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EY Survey: “Omnisumers” Offer Energy Providers a New Customer-Focused Opportunity

Energy Customers Are More Engaged and Willing to Pay for New Energy Solutions

A new type of consumer is at the forefront of the energy transition to renewables, presenting energy providers with compelling opportunities to reshape their business and connect with customers, a new report reveals.

The report, Navigating the Energy Transition Consumer Survey, was the result of a survey of some 34,000 energy consumers across 17 countries conducted by EY, the global organization of the member firms of Ernst & Young, one of the largest professional services networks in the world. The survey sought to understand the shifting needs, values, and expectations of consumers as the world debates how dependence on fossil fuels can shift to greater reliance on clean energy. Yet in many discussions centered around renewables, what is often overlooked is the customer, the EY study suggests.

“Energy providers are grappling with multiple challenges but meeting rapidly changing customer expectations may be the toughest yet,” said Greg Guthridge, EY global power and utilities CX transformation leader. “We believe that an enterprise-wide focus on transforming the customer experience—driven by the workforce, powered by consumer insights and supported by digital technology – is the winning strategy. This means harnessing agile ways of working and creating a culture to constantly improve, innovate and put people first,” Guthridge added.

Rise of the “Omnisumer”

Statistics point to an increasingly energy-savvy consumer. Some 92% of those surveyed have at least one new energy-related product or service in their home, while 86% are interested in self-generation, 25% are considering an electric vehicle (EV), and 13% are thinking about installing battery storage in the next three years.

Such a combination of growing interest and increasing adoption of energy solutions is changing in fundamental ways the industry’s historical relationship with largely passive energy users, bringing about a new, more active, and engaged type of consumer. The study calls this type of consumer the “omnisumer”—a person or business entity who participates in a dynamic energy ecosystem across a multitude of places, solutions, and providers.

The survey also revealed that consumers show significant interest in adopting new energy products and services when the benefits are aligned around three core areas: saving money, saving time, and saving the planet. Cost (53%) remains the most critical factor in driving purchase decisions for current adopters, but impact on the environment (47%) and making life easier (34%) are also important. These factors are even more important for consumers considering purchases in the next three years, with cost being critical to 67% of respondents, environment to 51%, and convenience to 36%.

“While consumers have turned their attention to sustainability, one size does not fit all,” Guthridge said. The messages and solutions from energy providers will require insights and tailored approaches aligned to the deeper motivations for each individual customer.”

Energy providers may also have a new sector to serve: residential customers who now work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 64% of consumers who reported working from home, 70% expressed interest in energy efficiency.

Other Findings

The survey found that consumers, in most cases, prefer to interact with their energy provider through digital means. However, consumers wanted a human to help with their needs when it came to making a complaint, managing an outage or emergency, or facing an issue with digital channels. Yet 62% have experienced a problem using their energy provider’s digital service, and 37% are not confident in the digital services of their providers. The result is a new interaction paradigm for consumers, which Guthridge says can be summarized as “technology when you want it, a person when you don’t.”

Among millennials and Gen Z—those born after 1980 and during the mid-to-late 1990s, respectively, and now the largest demographic in the world—at least 50% said they prefer the “pay-as-you-go” or “pay in advance” option for their energy usage because the payment model provides transparency, flexibility, and control.

Lastly, consumers are holding energy providers to a higher standard for sustainability issues. When asked what energy providers need to do to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, expectations included the provision of new energy products and services (52%), support for local sustainability programs (50%), availability of green energy solutions (50%), and operation of a green fleet (27%). “By demonstrating their commitment to sustainability,” Guthridge said, “energy providers can align corporate purpose, brand promise, offerings, and operations to truly differentiate with increasingly green consumers.”

Author Information

Alex is responsible for writing about trends and changes that are impacting the customer experience market. He had served as Principal Editor at Village Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based consultancy on technology impacting healthcare and healthcare-related industries. Alex was also Associate Director for Content Management at Omdia and Informa Tech, where he produced white papers, executive summaries, market insights, blogs, and other key content assets. His areas of coverage spanned the sectors grouped under the technology vertical, including semiconductors, smart technologies, enterprise & IT, media, displays, mobile, power, healthcare, China research, industrial and IoT, automotive, and transformative technologies.

At IHS Markit, he was Managing Editor of the company’s flagship IHS Quarterly, covering aerospace & defense, economics & country risk, chemicals, oil & gas, and other IHS verticals. He was Principal Editor of analyst output at iSuppli Corp. and Managing Editor of Market Watch, a fortnightly newsletter highlighting significant analyst report findings for pitching to the media. He started his career in writing as an Editor-Reporter for The Associated Press.

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