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When it comes to picking a utility company, on the face of it they all offer the same product or service, after all water is water and electricity is electricity.

The utility market is, on the whole, a price war with cost being the only factor as to why you would choose to pick and stay with a certain provider. This has been increasingly fuelled by ‘lowest price for new customers only’ initiatives and the perception that savvy shoppers switch regularly to get the best (price) deal. Staying with a provider for any length of time is seen as ‘inertia’.

But in the midst of this price war there are many other factors that consumers are forgetting, and brands are failing to capitalise on influencing why a customer will choose and stick with a brand.

After a recent Martin Lewis (of Money Saving Expert fame) episode on TV we decided that we would switch our home broadband, not to only making us feel ‘savvy’ for switching, but also saving us a whopping £10 a month. After all internet is internet and cost is the only differentiation between brands, right?

Well in retrospect £10 more a month was a bargain in comparison for the dodgy internet connection, poor customer service and long call out times we received with our cheaper provider. Plus, the helpful comms filled with hints, tips and inspiration we used to receive from our old provider have now been replaced with incessant upsell messages. It would seem they don’t want to build a long-term relationship with me, they want to get as much money out of me as possible before I switch again in a years’ time.

Whilst price will always be an important factor in a customer’s decision-making process, there is also a huge opportunity for brands to use data and insight to understand what is important to customers (quite often knowing what’s important more than the customer themselves) and leveraging these insights and communicating them in a highly relevant way.

I took the overall package from my previous internet provider for granted. I assumed it was a standard offering and therefore only considered the cost saving. And my previous provider never capitalised on the opportunity to tell me about or reinforce the overall package and benefits and what I was really getting for that extra £10 a month.

Now I’m not saying I want a weekly email from say my water supplier, but for me personally I would, at relevant points, like to be told and reminded of what good things they are doing with my money i.e. building wells in the most needed places around the world. This would not only drive positive sentiment about the brand but make me feel like I am doing some good in the world and importantly that I have a reason to be with them other than just the monthly cost. For others that message might be ensuring they are on the most efficient tariff or letting them know about improvement works that are taking place in their area to improve services in the long term and manage expectations around current drops in service.

I believe that using data to find real insight into a customer, understanding what is important to them (quite often knowing what’s important more than the customer themselves) and delivering hyper relevant messages at the right time, in the right place and format could mean that customers choose and stay with a brand for reasons greater than just price.

-Michael Wells, Business Director