Duration and Communication were the top two drivers of satisfaction for all customer touchpoints with gas customers, according to results from the latest CSBA CX benchmarking program for the Energy Networks sector.

But while gas customers in 2021 ranked Duration as more important than Communication for Unplanned outages, there has been a shift in 2022. Duration was now regarded as equally important as Communication. In fact, for New Connections, customers ranked Communication more highly (30%) than Duration (27%).

The Energy Customer Experience (CX) benchmarking program is conducted each year, with seven energy companies participating in 2022. Over a 12-month period from January to December 2022, CSBA evaluated 13,604 surveys and 237,941 telephone calls to measure Customer Satisfaction, Ease and Net Promoter Score metrics across multiple touchpoints.

Presenting the results at the 2023 CSBA Energy CX Forum, CSBA Managing Director, Paul van Veenendaal, said that customer expectations were at an all-time high following the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.

“Customers now expect to be fully informed on as many details as possible. A simple alert on how long an outage would last is not enough; customers want additional information such as the reason for the outage and what is being done,” he explained.

High performance requires innovation

The use of digital channels was crucial for SA Power Networks to keep its customers informed particularly during an extreme weather event, said Customer Communication Manager, Melanie Toyer.

Sharing her insights at the Forum, Ms Toyer said SA Power Networks currently had 87% of their customer base subscribed to receive automated SMS or email notification for planned, and unplanned, power outages. That digital reach helped keep customers informed in the ‘moments that matter’.

And while the majority of messages were automated, SA Power Networks now sent more than half a million tailored, or event-specific messages to customers a year during events such as widespread storms, bushfires, and now flooding.

Ms Toya explained that tailored messaging showed a deep understanding of local conditions and community concerns, and customers feel valued.

For example, following a grassfire in South Australia’s South-East affecting 3600 customers for several days, CSBA undertook research on the effectiveness of SA Power Networks’ communication with customers. The study found that of 270 respondents, 99% had received SMS notification, and 97% said the frequency of communication met their needs.

Design manager at Endeavour Energy, Edmund Li, who spearheads the company’s digital twin virtual project to predict and manage flood intelligence, told the Forum that customers wanted details.

“Customers need to understand the full extent of a crisis. In addition to the estimated time to restoration, they want to know Why and What,” he said. “The challenge we addressed with the use of technology was to turn the data into insights so that communication updates to our customers could be relevant and timely.”

CX insights for Electricity

For both Unplanned and Planned outages, Duration remained unchanged from 2021 as the top driver of satisfaction (32%), followed by communication-related drivers.

For New Connections, Duration, Communication, Timeframe, and Ease of Contact were ranked equally (17%) as the top drivers.

For Complaints, Duration of resolution (ranked #4 driver) decreased by 10 points from 26% in 2021 to 16% in 2022, while Professionalism (ranked #1 driver) increased by 7 points from 17% in 2021 to 24% in 2022.

“Customers have indicated that an easy and accountable service process to get resolution was more important than the duration of time it took. The process of managing and solving complaints require Professionalism (24%), Ownership (20%) and Information (19%) – the top three drivers of satisfaction for Complaints,” explained van Veenandaal.

Customer Satisfaction

Energy customer satisfaction remained stable in 2022.

Overall Satisfaction for gas customers was 8.4 out of 10, compared to 8.5 in 2021 and 8.4 in 2020. Overall Satisfaction for electricity customers was 7.5 compared to 7.5 in 2021 and 7.6 in 2020.

CX Director for Utilities at CSBA, Sudipta Dutt, said it was a positive result for the sector, explaining the importance of reading the scores in the context of huge social, economic, and environmental challenges.

“Since the pandemic in 2020, customer expectations have continued to increase alongside contact volume. At the same time, customers have been impacted by rising costs and extreme weather events across the nation,” she said. “Given the volatility of these external factors, energy companies have done well to maintain their standard of customer satisfaction.”

When compared to other sectors in the CSBA benchmarking program, the Energy sector performed better than the Local Government (6.0 compared to 6.3 in 2021) and Superannuation (7.8 compared to 8.1 in 2021) sectors.

The program, which also measured Ease and Net Promoter Score metrics, evaluated multiple customer touchpoints including unplanned and planned outages; new connections; general enquiries; claims and complaints; and distributed energy resources.

For more information on the CSBA CX benchmarking program, email Sudipta.dutt@csba.com.au

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