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What keeps your organizations leadership awake at night? It probably isn’t outages, infrastructure issues or personnel problems. Utilities have been successfully dealing with those kinds of headaches for more than a century.

Instead, research from Navigant Consulting indicates that the main instigators of CEO angst stem from the customers your utility serves.

Looking at the survey results (chart), you’ll see that most of the challenges and disruptors utility execs see ahead for the next five years can be attributed in some way to customer expectations. Regulation is probably the only item listed that doesn’t directly reflect customers’ views, and even it can be influenced by them.

Following are some consumer research findings to keep in mind when trying to strengthen ties and engage your utility customers.

Keep it clean

  • 82 percent of consumers “favor clean energy investments when no additional cost” to them is involved.[1]
  • 44 percent of residential survey respondents said they were extremely or very interested in purchasing their own solar panels.[2]
  • 41 percent of these same residential survey participants were extremely or very interested in buying a share of a community solar installation.[3]
  • 63 percent of Fortune 100 companies have set one or more clean energy targets.[4]
  • 48 percent of Fortune 500 companies have at least one climate-related or clean energy goal.[5]

Be free with advice and info

  • 82 percent of consumers would like utilities to offer products and services personalized to “my needs and preferences.”[6]
  • 72 percent of consumers want their utility to provide “products and services that enable me to manage my energy consumption using digital tools, e.g., mobile applications, smart thermostats, etc.”[7]
  • 68 percent of residential customers would be interested in electricity consumption analytics from their utilities[8]
  • 59 percent of residential customers would welcome rate comparison analytics and information.[9]

Let customers help themselves

  • 71 percent of consumers want the ability to solve the majority of their customer service issues on their own without speaking to a call-center representative[10]
  • By 2020, only some 10 percent of customer-to-company interactions will be conducted via a telephone conversation, says Gartner.[11]
  • $5.2 billion annually: That’s the dollar amount that analysts at Navigant Research expect utilities across the world to invest on customer engagement solutions by 2026.[12]

Will the coming customer engagement spending pay off? According to a study conducted jointly this year by the Wall Street Journal and Deloitte, “Advanced customer self-service, mobile applications, data analytics, communication and energy management solutions will improve customer knowledge and relationships.”[13]