The Power of Behavioral Change: Driving Utility Innovation 

Brian Melle

The utility industry, a cornerstone of societal progress, is undergoing a profound transformation in response to environmental concerns, technological advancements, and changing customer expectations. As a result, the intersection of behavioral change and sustainability has emerged as a critical focal point for utility innovation.

Considering this, the Utility 2030 Collaborative (U2030) has released a report delving into the correlation between behavioral change and sustainability as utilities look to address a diverse range of operational and customer-centric goals. The report shares data and related commentary on the survey responses from 35 utility professionals, as well as extensive interviews with six utility executives.


The role of behavioral change in innovation

When we talk about inciting “behavioral change,” what do we mean? It’s a fair question.

Behavioral change, in the context of the utility industry, involves modifying customer behaviors to achieve sustainability and operational goals. This concept goes beyond providing reliable power; it’s about instigating a shift in how individuals consume and interact with energy.

This change is not just a response to market trends, it’s a catalyst for innovation, opening doors to new technologies and operational paradigms.


The impact of behavioral change on the utility industry

Currently, the utility landscape is marked by three major indicators:

    • A shift from centralized to decentralized power generation.

    • The integration of new technologies.

    • Growing focus on greenhouse gas reduction.

The Utility 2030 Collaborative highlights in their report that utility emissions contribute significantly to environmental challenges, making behavioral change a linchpin in achieving sustainability targets. Embracing this change brings substantial benefits, fostering a more resilient and environmentally responsible industry.

While the benefits are evident, implementing behavioral change in the utility industry comes with challenges. Identifying potential obstacles, such as resistance to change and privacy concerns, is crucial. Strategies for overcoming these challenges include:

    • Targeted customer segmentation.

    • Transparent communication with your customer base.

    • Leveraging advanced analytics to predict and meet customer needs effectively.

In the long-term, these tactics can trend customer behavior towards embracing sustainable choices and new technologies. However, there are ways utilities can implement these strategies to incite short-term changes, as well. Shifting customer behaviors towards paperless billing and digital payments, for instance, can be accomplished through similar methods.


Applying behavioral change in payments

Consumer choice is reshaping the utility industry, prompting a reevaluation of traditional utility-customer relationships. Utilities must not only provide compelling offerings but also find innovative ways to engage customers.

Customer engagement tends to go hand-in-hand with molding customer behavior. To get customers to use the self-service payment options that save your staff time and money, your chosen billing and payment solution must present these routes often and obviously. People are busy, and you can bet they’ll use whatever option is most convenient to access.

Since you don’t have your customers’ attention for very long – sectors like the utility industry have been shown to only have their customers’ attention for roughly 10 minutes a year – every engagement point becomes a critical opportunity to convert customers to self-service.

Here are a few engagement points along the payer journey that are commonly overlooked:

    • Offline channels: paper bill. For customers who are not already making payments online or enrolled in paperless billing, the paper bill is still a key engagement point. Use the bill itself or an insert in a bill to inform customers about their payment options and how to make an online or mobile payment.

    • One-time or guest checkout route. Almost half of all payers use a one-time payment or guest checkout route to pay their bills; through this frictionless route, a payer does not need to register to make a payment, so they never login to an account. This popular checkout option presents a fantastic opportunity to promote self-service enrollment options to customers.

    • Post-payment. Even after a customer has made a payment, billing organizations should continue prompting them to enroll in self-service options. With so few engagement points available, it’s imperative to take advantage of every routine step in the payment process. This includes online and e-mail payment confirmation screens.


The future of utility innovation

The utility industry is intricately linked to behavioral change. Predictions indicate a continued shift towards renewable energy sources, with technologies like Green Hydrogen gaining traction. The integration of digital technologies and data analytics will play a pivotal role in facilitating behavioral change, enabling utilities to become trusted energy advisors. The call to action is clear: utility companies must embrace behavioral change to remain innovative and responsive to evolving market dynamics.

As the industry evolves, utilities must strive to become trusted energy advisors, embracing behavioral change as a powerful driver of progress. The journey ahead is exciting, challenging, and filled with possibilities for those ready to embrace change and innovation.

Want to learn more? Download the full report from Utility2030 here.

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