Populus’s Managing Director Gary Muncaster chaired and spoke at a session on Understanding Your Customers at Utility Week Live 2018. Here are some key takeaways from the session.

For utilities to succeed in a service and experience-driven market, they must develop their capabilities beyond the mere delivery of products. They must understand how customer lifestyle choices, health, cultural background, hobbies and appetite for new technology impact the way they need to consume these products, and also how they like to be communicated with.

This becomes all the more important in a consumer environment in which people are increasingly willing to switch energy providers. Meanwhile policies like the energy price cap reflect broader public mistrust in the sector. In this context, developing a nuanced understanding of customers and finding new ways of delivering for them is all the more important for utilities companies.

Populus has explored the topic in depth ahead of our appearance at Utility Week Live 2018. To get a broad level look at the sector, Populus looked at a range of service providers to ascertain customer perceptions of disrupters as well as more traditional brands. We wanted to fully understand changing consumer expectations in the context of both the energy sector and beyond.

Our research finds that there are three crucial components to customer satisfaction for energy customers. These are:

  1. Resolving issues quickly
  2. Integrating technology to make life easier and more fun
  3. Keeping things relevant for the individual


When things go wrong

It may seem obvious in our modern world of round-the-clock service, but resolving problems still ranks top of the most important factors for customers.

The findings show that 94% of respondents say resolving problems quickly is the most important factor in delivering a good customer experience. A large majority (88%) say that it is important that energy providers can be contacted in a way that suits them. The learning for energy companies is that it’s not only prompt resolutions, but also convenient ones, that are important to customers..

Harnessing technology

With the advent of on-demand services and GPS tracking, consumers have grown accustomed to technology supporting their services. By 2020, mobile apps are forecast to generate around 189 billion US dollars in revenues via app stores and in-app advertising. Our research supports the view that customers find the use of technology important.

The second learning for energy providers is that using technology to solve a problem and make life easier is the next most important factor to customers. According to our research, 78% of respondents said that using technology to make the service effortless was important. A similar proportion (75%) said that using technology to make life easier was important.

Rewarding customers

It’s not enough to simply resolve a problem and integrate technology. The evidence shows that, although less important than the other two factors, customers still feel that great rewards or incentives, or a personalised service, are important.

The third learning for energy providers is that relevant rewards are important to consumers. Our research shows that 62% of respondents say that offering great rewards or incentives is important. Over half (59%) say that providing a personalised service is important, and just under half (43%) say that making relevant recommendations for them is important. The good news is that technology can be used to deliver just this.

How can energy providers harness this insight to appeal to customers and improve trust in energy providers? Keep an eye out for our follow-up whitepaper, What Customers Really Want From an Energy Provider.

Read our whitepaper exploring the Reputation of the Energy Sector

Read our whitepaper on The Sluggish, The Savvy and The Downright Promiscuous: The Truth About Energy Customer Behaviour

Research is a vital part of better understanding the UK public’s behaviours regarding energy use as the sector evolves. Populus unlocks the Critical Knowledge that brands need to better understand the world around us. We add value to our findings by applying expert analysis to uncover clear, actionable insight. Find out more by calling 020 7253 9900 or emailing info@populus.co.uk. 


Populus interviewed a sample of 2,030 UK adults aged 18+ between 27 and 28 April 2018.  Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.populus.co.uk