The Utilities sector is still at the very bottom of the ladder, with no significant change in a year-on-year comparison.
Lately, the industry has been moving their communication channels into the digital space, with almost every company now boasting their own app or web portal that customers can use to manage their accounts and perform things like self-reading, change their contact details or monthly advance payments, request an overpayment refund, switch to a different product or activate online invoicing. PRE and ČEZ have now also introduced an option to pay for their services online with a credit or debit card.
Another important – albeit rather invisible – change lies in digitalization of internal processes within the companies, helping them process their customer-related agenda faster and with more reliability.
The trend of non-commodity products from 2020 (like solar panels, heat pumps or chargers for electric cars) is still going strong, with power suppliers working to expand their portfolio and secure their customers’ loyalty in the context of a market where price is the main competition tool. However, the surging power prices will most likely force the power suppliers to adjust their pricing policy, causing many customers to switch to a different supplier in the second half of 2022.
(Un)fair and (in)decent behaviour of power suppliers is a recurring topic in many customer comments. People are especially sensitive to unsolicited phone calls with offers to switch to another provider and improper behaviour bordering on unfair business practices (non-acceptance of contract termination notices and steep fines). Forthcoming approach and willingness to find a solution for customers who found themselves in dire straits were, unsurprisingly, met with positive reactions.
The customers also notice how appreciative the suppliers are of their loyalty, observing if it’s something the companies care about continuously or only when one threatens to switch to a different provider.
innogy, the leader of the sector, equipped their customers with a smart app capable of quickly displaying information about the offtake point, invoices, and consumption, notifying the customer immediately in case of an unpaid advance and allowing them to pay it with a single tap. The app also allows customers to manage several offtake points under a single account and send messages to the supplier inside the app, complete with photos, a feature that’s especially handy in case of faults and breakdowns.
As for trends in demand, innogy confirms a growing interest in solar panels and electric car chargers. The company plans to build 112 new charging stations all over the country, starting in fall 2021. In 2020, the company put over 200 roof photovoltaic systems in operation, with almost 300 new contracts. This growth in photovoltaics matches the current trend present in the entire market that doubled in year-on-year comparison, despite the ongoing pandemic. Although for now this trend doesn’t play a major role in customer experience, that might well change in the coming years.
ČEZ, the market’s giant, ranked second within the sector, already offering the public a large network of car charging stations with an impressive total that just reached 300 stations, making this network comparable to that of the large players in the petrol field. Just like innogy, ČEZ is trying to attract new customers with photovoltaics too, having installed over 660 systems in 2020 (that is a 25% growth compared to the previous year). Furthermore, the company also saw a steep, 50% increase in heat pump demand, installing 514 of them.
The survey respondents see ČEZ as a traditional company with a modern approach, a company able to provide a steady, reliable supply of energy, resolve many things online and maintain a customer-oriented approach.
Centropol: “We had to deal with a debt that our subtenants racked up on electricity bills. The company proposed a payment schedule and helped us make sure that everything was arranged properly. We communicated through e-mails and by phone, always getting things done quickly.” (Man, 42)
E.ON: “I am satisfied with them for now, although there are better providers out there. Hopefully they will offer better products to their loyal customers again soon – something they’ve stopped doing now.” (Man, 67)
innogy: “Simple, easy to navigate app to manage your gas and electricity bills.” (Man, 22)
“ČEZ is an extremely reliable provider. They are always very forthcoming whenever I need something, ready to work on a solution and offer advice on how to best deal with my situation. Even when there were some outstanding payments on our part they didn’t start chasing and hounding us right away like other companies do. Instead, they helped us arrange a payment schedule like there was no problem at all. Their staff are very friendly and helpful” (Man, 31)
ČEZ: “Power bill transfer: Everything was done online, and the process was smooth – this is what all providers should aspire for.” (Man, 24)
innogy: “I’ve been with them for more than a decade and everything always worked great. I really like that you can now pay your bills using just your card and your smartphone” (Woman, 48)
“I like the ČEZ online portal where I can see my meters and check my invoices. Their website is quite user-friendly as well.” (Man, 35)
Online service at your fingertips
Thanks to other service providers, customers have gotten used to being able to do almost everything online, preferably with a mobile app, and they expect the same from the power providers. Having paperwork delivered by post or having to go to an office to sign it – things like that are becoming relics of the past. Brands capable of serving their customers online, or at least creating processes that don’t require the customers to go anywhere or mail anything, are the winners here.
Spotřeba pod kontrolou
Příležitostí do budoucna je umožnit zákazníkovi snadno zjistit aktuální spotřebu a mít ji průběžně pod kontrolou – podobně jako u telefonních operátorů, kde zákazníci sledují konzumaci dat.