Reduce Energy Supplier Switching with Self-Meter Reading
Many industries have dealt with the headache of customers switching services to take advantage of better prices and better customer service. Now, it’s becoming more common for energy suppliers as making the change is easier than ever.
Customer options are often laid out handily by online comparison websites such as Which? Switch in the UK or PowerSwitch.com in the U.S. Customers simply input their postal or ZIP codes, and the tool presents them with options for suppliers. In fact, there is evidence that nearly 40 percent of customers who switch utility providers are using these sites.
In 2020, more than four million people in Great Britain changed their gas suppliers, and more than three million changed electricity providers. These numbers are trending upwards, and it’s a worrying prospect for utility companies. Is there a way to reduce energy supplier switching?
Why Are Utility Customers Switching?
There are a variety of reasons customers choose to switch suppliers. These include:
- Costs. Energy customers are feeling the bite of inflation and stagnant wages, and they’re looking to spend less. They may seek a supplier that will provide them with the energy they need for less money. Your energy company may be at increased risk for customer switching if you’ve raised rates or you’re providing inaccurate estimates that are causing clients to experience “sticker shock” when faced with the bill.
- Expired contracts. Customers may choose to switch services because their contract has expired and they are curious if they can get a better deal. This is particularly true for customers who may have been billed under a fixed energy tariff that is ending, at which time they become subject to costlier out-of-tariff pricing. Some companies fail to effectively inform customers when they are at risk of price hikes due to expired contracts.
- Poor customer service. Customers today are more demanding when it comes to customer support. Cost-cutting by energy suppliers may have led to long call center queues, unanswered emails, and the need to repeat queries to different representatives. In many cases, one poor customer experience is enough to cause a customer to flee.
- Billing difficulties. Inaccurate or opaque billing processes can quickly lose the trust of energy subscribers, who may feel they are being cheated. In some cases, energy customers are billed incorrectly due to Aggregate and Commercial Losses (AT&C) or Technical Losses (TLs) and Non-Technical Losses (NTLs). While these factors are not necessarily the energy supplier’s fault, customers will perceive it that way.
A Real-World Case Study
UK-based Northumbrian Water is an example of a company that has seized the opportunity to use technology to improve the customer experience. Northumbrian Water provides water and sewerage services to over 2.7 million customers across the northeast of England and water to parts of the southeast.
In an effort to improve the customer experience, the company integrated Anyline home meter reading technology for water meters into its customer-facing application. Customers are now able to scan their own meters quickly and accurately, improving the customer experience and leading to better management of water usage.
Customers of Northumbrian Water receive an email notification when it is time to provide their meter readings. Using an app downloaded onto their smartphone or tablet, the customer points their device at their water meter and performs the reading using the device’s camera. The process takes seconds, and the data is transferred to the customer’s account.