As utilities become more customer-centric, one of the chief challenges is figuring out who those customers are and what they want from their energy providers.
Increasingly, those customers are millennials. The largest generation in U.S. history was born between 1982 and 1999, meaning almost all of them have reached adulthood and are establishing their own households—and utility bills.
In an effort to determine millennials’ needs and desires when it comes to energy usage, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) conducted a meta-analysis of three of its 2016 consumer surveys, including more than 1,300 respondents. The focus was on millennials’ thoughts on topics like energy efficiency, utility customer service, renewable energy sources, the smart grid, electric vehicles, common utility programs and more.
The result is SGCC’s Spotlight on Millennials report. Here’s what it discovered.
- Millennials are green champions - SGCC’s consumer segmentation framework classifies customers into five categories: status quo, savings seekers, technology cautious, movers and shakers and green champions.
- The Spotlight on Millennials report found that members of this generation are represented in each category. But most millennials fall into the green champion category, which SECC characterizes as: “Smart technologies fit our environmentally aware, high-tech lifestyles.”
- Thirty-eight percent of millennials are green champions, compared to 28 percent of older generations. However, only 33 percent of younger millennials (ages 18 to 29) fall into this category. Nearly as many (28 percent) are “savings seekers,” mainly because they may be less financially stable than older members of their generation. And a surprising 23 percent of millennials prefer the status quo when it comes to smart energy technology.
- Millennials are sensitive to being lumped into a single group, so discovering their individual motivations and preferences can help improve a utility’s customer service.
- Millennials are willing to pay for their beliefs - The report found that, in general, millennials support energy-saving and renewable energy programs far more than other generations. “However, millennials’ adoption rates are consistently lower than non-millennials, and this represents a sizeable opportunity that will grow as this group of consumers matures,” the report notes.
- Millennials are also more willing to pay up to $15 extra a month for clean-energy investments compared to non-millennials. But younger millennials express concerns about being able to pay “at this time.”
- Millennials are happy with their energy providers … but not necessarily loyal - Fifty-two percent of millennials said they are likely to invest in energy-saving technologies and programs if their utility endorses them, compared to 39 percent of non-millennials.
- However, millennials also rank utilities slightly lower than other service providers in terms of customer service. That’s a big reason that 34 percent said they’re willing to buy energy from a solar installer, telecommunications company or another electric utility if given the opportunity.
- Millennials like to interact with their utilities - Compared to other generations, millennials are far more likely to have been in contact with their energy provider during the last six months. This gives utilities more opportunities to educate their younger customers, and also to build relationships and loyalty.
- Most millennials contact their utilities digitally (59 percent), but they’re not opposed to phone or face-to-face meetings. Basically, they will choose whichever form of contact is most convenient for them at the time. This can be a challenge for utilities that don’t have integrated customer-service platforms.
The bottom line, according to the survey, is that millennials are engaged, inquisitive, hungry for information, adept at change and enthusiastic about energy and sustainability. And the time to engage them, the survey says, is now.