Building Customer’s Trust with Sustainable Energy Billing

April 24, 2024
According to a recent report published by Ello Group, consumer trust in the utility sector is currently only 12%. While there are several practices that energy retailers and other utility suppliers can implement to improve consumer trust, it all starts with sustainable energy billing.

Today’s environmentally conscious energy consumers expect to be billed accurately, efficiently, and transparently. Research from Ernst & Young reveals that 38% of energy consumers said that their everyday decisions are being influenced by sustainability issues. What’s more, 62% said that they’re more likely to purchase a product or service that is sustainable.  

For energy companies to maintain consumer trust in an ever-evolving sector, they need to understand their customers’ level of eco awareness and adopt a billing system that aligns with their values.  

Let’s take a closer look at how sustainable energy billing can gain consumer trust:

Eco-friendly billing practices and brand reputation

According to recent research from Deloitte, just over one third (34%) of consumers say that they would trust brands more if they were recognised as an ethical/sustainable provider by an independent third party. Indeed, this sentiment extends to the energy sector and the efforts made by companies to adopt environmentally friendly business practices.    

One, and very impactful way, is digital invoicing.  Not only do digital bills reduce companies’ carbon footprints, but they can also save money in the long term. Research from paperless consultancy Mosaic Corp reveals that digital billing can reduce invoice processing costs by more than 66%. The money saved from going digital can then be reallocated to other consumer-centric practices like providing information on renewable energy options.

Likewise, paperless billing means faster invoicing cycles, so consumers receive their energy bills on time, every time. Automating workflows from a digital platform avoids billing bottlenecks and creates a predictable system that customers can rely on. It also reduces the likelihood of human error, which means improved billing accuracy and less billing disputes.

With digital billing, energy companies have complete visibility over a customer’s energy use and spend. This can translate into tailored energy saving advice and information on the best tariff options, ensuring customers receive the best value for money.  

Paperless billing is also more secure as consumer data is stored electronically. Permissions controls ensure that only authorised agents can access sensitive information.

Digital billing options can encourage consumers to be more green

According to Questline Digital’s 2023 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report, 68% of consumers engage with promotions on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. As an increasing number of customers come to expect mobile-first engagement, energy companies should aim to provide a variety of digital invoicing options to gain consumer trust.  

With actively engaged consumers, utility companies can then use their digital invoices to improve consumer awareness of environmental practices like eco-friendly billing. It can also provide the opportunity to educate consumers on environmental issues and provide energy saving advice.  

A good example of consumer education via digital channels can be seen on the Green Mountain Energy website. Every time a customer visits the site, they’re notified of how much CO2 has been saved by embracing renewable energy.  

At the time of writing, since 1997, Green Mountain Energy customers have avoided almost 120 trillion pounds of CO2, which is the equivalent of planting 13 million new trees.

Sustainability and simplicity go hand-in-hand

Not only do consumers expect their bills to be environmentally sustainable, but they also expect them to be financially sustainable. In order for customers to plan and budget for their energy usage, they need consistent, reliable billing that’s clear, simple, and easy to understand.

In 2019, the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority (DCCA) set up an experiment to test potential improvements to Danish electricity bills. It sent one group of consumers a standard bill, and another group, a simplified bill. Of the consumers that received the standard bill, only 29% were able to correctly report details like the share of energy from renewable sources. By contrast, of those that received the simplified bill, 96% were able to correctly report the renewable energy share.  

Simplified billing models therefore help consumers better understand their energy charges. Invoices that clearly show energy usage, price per kilowatt-hour, and fee calculations empower consumers to monitor their energy use, which in turn can reduce the number of billing queries received by energy companies each period.

In 2016 in Germany, the Public Consumer Service of Lower Saxony launched a website called Market Observer Energy to provide advice about switching suppliers and to highlight what ‘misleading’ energy bills looks like.  

In today’s consumer-centric landscape, this is the level of transparency that energy companies should aim for in their own communications to build customer trust.

Building stronger customer relationships with flexibility and accessibility

When customers receive clear and accurate energy bills on time, it strengthens the consumer-retailer relationship. To gain customer trust, energy companies need digital billing systems that are both sustainable and flexible enough to adapt to market changes quickly.  

For example, in 2022, when energy prices hit a record high, the various energy regulation models across Europe made it challenging for utility companies to adapt to price cap changes in line with regulations. And when utility companies didn’t respond quick enough, billing issues quickly snowballed.  

In 2024, utility companies need to promote accessibility to billing and energy usage information. For example, in Italy, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (ARERA) enables consumers to access contractual information, consumption data, and billing information through the Portale Consumi website.  

In supporting similar initiatives in their home countries (and implementing similar systems themselves), utility companies can foster stronger customer relationship by embracing sustainable, flexible billing models that freely provide access to data.

How a digital cloud platform can help energy companies improve their customer billing efficiency

As energy consumers continue to become more environmentally aware, we predict that an increasing number of utility companies will embrace sustainable billing models.  

As technology advances, real-time data monitoring will become essential to improving customer engagement, building stronger relationships, and encouraging a commitment to sustainability.

At triPica, our cloud-based SaaS platform empowers customers and agents by providing full visibility over energy consumption and billing information. Our 360° customer view CRM portal allows agents to respond to customer needs in real-time and impress them with excellent service by offering relevant information at the right moment.  

It ensures energy bills are always accurate and clear by providing transparency over billing practices. In turn, utility companies gain more control over their billing, which helps avoid customer bill shocks and disputes.

Moreover, our Flow Manager functionality enables utility companies to visualise all data received from the grid, like meter readings, and switching records. It enables records to be parked and automatically retried when flows aren’t received in the expected order. It also includes a search feature to display all relevant information about a record. This advanced feature, enables that any energy usage adjustment is made, before the bill is issued.  

Likewise, if a business model relies on multiple IT systems, interfaces, and a large IT team, our platform can streamline operations by offering a one-stop-shop for all ‘meter-to-cash’ activities.

Energy companies can have a single catalogue-centric system for billing, accounting, and customer support. And they can accommodate a wide range of commodities and non-commodities offers, while seamlessly managing auto-consumption and energy production.

A great example is Yenka, an energy supplier in France, that recently replaced two legacy platforms with triPica, digitally transforming its cumbersome billing in just 6 months. The company optimised its business model and now manages all meter-to-cash activities in one place, while drastically decreasing its cost to serve.

Find out more about how triPica can help your company gain consumer trust by developing sustainable billing practices that appeal to today’s environmentally conscious customers.