The voice of the energy industry

What does good communications look like?

ScottishPower believes in putting the customer at the heart of what we do. We therefore welcomed the opportunity to contribute to Energy UK’s paper on ‘Rules of Engagement: Putting Customers at the Heart of Communications’ published in September 2017, and we are supportive of Ofgem’s vision for relying on principles based regulation rather than prescriptive rules for communications.  We believe this revised approach has the potential to enable significant improvements to customer communications.

Unquestionably our challenge as an industry is to engage the disengaged - to understand what customers’ want and need, and to be able to deliver these in a way that they want us to. The ‘one size fits all’ solution of the past is no longer fit for purpose and we have to recognise customers have different characteristics and preferences and will only engage when they believe these are being met.  In short, they need to be motivated to engage, have the opportunity to do so and receive the right trigger to take action.

So if we are going to put the customer at the heart of our communications we need to deliver a customer experience which is:

Simple and transparent – using straight forward language, with no industry or legal jargon (or pages of small print, terms and conditions). Ultimately we want the customer to be able make informed choices and feel confident in those choices.  

Easy – it’s not just about making the content of a letter, email, web page or text as simple to understand as we can, we also need to ensure we’re making any ‘call to action’ clear, and that the end to end journey is hassle free through whichever channel the customer wants to engage with.

Relevant – customers will engage if what we’re sending them adds value to them so the timing, content and how we deliver it all need to be relevant to that customer at that particular time. Our simple communication rule is that we have to send the right message, to the right customer, at the right time through their channel of choice. We should no longer dictate what is relevant – the customer does.

Personalised – our customers expect us to know them, what’s important to them and how and when they want to be communicated to. They control the conversation now and not us.  They expect this at every touch point whether speaking to a call centre agent, on their mobile app or on their online account.

Our customers’ expectations have changed and they demand more.  Expectations are being led by outside the energy sector and as an industry we need to respond rapidly, creating innovative tariffs, service propositions and communication solutions for individuals instead of the masses.  The customers expect nothing else. 

Our digital platforms and data driven insight gives us the tools to deliver this.  SMART meter  data, analytics, modelling, digital rules engines and data optimisation tools all help drive the right message to the right customer at the right time. But of course this has all to be done in an increasingly challenging data protection environment with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules coming into effect in May 2018. 

Equally it’s important that we don’t forget about those who don’t want to engage digitally, or can’t, and those in a vulnerable situation. Again a more principles based approach allows suppliers to have a flexible approach to engagement and meet different customer needs and behaviours.

Finally, in this increasingly fast paced world, customers want change to happen quickly. However, as an industry, we have to balance this within a ‘test and learn’ trialling arena to avoid some of the unintended consequences of the past. This is the challenge we all face - how we create a sense of agility and responsiveness to match consumer wants and needs while still offering appropriate consumer protections – and why we’re working closely with Energy UK and Ofgem to ensure we maintain these protections while delivering a better communication experience under a more principles based regulatory framework.


Heather Smyth                            

Head of Customer Communications

Retail & Generation, ScottishPower

Heather Smyth from ScottishPower spoke as a part of the panel at a workshop on the Future of Consumer Communications, hosted by Energy UK and Ofgem.

Energy UK Small