Utilities are starting to have more interactions with Millennials, a segment of the population that has high expectations and a dependency on mobile applications. According to a Pew Research Center article, the percent of young adults living with their parents and families is the highest now since the Great Depression. Along with the trend in delaying marriage until an older age, and an increased supply of housing in the rental market, young adults have put off buying a house. That’s about to change. As Millennials begin to buy houses, they will have a larger stake in the ground in terms of their expectations from utilities. Their demands may seem aggressive: fast and easy mobile access to account information, data on usage with proactive communications, and a renewable portfolio to help sustain natural resources. But, underneath all of these demands is what this generation really wants: a utility that they can trust.
Ease of Use. Millennials have higher expectations for technology and mobile interactions than previous generations. Young adults are accustomed to online transactions and are also exposed to business-to-consumer services with advanced customer experiences. When comparing a utility to these norms, customers are disappointed and lose confidence and trust. As this population begins to dominate the utility customer base, utilities are going to have to expand beyond offering only simple transactions on mobile devices. Customers are going to be more interested in quickly learning about what options are available for them to save money on their bill, understand what their rate structure means, and complete these customer journeys most quickly. This trend is already requiring utilities to shift their mindset from what is easiest for their operations, to what is easiest for the customer.
Demand for Data. Along with mobile and speedy transaction capabilities, Millennials expect utilities to collect, analyze and use all possible data to their benefit. In the past, if a customer heard from their utility more than once a month for their bill, it was a bad thing. Now, the expectation is changing. As millennials begin to own homes and continue to increase representation in the customer base, they are going to want to know more about their usage and their choices. This can be done with proactive high usage notifications, outage notifications, and missed payment notifications. Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) will help utilities collect this data, but the real solution lies in how this data can be effectively used to alert Millennials, and help them believe that a utility is there to help meet their energy needs.
Alternative Options for Energy. Young adults have a larger interest in preserving earth’s resources, as they will be enduring the effects of global warming in the next 30 years. Greater pressure will be put on their energy providers to increase their renewable portfolio, provide electric vehicle incentives, and increase customer-owned distributed generation. By providing these options, utilities reinforce their long-term customer support commitment.
Utilities have invested significant amounts of time and money in customer engagement strategies. To make those efforts sustainable and build trust, utilities must progress even farther. Meeting the needs and building trust of the most tech-savvy generation will be even more critical as this group of people will soon be the majority of a utility’s customers.