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.
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. A staff augmentation solution 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.
In a period of profound economic uncertainty, it is the optimal time to fortify your team through a flexible staff augmentation model. Ours is a scalable Staff Augmentation model that is a fully managed service. 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 staff augmentation team dedicated to Energy insights is giving their client a leg up. In just this year, activities included:
And there’s additional work the client plans to add to its Escalent dedicated team:
By delegating much of your ongoing workstreams to an Escalent dedicated team, 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.