By Indy Ratnathicam
Millennials – otherwise referred to as Generation Y, the digital generation or echo-boomers – have businesses across industries and geographies scratching their heads. Defined as the generation born between 1980 and 2000, this demographic wields tremendous power, totaling roughly a third of the world’s population.
And while businesses understand the value of getting millennials on their side – especially as many of them are now old enough to start businesses and climb the corporate ladder – they are finding that their traditional engagement and sales methods don’t cut it with this generation.
Compared to past generations, millennial workers are consumed by digital and social channels, and have very different thoughts about brand engagement. Brand loyalty doesn’t exist; millennials choose services that are fast, easy and customized. Not only that, but – having grown up with technology – they expect to communicate through digital channels. Adding to the complexity of this mystery demographic is that it tends to favor solutions that are ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly.
This combination of factors creates a major challenge for utilities. With millennials becoming more influential in the business world, forward-thinking energy providers are reassessing their customer engagement strategies – changing everything from the type of information they provide to the channels they use to communicate. Utilities that don’t follow suit stand to lose a significant portion of their customer base: 80 percent of this generation said they would switch supplier if their current one did not provide a seamless experience, compared with 51 percent of those aged above 55, according to an Accenture study.
With this in mind, utilities are doubling down on their digital engagement strategies. Leading utilities are leveraging the time millennials already spend online by offering online bill pay services and using other digital platforms, such as email and SMS, to send messages and alerts around energy use or anticipated outages. They’re deploying online portals that use advanced analytics to personalize the self-serve experience and advise customers on their energy use and potential for bill savings.
The experience of millennials with mobile has also set different expectations about customer service – 68% demand an integrated, seamless experience across all channels. To meet these expectations, forward thinking energy providers are leveraging digital tools that can be accessed by both customer service representatives and customers in tandem. By providing seamless, cross-channel data analytics and digital access to energy use and savings opportunities for each individual business, utilities can partner to help customers achieve their sustainability goals and become smarter energy consumers in the future.
The millennial generation is forcing utilities to rethink the way they operate. As this generation continues to age and take on responsibility for where and how company resources are spent, it’s imperative that utilities demonstrate a keen understanding of their business customers’ energy needs and preferences. Utilities who adapt and implement digital customer engagement programs will capitalize on reduced cost to serve by engaging customers in self-serve channels. They’ll also see measurable improvements in customer satisfaction and engagement. Better customer engagement is not only key to maintaining utilities’ millennial customer base, but represents the new bar for performance in customer service for all generations to come.
Image credit: Suhyeon Choi via Unsplash
Indy Ratnathicam is the vice president of strategy at FirstFuel.