The rise of new energy consumers who are driven by technology is the most significant factor in a utility business model, disrupting existing models to create new opportunities that are essential keys to the entire utility business processes.
The existence of this technology, which drives consumers to demand better and accessible services, is a result of the constant innovation in the digital world - something that is entirely foreign to the traditional process. And since consumers are at the forefront of the utility industry, the impact of this adaptation is massive.
Consumer adaptation of energy-driven technologies is also changing the relationship between customers and their energy providers. Since customers are now starting to transition from being passive payers of monthly bills, to be more engaged and proactive in the consumption and production of energy, this gives utility providers a chance to drive more opportunities in transforming the industry to a digital business, and possibly earn additional revenues.
The utility industry caters to different economic sectors, including small enterprises and big corporations. But the most immediate consumers that they have are residential consumers. And with the rapid increase of new features and updates, another question is raised, and that is whether or not these technologies are accessible and available to all energy consumers, including residential consumers - like us, and most importantly, the low-income ones.
Lower-income consumers have often had the burden when it comes to consuming energy. Worrying about what percentage of their total household income is spent on home energy bills, they are compelled to save more energy at home.
This bracket of consumers want to maximize the energy they are using, and utilize other methods to help them save money which is why most of them, show interest in energy-related technologies that include solar, battery storage, and services such as real-time outage report, prepaid billing, and savings programs.
There are several opportunities for utilities, and their partners to extend and offer services that are flexible enough to support the needs of their lower-income consumers, further improving their customer-engagement. Here are some of the critical considerations they should take note of to make make the most out of it:
1. Adopt a more comprehensive approach that supports lower-income consumers, by creating strategies with the goal of minimizing delivery costs and maximizing the potential for energy savings. One example is to reexamine existing programs that directly cater family homeowners.
2. Utilize social media. Most consumers value access to high-speed internet services since they actively use social media. Recent statistics show that majority of lower-income consumers live in single person households and consider that both energy and internet access as “must haves, so it is best to take this opportunity to engage with them by exploring and developing collaborations with internet service providers.
3. Find other strategic ways for your company to address the gap in customers, specifically in low-income customers’ assistance programs. While some measures that companies and even states are taking is to tap federal funding to support different energy efficiency programs that cater to these types of consumers, others involve themselves in partnerships that allow other customers to donate and help their fellow neighbors-in-need through different online campaigns.
For the utility industry, customers have always been a priority. But in the case of low-income consumers, who are less interested and are difficult to reach, companies should compel themselves to address these through different approaches, and by further extending their services.
Also, low-income consumers have unique needs for support, and by understanding these specifications, utilities can engage with them even better; with customers who receive the help they need, the utility industry will continue to boost a customers’ view towards them as a trusted partner and service provider.
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