While at one time utilities might have represented the only option in town, or it was too difficult for consumers to switch suppliers, the winds of change have blown across the market place.
Utility companies are vying for the same customers, and customers have lots of options for similar services.
Utility customers are a highly aware and proactive lot today. They have two important asks to spur their engagement.
One, they look for ideas and recommendations for energy savings. Two, they lock their loyalty to the provider that gives them personalized digital interactions.
Loyalty programs in the utility industry thus need an elevated approach to actively engage consumers. They should focus on motivating and inspiring behaviors rather than mere transactional approaches.
Although retailers, restaurants, and supermarkets have a long history of operating loyalty programmes because of their highly competitive environments, the whole concept of taking additional steps to retain current customers and attract new ones is still quite new to utilities.
Keep in mind that satisfaction and loyalty are two different concepts to customers. High levels of customer service and satisfaction, along with a reliable product experience, are still the dominant market drivers.
As the lines become more blurred about which utility is best able to deliver something where there is little perceived difference amongst suppliers, though, the concept of building stronger loyalty bonds comes into play.
Utilities need to focus on building relationships with customers so that they will choose to stay with their initial supplier no matter what marketing promises or pricing alternative suppliers might promise. Here are some considerations for attracting new members for customer loyalty programmes:
- Find out what is important to your customersFirst, it is crucial to communicate with your customers to find out whether they would be more interested in cash rewards, price reductions, point programmes, or some other type of loyalty reward to keep them engaged with your company. It can be incredibly unfulfilling and even de-motivating when utilities try to develop a programme that is simply presented as being “good” for their customers without any real input from users as to what would motivate them to stay with their current supplier.
- Make it simple and attainableLonger-time rewards can be developed for attaining a certain customer anniversary with the company, or upgrading to the next level of service, but you cannot have something that only provides incentives once a year, as that can be easily forgotten when another seemingly more attractive offer comes along. Don’t develop customer loyalty programmes that are so far above the consumer’s head or so unreachable that they will not get anybody actively involved. Although you want your programme to be challenging, participants must feel that they are receiving some type of reward on a regular basis. Whether your programme is based on receiving points for making a payment on time, reducing consumption, or some other factor, there must be an immediate and achievable reward available.
- Communicate and then communicate some moreOperate a micro-website dedicated to the programme, have a social media presence where users can share their experiences with your programme, share tips to help participants make faster progress, or produce a YouTube video to demonstrate your programme’s benefits. Get people involved by asking them to upload testimonials to your site.Always keep in touch with programme participants. Make sure there is a way to let them know when they have achieved a certain level or are close to it. You want to keep them motivated so they are willing to stay involved with your company.Once you have the essentials of a utility loyalty programme in place, a key component is regularly conveying its features and benefits to current and potential customers. Don’t rule out email and traditional marketing methods, but be sure to place a heavy emphasis on digital marketing communications.
- Track, measure, analyze and updateAs with any marketing plan, the final component is to set corporate goals and track progress made towards them once the loyalty programme is implemented. Analyze results carefully and update the programme as needed.
Successful loyalty programmes develop strong emotional attachments with participants through personal recognition, increased levels of service or additional experiences.
If the utility does not have the expertise or resources to develop a loyalty programme independently, it is often helpful to seek out the services of a customer loyalty agency.
These companies can help ensure the development of a programme that will meet the consumers’ needs while contributing significant benefits to the financial bottom line.