Case study: Eneco
Pioneering customer engagement in the energy sector and launching a customer-first culture
Eneco is a Dutch energy supplier with the stated mission of ‘Sustainable energy for everyone’. The way Eneco pursues this mission goes beyond simply supplying energy; the customer is also seen as a partner.
By fully sustainably meeting the energy needs of its customers, Eneco keeps energy available, affordable and clean for present and future generations. The energy provider considers the future of energy as sustainable and decentralized, with customer cooperation playing a crucial role.
Eneco’s strategy is based on its vision that an energy transition is irreversibly put in motion in the European energy markets. Technology already allows end users to generate their own energy, but in the foreseeable future they will also be able to store this energy and exchange it with each other. The role of energy companies thereby changes fundamentally. They are no longer the driving force in determining supply and in developing technologies to generate energy. The energy companies of the future will need to function more as a service provider to end users.
Eneco is committed to providing its customers in each step of this transition with necessary services and support. The strategic framework included below shows how Eneco turns the traditional energy model upside down. Its ambition is realized through craftsmanship, leadership and a strong customer relationship.
As consumer preferences continue to evolve and the energy marketplace grows in scope and complexity, engaging consumers will become increasingly important. Whether energy providers focus on improving customer satisfaction, acquiring new consumers, retaining existing consumers, driving behavior change or extending beyond the commodity, consumer engagement will be at the center of these strategies. However, building long-term satisfaction and loyalty increasingly requires innovative approaches that go beyond the traditional energy experience.
New channels, new devices and new types of interaction are creating a new landscape for utilities. Facing this proliferation of options, utilities have an opportunity to create a channel mix dominated by mobile and Web self-service. Doing so not only delivers on the changing preferences of consumers but also can address a range of operational and efficiency goals.
‘Anytime, anywhere’ is the service mantra of many energy consumers today. Increasingly, consumers prefer the convenience of self-service and Web-enabled channels for a wide range of interactions.
Historically, many utilities have appraised self-service initiatives based primarily on cost reduction. However, with the rise in consumers’ desire to proactively manage their own transactions, self-service becomes a key determinant of customer satisfaction and loyalty, serving as a primary enabler in developing and maintaining customer relationships. Further, the impact of near-real-time usage information, energy management and new value propositions that include home monitoring will feed the growing consumer appetite for 24/7 service. With this in mind, new capabilities through self-service are becoming increasingly important to help shift the interaction mix.
Based on the principle of ‘everything together’, Eneco wants customers to have a say in the organization and contribute to the corporate strategy. The community is the ideal channel for these contributions and an excellent first step towards customer participation.
The community originally started as a pilot project without tangible objectives, because Eneco believed in its potential. It quickly became apparent in that period that customers felt a strong need for a community: from day one, there was a constant flow of new members and new activity. The biggest challenge that Eneco faced was getting customers involved, due to the low level of customer engagement in the energy sector. Yet at the end of 2014, over 5,000 enthusiastic customers have embraced the community. These customers answer the vast majority of questions and provide Eneco with valuable feedback about its products and services.
The information available in the community is used extensively. Customers generally confirm that they have been helped by the available information.
Many customers still call due to their need for personal contact. However, the Eneco online community has quickly become the starting point for questions and answers. Various channels refer to the community content and search engines bring in many new visitors.
The content available in the community leads to high visitor numbers coming from search engines. The community receives 25,000 visitors per month from Google alone. This also generates more traffic for the Eneco website.
As energy is essentially a low-involvement product, Eneco is constantly looking for ways to involve customers and non-customers more effectively. For example by offering educational programs, opening a wind farm together, and now by offering a community platform.
In many cases, customers do not feel a need for direct communication initiated by Eneco; they do not contact the company until they have questions about an invoice or annual settlement. However, some customers are interested in engaging in dialogue, primarily regarding insight into energy use: “What is the best way to handle energy consumption and what can I do to conserve power?”
There are many experts in the community, which help other members with questions and act as moderators.
It is important for a community to have a shared interest. For Eneco, this is conservation and sustainable consumption of energy. Toon, the smart thermostat, is a topic that is particularly fascinating to people in the community. Toon customers recently received their own platform: ‘Friends of Toon’, with content from the community.
This platform facilitates dialogue between customers, super-promoters and internal ambassadors. This step is a way for Eneco to increase the loyalty of Toon customers. Eneco also offers ambassadors their own platform for sharing tips, knowledge and experiences, increasing product satisfaction. Friends of Toon only contains authentic user-generated content.
Since the launch of the community, a lot of valuable feedback has been provided by its members.
During the renewal of the My Eneco environment, a feedback topic was started which received over 300 responses and resulted in several improvements and enhancements. Co-creation is the next step in this process. Recently, a pilot program began revising certain aspects of communication with customers. In addition to valuable customer insights, this pilot resulted in several relevant improvements in communication such as clearer letters to customers. Visit the Eneco Community.
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