The energy industry has been in a state of flux throughout most of 2021 to date, both in Ireland and abroad. Home energy prices across suppliers have risen steeply and there has even been talk of critical breaks in the supply chain over winter, which could lead to blackouts. Some of Ireland’s energy suppliers have hiked prices up to four times this year, meaning some households could be looking at paying over €1,000 extra for their home energy over the next 12 months.
A necessity rather than a luxury, customers are scrabbling for ways to keep their home energy bills down, while suppliers are anxious about losing customers in their droves to competitor brands during these tough times. In this article, we consider some insights gleaned from a recent study we undertook with Irish parents on the topic of home energy. What factors do parents value in their home energy supplier? How can home energy brands attract and retain customers during unpredictable times?
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What do parents look for in a home energy provider?
Worry around the increasing price of home energy is at an all-time high amongst parents, as exemplified by the following comments we received from parents;
“I honestly don’t know how I will keep the kids warm this winter. I’m getting very stressed about it. Even filling hot water bottles for them is now more expensive.”
“It seems like switching provider is the only way to save any money. But then you are tied into a contract. Hard to know whether small changes like unplugging appliances really makes a difference to costs.”
“Wearing an extra layer in the house before turning on the heating too!”
“I wish energy companies would offer products or apps that could help me track my energy usage more efficiently.”
Unsurprisingly, with money-saving at the forefront of energy customers’ minds in the wake of repeated price increases, our latest home energy study with parents found that price and value for money were the top reasons parents chose their current provider. However, we were intrigued to discover that price isn’t the be all and end all factor for parents either. Payment plan options and quality customer service were also revealed as key determining factors for parents.
Payment plan options
As mentioned above, home energy is a necessity (not a luxury!) for a family home and parents expressed the wish to have payment plans available when they switch. Parents told us that flexible payment plan options that suit their lifestyles are key when choosing a new energy supplier. Here’s an example from one of the parents we talked to:
“I was with SSE Airtricity for 4 years, but last year decided to change my provider to save money. I got a better price and some discounts and credits, but my payment terms are not what I want. I have contacted customer service to try and change my conditions, but still, nothing has been changed. I will wait for the end of this contract and probably will go back to SSE Airtricity.”
Quality customer service
Parents told our researchers that after price, poor customer service can often be a deciding factor for them when switching to a new home energy provider. For elements as integral to running a household as power and heating, parents want to be reassured that any problems that might arise will be solved quickly and efficiently by a friendly customer service representative. If they aren’t getting that from you as a supplier, they will find someone else making poor customer service a key driver when it comes to switching.
“We only switched providers due to poor customer service and will stay with our current provider unless their customer service deteriorates or they no longer provide the service.”
A quality customer care experience was also linked to providers that actively reward customer loyalty as they are perceived to “look after their customers.” Parents told us that they appreciate a personal touch from their energy provider because it makes them feel that they are valued and their needs are being considered.
“We are with Bord Gáis so long that we are on a historic loyalty plan and nobody else can come near to being the same price as them, let alone cheaper.”
“I’m with Electric Ireland. I love their customer service, very knowledgeable. I don’t like that I have to threaten to move provider to get a loyalty offer. If they gave me a lesser loyalty offer but applied it as a bonus for my loyalty I would be far more inclined to remain with them.”
How home energy providers can attract and retain parents as customers
So, how can gas and electricity providers use these insights to convince parents to switch to their brand? Or indeed, re-engage current customers to ensure their future loyalty?
1. Get proactive
Parents like to receive rewards for being loyal customers without having to ask for them. We’ve heard this again and again from parents in relation to various different service-based industries. Parents really hate when they have to ring up providers to essentially ‘beg’ for a loyalty offer or threaten to switch providers in order to get better rates.
This doesn’t mean you need to call up every customer you have and offer them knock-down rates out of the blue! But a gentle email reach out with a slight discount or special offer when it’s coming up to contract renewal time that reminds them that they haven’t been forgotten as the valued customers they are goes a long way!
2. Give customers a roadmap
What content are you providing potential new customers at point of decision? Parents told us that being able to see what a typical household bill could be for them was important for helping them to decide. It’s also key to clearly lay out what kind of payment plan options you offer, so parents can make accurate estimates of how much they will likely pay per month if they decide to choose you as a provider.
3. Make sure your service is super easy to understand and manage
Anything that give parents a greater level of control over their bills will have a positive effect for your brand. Parents told us that they like and value an easy-to-use app that clearly tracks and communicates their household’s energy usage.
“I’m with Bord Gáis Energy. They are helpful and offer friendly customer service. Good rates/price. Easy to use app.”
4. Listen regularly to parents and what they are telling you about your brand and service.
Parents won’t hesitate to switch from you next time your contract is up, so make sure you are talking regularly to the customers in this segment. Don’t forget parents have a wide network and are key influencers not only to their peer parent group but also their parents, their siblings, friends and others. Word of mouth is powerful so tap into parents and their network through regular research with them on behalf of your brand – this is critical to stand out in the energy marketplace.
RECOMMENDED READING: Bite-Sized Insights: Home Energy
Find Out How to Create Goodwill About Your Brand Amongst Parents
Looking for ways to connect your energy brand or switching service with Irish parents? Contact us directly to find out how ParentsandBrands can help you with valuable in-depth parent-specific insights concentrated on your business/product sector.
We can ensure your brand messaging and communication is constantly resonating with parents, offer regular sound checks on future app and website changes, give ongoing feedback on new product/service development and much more!
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Would you like business-transforming insights from parents for your business? Use our tailored panels of engaged parents and our dedicated private platform to gather critical insights to help influence consumers to deliver long term profitability. Contact us now to find how we can help.