour, this data is fuelling unprecedented opportunities for more sophisticated analytics to further understand their habits, and also anticipate future behaviour. Energy retailers should therefore fully leverage the vast amounts of customer data they hold to create a richer and more valuable experience, driving retention and trust.

Embracing big data opportunities

Customer interactions such as these new innovations nurture trust by reinforcing the energy retailers’ image as helpful, efficient, proactive and reliable. To get there, energy providers must clearly define opportunities to build and rebuild consumer confidence.

This might include promoting new products and services, product comparison and purchase, or optimising the everyday user experience, through customer touch points such as issue resolution, regular payments and invoicing. Energy providers should develop their data strategy to ensure customers leave each interaction with a positive, trust-building impression.

However, despite the rising strategic importance of data, enterprises are still challenged in exploiting the full potential due to internal mis-alignments and conflicting priorities. Accenture has outlined five key characteristics for energy providers to embrace in order to be truly data driven in their pursuit of new value sources and building customer trust.

  1. Untap new and existing data

Energy providers must tear down information silos and unlock ‘dark’ data, that is, data managed outside the knowledge of the IT department. Successful companies are harnessing real-time data streams (e.g. customer demand signals) with the Internet of Things (IoT). 

  1. Create new value

Data should be viewed as a propeller to re-imagine the core business. Insights gained from internal and external data can lead to opportunities for new business models and customer services, and the transparency gained in enterprise operational efficiency and costs enable a relentless and on-going strive for efficiency and growth.

  1. Place business before tech

Technology architecture must evolve to be in-line with business priorities. When it comes to unleashing the potential of data, it’s important that energy providers adopt value-driven approaches to prioritise analytics use across the enterprise.

  1. Embrace new culture

Attitudes to data and technology must shift to reflect the new age of digital in customer service.

Energy providers need to start treating data as everybody’s business and as an enterprise wide asset. This can be achieved through championing an insights-driven culture, embracing new types of talent, and driving organisation-wide consensus across business and IT on the role and purpose of the data and analytics agenda.

  1. Operate with new agility

Energy providers should start embracing the ‘Do-Learn-Do’ approach without fear of failing.

Governance needs to be a daily agreement between stakeholders, with clear owners and responsibilities. The creation of blended ‘pod’ teams (including a mix of employees with business and technology skills) will help energy providers achieve agility.

Adapting to customer requirements

Australia’s energy system will be in a period of transition for many years to come, impacted by digital technology, proliferation of DER, changing customer expectations and continued policy uncertainty. Energy retailers need to be acutely aware of how to adapt to customer requirements and the role that data will play to compete effectively.

As we transition to the future of far more personalised services, data presents a critical opportunity to empower consumers and providers alike. With the Consumer Data Right to be introduced to the electricity sector, providing customers with greater insights and trends on their usage data will lead to more informed decisions about energy consumption, as well as improved user experience.

Moving to a data insight-driven culture is a significant opportunity to generate new streams of revenue as energy retailers introduce more personalised and innovative product and service offerings.

Creating a meaningful energy consumer experience via personalised trust points won’t happen overnight and Australian providers must take deliberate steps to build a firm base of trust. Whether an energy retailer is seeking to be an innovator in the market or a trusted energy provider for its customers, data is — and will remain — a fundamental value lever in the new energy ecosystem.

This article was co-authored by Simon Mezger and Jeroen Wortel. Simon Mezger is Accenture’s Utilities Lead in Australia and Asia Pacific; Jeroen Wortel is a Senior Manager in Accenture’s Technology Strategy Practice.

Lauren Butler

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

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