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Millennials and Utilities: Next-Generation Energy

By 3p Contributor

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.

How they are engaging

As digital natives, millennials account for 41 percent of the total time that Americans spend using smartphones, according to a report by Experian. Constantly plugged into mobile apps, it’s no wonder that 51 percent say they are mostly or always online and connected.

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.

What they are offering

Generally speaking, millennials have a keen interest in sustainability. A Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey found that millennials showed greater knowledge about sustainability than any other generation and are committed to increasing their sustainable practices. They are interested in learning more about renewable resources and how implementing renewable solutions improves efficiency and reduces the impact of climate change. As such, utilities can expect more and more questions from this customer group around the value of solutions like solar panels.

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.

How frequently they’re communicating

We live in an on-demand economy, and millennials expect regular, customized communications. Utilities must adapt their existing communication strategy and leverage customer intelligence to communicate with customers when and how they want. Today’s leading utilities are taking note and sending business customers customized text messages with mid-month energy use alerts, and enabling customers to access real-time usage information via online portals. These personalized interactions don’t just go out more often, they give deeper insight into business energy use and enable utilities to build lasting customer relationships.

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.

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