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Energy providers' digital efforts still disappointing consumers, report finds

Utilities' lackluster online presence leaves customers looking for more personalized products and services, according to consulting firm Accenture.

In a survey of more than 9,700 people in 18 countries, the firm found that a third of energy consumers reported that their provider's websites and mobile applications could not handle their requests, forcing them to reach out to a live agent instead. Some 54% said they would consider changing services if their current provider was not able to offer products and services tailored to their specific needs.

Other popular complaints include trouble finding information on companies' websites, long loading times and lack of relevant information, according to the research firm's latest annual New Energy Consumer research.

Accenture also found that energy providers will oftentimes duplicate traditional business processes on digital platforms instead of changing them to make them more user-friendly. Not only could this lead to customer dissatisfaction, but energy providers could miss out on potential earnings: 41% of digitally-inclined consumers said they would sign up for connected home service that would manage lighting, climate and security systems, versus 21% of non-digital users.

"These shortfalls are significant to note as energy providers are under more pressure than ever to rotate toward new, integrated end-consumer solutions and rapidly launch new products and digital services," Tony Masella, managing director of Accenture's Energy Retail and Customers Services, said in a statement.

If companies want to stay head of their competition, they will need to adapt their operations to give consumers more personalized products and experiences, he added. It is especially important to capture the attention of consumers who are engaged with digital services and platforms.

"Hyper-relevance through more digital engagement will be key for energy providers to grow new revenue streams, build customer loyalty and in deregulated markets position against price-only plays," Masella said. "This requires developing personalization strategies across experiences and channels, as well as new and traditional service offerings."