Energy Is Still Expensive, And Winter Is Coming - Are Energy Companies Ready?
Despite 2023 government interventions, energy bills, especially in the UK, remain high. As we approach winter 2023, the blog delves into proactive strategies for energy utilities, highlighting solutions such as addressing meter concerns, providing energy-saving advice, and offering flexible payment plans. The article emphasizes the significance of educational outreach and adaptive workforce solutions, urging a departure from traditional contact center models to align with the preferences of modern customer advisers.
Energy prices have soared in recent years across Europe. The price of electricity and gas increased before the Russia and Ukraine conflict started in February 2022, but this caused a spike for most of 2022. The average EU electric bill was 28.4% higher in 2022 compared to 2008.
Most governments have applied grants or tax measures to help consumers in 2023, so as we head into the next European winter, there should not be the same level of difficulty. Without these actions the situation could be worse.
However, the bills are still high compared to what consumers may have been used to in recent years. British families are now likely to be spending around £2,000 ($2460) a year just on their electricity and gas bills.
All this means that energy utilities can expect a more significant surge than usual in customer interactions in winter 2023. This is for several reasons, and in some cases, it may be advantageous for the utility to start the conversation:
• Meter Queries: Previously, customers were less likely to complain about an unusual meter reading because the unit value of energy was much lower, so changes were less extreme. Now, there are likely to be many more customers questioning if their meter is correctly measuring their energy use.
• Advice: Many customers will be asking for advice on what they can do to reduce energy use. While the energy company earns from selling energy, building a long-term relationship with each customer is also in their interest. Therefore, their advice on which home devices use the most energy can benefit consumers.
• Inability to pay: When customers are struggling to pay, it is helpful for the energy company to be able to talk and work out some alternative payment plans, such as increasing bills in the summer to build up credit for winter. Companies should be proactive with the customers they predict may need help - based on earlier years’ payment records - and offer a friendly and helpful ear to customers who ask for help with payments.
• Education: an outreach program can help to build trust in the energy company. Offer ideas and advice without waiting for customers to ask. Think creatively of new ideas that may help vulnerable customers. This energy company will send a free electric blanket to customers struggling to heat their homes - so they can stay warm.
• Demand Management: Energy is often cheaper to supply at off-peak times of the day, so offer advice and ideas to customers on how they can take advantage of these lower-price deals.
Many of these actions require proactive outreach and contact from the energy company. Still, in some cases, there is an expectation that more customers will be in contact as a combination of higher prices and cold weather causes more customers to contact their utility company.
How can you be ready for this?
If you have a traditional customer service contact centre, you will likely have the same number of customer service agents working there in August as you do in December. They are full-time employees and work every day, whether it is a busy period of the year or not.
Yoummday offers a more flexible solution. Allow the expert advisors to stay at home so you don’t need to worry about a physical contact centre. When busy periods approach, ensure you have more advisers trained and ready to go. You can scale up or down as needed.
Customer advisers want to be more flexible. They don’t want to commute to a contact centre and then sit at a cubicle working an all-day shift, regardless of whether they are busy or not. If they can choose their hours and stay at home, then they are more focused on delivering outstanding service, and it works better for energy companies that need to scale up for the busy winter months.