Thought Leadership

Customer Insights Teams in Energy Are Spread Thin. Here’s Why Implementation Consultants Are a Lifesaver.

October 17, 2022
Author: Pam Cooper
Customer insights teams in Energy are spread thin.

Quick: What are the next three urgent requests that will land on your desk?

If you are responsible for customer insights in the energy industry, you probably get urgent requests all the time, with little advance notice. And that’s okay because you have a robust team of seasoned insights experts who have nothing else to do but immediately hop on that Senior VP’s latest request, right?


You are not alone. We hear similar stories from clients across industries and regions who are feeling the staffing squeeze. Teams have shrunk, but the workload hasn’t. Perhaps there are murmurings of a hiring freeze. Meanwhile, every stakeholder’s research initiative can feel like an all-hands-on-deck situation. And not enough hands.

Uncertainty Ahead for Market Research Staffing in the Energy Industry

Even on an average day, the inherent volatility of the energy industry gives our customer insights partners plenty of data points to wrangle and research questions to wrestle. And now, additional layers of complexity and uncertainty pose specific challenges to the industry. Here are a few: 

The cost increases for natural gas and transportation of raw materials are forcing utilities to pass cost increases on to their customers. Nearly every US energy utility had a rate increase in 2022, and many will have additional rate increases in 2023. 

These rate increases will continue to fuel customer frustration about energy costs in an already-tight economy, as well as increased regulatory attention from state utilities commissions. Regulators will demand that utilities justify every dollar spent with data indicating that those dollars will improve the customer experience. Market research staffing may need to be enhanced in order to generate the insights required to up level the experience.

At the same time, customers who relied heavily on technology during the pandemic for interactions with customer service teams in a variety of industries now demand that utilities “up their game.” They want an improved digital experience, self-service tools, and faster and more accurate customer response. But staffing may be tight for energy utilities. Implementation Consultants may be needed.

And finally, the social justice movement in 2020 prompted utilities to reconsider how diverse audiences experienced their products and services. Regulators began to require utilities to show accessibility for disadvantaged customers, such as those with a medical need for electricity, housing insecurity, those who do not speak English as their first language, and physically disabled customers.

All this adds up to customer insights teams being asked to do more. Insights teams will be tasked to provide fast, actionable recommendations on how to lower the utility’s costs, improve customer satisfaction, improve digital customer experiences, and reach out to disadvantaged customers, all with a (likely) lower insights budget than in previous years.

How Implementation Consultants Help Customer Insights Teams Boost Bandwidth Without Adding Headcount 

In a period of profound economic uncertainty, it is the optimal time to fortify your team through a flexible, fully managed and scalable Implementation Consultant model. Clients get their own dedicated team of researchers and analysts and a single point of contact to manage requests and ensure work flows smoothly and deliverables are consistently top quality. This isn’t typical market research outsourcing. Instead, your dedicated team acts as an extension of your core team. And you maintain the flexibility to scale up or down, in sync with workflow variability.  

Here’s a look at how a  team of Implementation Consultants dedicated to Energy insights is giving their client a leg up. In just this year, activities included:

  • Using text analytics to identify positive comments, comment themes, and trends over time in the client’s Vegetation Management surveys
  • Collating YTD data into graphs and charts to determine service planning opportunities and recommendations
  • Analyzing data in the client’s Medallia platform
  • Regression analysis to predict how improvement in outage notifications would impact overall customer satisfaction
  • Quality-checking questionnaires and survey links
  • Writing topline reports for the utility’s ad-hoc studies

 And there’s additional work the client plans to add to its Escalent dedicated team:

  • Conducting secondary (desk) research to better understand customer expectations and industry best practices in contact center experience, digital experience, and customer communications
  • Utilizing the utility’s Alida platform license to provide support on survey programming and fielding 
  • Working in the utility’s Quantum Metrics license to assist in tracking customer movements on the utility’s website, identifying digital interaction problems, and helping resolve those problems 
  • Creating infographics with comparative analyses of customer satisfaction 

By delegating much of your ongoing workstreams to Implementation Consultants, your core team—and you—will have more bandwidth to focus on value-added tasks. More time for high-impact initiatives. More time for strategy. More time to breathe. Find out more in our Guide to Boosting Bandwidth & Winning Back Time


Pam Cooper
Pam Cooper
Vice President, Energy

Pam is a vice president at Escalent. With 17 years of research and analytics experience, Pam has led projects for Fortune 100 clients in many industries, including energy, telecommunications, automotive, non-profits, consumer packaged goods, financial services, healthcare and industrial products. Throughout her career, she has helped clients address a full range of strategic marketing issues including customer loyalty and retention, market analysis and forecasting, branding/corporate reputation, segmentation, new product/service research and competitive analysis. Within the energy industry, Pam has developed and managed research programs for Southern California Edison, Oncor, Pepco Holdings, DTE Energy, Orlando Utility Commission, Tampa Electric/Peoples Gas, Con Edison, Energy Market Innovations and Arkansas Electric Consumer Cooperative. Prior to joining Escalent, she held research leadership roles at DTE Energy and ForeSee, and created the research department at PCGCampbell, the largest privately-owned marketing communications firm in Michigan. Pam earned an MBA in Marketing from The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University and a BA in Linguistics and French from The University of Michigan.