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Utilities: standing out in a highly competitive environment

With more people spending time at home and working remotely, a trend that is likely to remain  for the foreseeable, the spotlight for many consumers has fallen onto their utilities, how they can keep costs down and whether or not it’s time to switch providers. However, whilst domestic consumption has increased as a result of COVID-19, this has only partly offset the drop in the workplace.

As a result, competition is heightened, compounding what has already been a tumultuous few years for energy providers dealing with the shift to distributed generation and digital energy. In addition, regulation around gas emissions has made green credentials a key differentiator for providers as buyers look to prioritise sustainability and energy efficiency in their choice of products and services.

This climate means it’s now or never for utility companies to set themselves apart and capture their audience’s loyalty.

Adapting to your customers' needs

It used to be the case that buyers only had the choice between a few big-name providers, but it’s fair to say that buyer power has grown significantly over the years, with suppliers battling it out to keep their customers happy in an increasingly digital (and visible) landscape.

When supply is high, prospective customers can enjoy the privilege of having options and spend time doing their research before committing. And with so many comparison websites and brokers out there now doing it for them, utility providers have just a small window in which to communicate their USPs and stand out from competitors.

One area that utility providers have been slow to catch up on is their willingness to adapt and provide a more tailored service. Buyer expectations continue to grow and include:

  • Sustainable sourcing

  • Personalised, value-based propositions

  • Smart, innovative, connected solutions

  • Exceptional service, ease of access

  • Transparency and trust

The key to standing out is providing a range of options that meet these differing needs. This could be as simple as enabling flexibility in how customers are billed to facilitate what works best for them but also helps to create that all-important sense of trust that buyers expect.

Making it easy for your audience

Likewise, if potential customers are having to do all the hard work in terms of finding your information and offering, whilst other competitor information is highly visible and readily available, it’s not hard to see who they’re going to choose. If you do have a strong value proposition that meets the needs of today’s buyer, it is important that your messaging is succinct and communicates those USPs clearly.
 
Firstly, ensure all of your key service and informational webpages are up to scratch – easy to read from a user perspective, with clear, concise and relevant information. Avoid trying to oversell with all of your key benefits listed on one page and consider how you can present this in ways that are engaging and add value to their journey, whilst providing the option to explore in more detail.

Going the extra mile

In the current landscape, an insight-led strategy is the only way for providers to retain a competitive edge enabling them to both anticipate and address needs and provide a customer experience in tune with buyer preferences. Be wary of the many ‘enriched’ databases available in the market offering information on renewal dates, consumption levels or spend as these are often out-of-date and sold freely to any number of competitive parties. Speak to your existing customers or conduct primary research to ensure your strategy is based on accurate intelligence. Ensure your sales and marketing database is clean, accurate, up-to-date and enriched with current, actionable insight from real prospect feedback.

Beyond extending market share, any provider looking for long-term profitability must prioritise retaining and extending the lifetime value of existing customers. Review opportunities to reach out regularly to your customer base to check in, gather feedback on their experiences and identify where extra support may be needed. Prioritise resources around higher-value clients where a more proactive and personalised approach will not only feed retention but create valuable upsell and cross sell opportunities for the future. In the current landscape, with so many shifts in working practices, there may be solutions such as alternative services or pricing plans that can really make a difference to customers and your retention rates.

At The Telemarketing Company, we have over thirty years of experience providing full end-to-end sales and service support for major providers and helping digitally-led, innovative providers establish new propositions within a disrupted energy market. If you’d like to find out how we can help you grow your market share and build stronger customer relationships in this sector, get in touch today.

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